Why did you become a Humanist celebrant?
I decided to train as a wedding celebrant after attending two wonderful humanist weddings, and as a naming celebrant after my little granddaughter’s lovely naming ceremony. I was looking for something fulfilling and enjoyable to do in my retirement, and I felt that my interests and skills fitted the role well. In my career, I’d worked with a diverse range of people, and interviewing was a big part of my job, so I felt I’d be able to get people to open up to me and share their stories with me. I was used to speaking to large groups of people and I love music and poetry. And as any of my family and friends will tell you I love dressing up and am always looking for an excuse to buy a new outfit! I have always believed that every occasion in life should be celebrated to the full and have made sure that all birthdays, holidays, and family celebrations have been memorable and full of fun. So helping to bring joy to the celebrations of other people just seemed like my dream job!
What kind of ceremony do you find most satisfying?
That’s impossible to say. I only do weddings and namings, and I find them equally satisfying. Actually, with weddings, quite a lot of the satisfaction comes from the initial meeting, when couples share their stories and tell you things that they haven’t even told each other. It’s often quite moving to see their reactions to what their partner is saying about them. I sometimes think that the meeting brings them closer together. In the ceremonies themselves the most satisfying part is seeing the different emotions on people’s faces – the laughter, joy, tears – and thinking that you’ve helped to create those special moments. And there is nothing like the feeling you get after the ceremony when people come up and thank you, often hug you, and tell you how much they enjoyed it!
What’s your advice to someone wanting to become a Humanist Celebrant?
Just do it! The training is excellent and it’s great to work among like minded people. You need to be able to cope with the unexpected and to accept that other people’s ideas of a great celebration won’t necessarily be the same as yours. It’s a wonderful job – but don’t expect to get rich!
Tell us about some of your most memorable moments
Every ceremony is memorable in some way, but a few stand out.
My first ever wedding was an outdoor ceremony in a field beside the Thames near Oxford. It was a windy day, and minutes before the bride arrived the ceremony table took off down the field! The ushers and I chased after it and full order was restored just in the nick of time. A salutary lesson about weighing everything down – it’s never happened since.
My first same sex wedding was in a beautiful wooded garden near Norwich. Everything looked perfect, but just as the ceremony was due to start the heavens opened. Everyone moved under the trees, and I took the ceremony huddled under a huge umbrella with a very elderly grandmother. We all sang ‘All you need is Love’ with the rain dripping off our faces! I was very relieved that I managed to keep the certificate and script dry. Everyone had a wonderful time – it was so unique and memorable. And as soon as the ceremony was over the sun came out!
My most memorable namings have been the two I conducted for my own granddaughters Beatrice and Matilda. I don’t usually get nervous, but ‘performing’ in front of family and friends was very scary, especially when you are emotionally involved as well. Another memorable naming memory was leading the guests in two rousing choruses of ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’ – you have to be very versatile as a celebrant!
But by far my most memorable moment so far was a recent wedding where the bride arrived by plane, piloted by her father. I don’t usually get emotional during ceremonies, but I was fighting the tears as the bride’s plane appeared on the horizon, flanked by two escort planes. All the guest were waving and cheering as they approached, and I was given a big hug by the rather gorgeous bridegroom. They were such a lovely couple and their day was magical.