So, How DOES a Celebrant Write an Amazing, Personalised and Beautifully Meaningful Wedding Ceremony?

Sun, Jun 10 2018 11:13 | Permalink
Couples always tell me they want their guests to feel joyful, captivated, to feel the love, experience the passion in their relationship, and generally have a heartfelt experience from their wedding. Ceremonies that are personal to a couple's story are written to capture the couple in a way where the whole idea of wedding ceremonies seems to have been invented solely with them in mind.
So, how DO Celebrants write amazing, personalised and beautifully meaningful ceremonies?
To read more from my latest blog at The Celebrant Directory, click here:
How Do Celebrants Write Wedding Ceremonies?


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The Wisdom of Sorrow

Sun, Dec 10 2017 11:01 | Permalink
I'm so pleased to introduce my debut as a resident blogger for The Celebrant Directory!

As a Wedding, Family and Funeral Celebrant, I am greatly privileged to be part of some of life's most meaningful and emotional moments with some of the loveliest people. Sometimes those moments are joyful and sometimes those moments are filled with sorrow.

This first article is born from such an experience and it is a personal story of mine about officiating the funeral by a stillborn baby who was otherwise fully healthy in the womb.

These words may trigger emotions, and if they do then it is my hope that those emotions take you further along the journey of healing.

https://www.thecelebrantdirectory.com/blog/celebrant-stories-coping-with-emotions-during-funerals/





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Invite Your Guests to 'Bless' and 'Warm' Your Rings

Tue, Sep 26 2017 01:48 | Permalink
Have you ever wished you could somehow involve your guests in your Wedding or Vow Renewal Ceremony, and in a way that was meaningful and tasteful? 



Many couples I work with like the idea of including a symbolic gesture in their ceremony, but they aren't entirely comfortable with anything too dramatic, wanting to keep the experience of their ceremony somewhat traditional but with a personal touch.



The perfect way to achieve this is through a suggestion I refer to as a Ring Warming or a Ring Blessing. If the couple is exchanging rings, this is the perfect way to involve guests. It is a very loving and gentle way for guests to offer their hopes, wishes and blessings for the couple's marriage, with very little fuss. 


During a Ring Warming ceremony, the couple's wedding rings are passed around to the guests, on a cushion or in a special decorative pouch or box. I instruct each guest to hold the rings for a few seconds, silently offering their wishes, hopes, prayers for the couple. 

I like to put the best man/best woman or another responsible person in charge of making sure the rings are back well ahead of when they are needed in the ceremony. By the time the vows are ready to be said, and the rings exchanged, the rings have made their way around the room amongst the guests, passed from row to row, and all of the loved ones in attendance have given their own personal 'blessing'.
Alternatively, in a space that is less structured with rows, such as an outdoor wedding in the forest, or at the seaside, the rings can be passed from guest to guest along ribbons or sections of string that are woven between the guests. The rings remain safe because they are 'travelling' through the ribbons from person to person so there is no danger of them sinking into the sand, the sea or the floor of the forest! 
If you like the idea of a Ring Warming, but do not want your rings passed from guest to guest, another option is to have the rings displayed at the ceremony entrance. As guests make their way to their seat, they can stop for a brief moment, hold the rings, offer their blessings, replace the rings, and then find their seat. With this option, I ask one of the ushers, or a family member or friend, to greet guests at the entrance and explain the request.
When it comes time for the couple to exchange rings, I remind them that not only are the rings precious because they are a gift that the couple are exchanging with each other on their wedding day, but they are made even more precious because the rings now contain the heartfelt wishes and blessings of every guest in attendance.
It is such a lovely way to include guests, and an even lovelier way to add sentiment and meaning to an already beautiful ceremony!
Check out my profile on The Celebrant Directory, a new resource for helping you hire the perfect celebrant for your ceremony! While you're there, browse through the fantastic articles and inspirational ideas!  The Celebrant Directory







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Amanda Found Her Dream Venue (But It Isn't Licensed!)

Thu, Jul 6 2017 07:38 | Permalink



"Everything is falling into place so perfectly!", Amanda thought with a certain element of excitement, And relief. Amanda had always wanted to be married in September, her favourite month of the year. She has already purchased her dream wedding dress, one she has had her heart set on wearing for ages. Her closest friends are all excited to be part of her wedding party; even her best friend,  her Maid of Honour, will be home from her overseas work assignment in time for the wedding. Her dream venue is available on the day that she and her fiancé wish to be married. It is an idyllic venue, a fabulous, rustic barn surrounded by acres of the most gorgeous and lush gardens. It was like something out of a movie set. Amanda almost couldn't believe how well her plans are coming together.

She visited the venue, intending to finalise her commitment and make the deposit. While walking around the grounds with the on-site wedding coordinator, discussing general ideas for the celebration, Amanda is almost overcome by how fortunate she is to be getting married here, at this stunning place. "The gardens are perfect for the ceremony, everything I imagined for a beautiful wedding", Amanda says with a great big smile on her face. "Where will we stand with the Registrar, at the top of the garden?" she asks.

"Oh", the wedding coordinator replied, "We're not licensed at this venue so you can't actually have a legal ceremony here".

Amanda felt as though her dream was crushed. She had her heart set on this location for the ceremony and the celebration afterwards. She absolutely loved this venue; she had been thinking about it ever since she got engaged. She felt drained of the joy that surrounded her just a moment ago. She just couldn't imagine starting the process over again in order to find another location. She wanted to be married at this venue, in these gardens, in that barn.

Completely upset, Amanda called her Maid of Honour. Kate was the perfect friend to talk with right now, she always had a sensible approach to things. Amanda was in such a state of despair when she told Kate about this sudden glitch in her wedding plans.

"Amanda, stop worrying! You can still have your wedding there. Just hire a Celebrant to write and officiate a personalised ceremony on the day. You can schedule a brief legal ceremony at the Register Office a day or so beforehand, and then on your wedding day, you can have the wedding ceremony of your dreams with a Celebrant officiating!" Kate sounded so certain about all of this but it was complete news to Amanda and her head was spinning a bit with Kate's words. She had no idea that this option even existed in the UK. Every wedding she had been to was either in a church, or a Civil Ceremony officiated by a Registrar at licensed venue.

"But that feels a bit odd, getting married beforehand and then getting married again at the venue. Is that even legitimate?", Amanda asked, still intrigued by Kate's idea but unsure how it all worked.

"It's not odd at all", Kate replied, "and it's completely legitimate! I know a lovely couple who got married in a Celebrant ceremony a few months ago, and it was such an amazing ceremony. In fact, I'm sure they'll be happy to talk with you and pass along the details of the Celebrant they hired. They were thrilled with the idea that they could co-write the ceremony exactly as they wanted it to be - there were no surprises on the day because they got to edit the whole ceremony. They even included a beautiful symbolic gesture after their vows and ring ceremony - it was so lovely and emotional - and the Celebrant did a beautiful job of personalising the ceremony to make it completely about them. They were even able to write their own vows and choose exactly the music and the readings they wanted to include. You won't find that sort of personalisation and flexibility in a civil ceremony."

"Wow, I had no idea", Amanda said, thoughtful for a long moment and then added, "But did it seem like an actual wedding, you know, with all the traditional aspects of a civil ceremony? I don't want it to just be like a party, I want it to be like a proper wedding. I want my guests to feel they are attending a real wedding".

Kate jumped in quickly. "Amanda, it was exactly like a civil ceremony, only better I think, because it was a traditional wedding that was so personal to the couple. Everyone who was there couldn't stop talking about how lovely it was, and how sentimental and personal the words were, and how it was the most beautiful wedding they had ever attended. You won't be disappointed and it will be a day that will be remembered by everyone as something very special and memorable."

Amanda was getting excited now, and the despair she was feeling only moments ago had ebbed. "Okay! So what do I have to do then?"

Kate had all the advice Amanda needed to start the process. "Well, you know that you can book the venue because you know it's available on the date you want, so talk with the coordinator there and tell them that you want to have a marriage celebration beforehand, some people call it a marriage blessing, and you'd like the garden to be arranged for that. As long as they aren't expecting you to hold the 'legal' ceremony there, they'll be very happy to accommodate you - it's a win-win for all of you", Kate said.

And that is exactly what Amanda did. She and her fiancé booked a small, private legal ceremony that was held at their local Register office a few days before their wedding ceremony at the venue. They brought their parents along as witnesses and then had a lovely lunch out together afterwards. They didn't even exchange their wedding rings on that day because they wanted to save that as a special moment in their wedding ceremony.

They had to choose from standard vows for the civil ceremony, but for their wedding ceremony, they could write their own vows to each other. Amanda wanted to include a reading as well, and she was able to choose anything she wanted without being restricted by the content. She and her fiancé also decided to include a 'Ring Warming' and their rings were passed around, tied onto a little white cushion, from guest to guest during the ceremony. Each person held them in their hands for a moment and silently put their love, blessings, wishes, prayers, and hopes into the rings for the couple, before passing them along to the next guest. It was such a lovely choice and their guests were delighted to be able to be part of the ceremony that way.

Amanda and her fiancé did, in fact, have an absolutely beautiful personalised wedding ceremony, on the day of their choosing, at the venue they desired. And they had their legal ceremony as a quiet affair just days before. They had the best of both worlds!

And. It. Was. A. Perfect. Day.


Amanda's story highlights a rapidly growing, and very popular trend developing in how couples are choosing to design their wedding ceremony. No longer is it expected that couples must adhere to strict rules and perspectives imposed by others around when and where they can hold their wedding ceremony.

Interestingly, when a child is born, their birth is not legally registered on the same day of their birth. When someone passes away, their death is not legally registered on the day they died. So, it stands that when a couple has a wedding ceremony, that does not need to be on the same day that they completed their legal paperwork.

A wedding is not an occasion that comes along frequently in life, so it stands to reason that a couple should be able to design their special day according to how 'they' wish it to be, not around restrictions and guidelines that are influenced by outsiders who aren't personally invested in the couple. The greater portion of a Wedding Ceremony should be about the couple, the love they share, the strength of their relationship, their intentions in honouring their marriage, their ambitions as a married partnership.

Some couples will arrange to have a quiet legal civil ceremony in a church or temple first, rather than with a Registrar - it depends on their personal preference. Either way, the legal portion of a marriage is properly completed and then a couple are completely free to plan a celebration of that marriage in any way they wish, and in a way that honours what they believe, as well as taking their personalities and their expectations into consideration.


As a celebrant, my job is to work with you to write, design and officiate a bespoke, personalised, completely meaningful, beautifully orchestrated wedding ceremony - precisely how you wish it to be on the day. I provide you with a wealth of comprehensive wedding ceremony planning resources and between us, we will create, literally, the perfect wedding ceremony for you!

You get to tell me how you wish the ceremony to be -  not the other way around. Do you want the ceremony to be more traditional? Or, do you wish it to be as simple as possible? Do you want your ceremony to be unique to your personalities, or do you want to create a special theme for your ceremony, perhaps based on a favourite pastime? Do you want to include any family traditions or cultural gestures in your ceremony? Perhaps you want a blend of all of those options? You can include symbolic gestures, or not. You can include spiritual or religious elements, or not. Your Wedding Ceremony should be designed entirely with your wishes at the forefront.

And most important, you can hold your wedding ceremony absolutely anywhere you wish ~ in a family garden, at a national park, at the seaside, in a pub or restaurant, at an historic home, in a field, on a mountain, at a lakeside, atop a landmark building, in a barn, in a teepee, at a campsite, in an orchard, by a river, at a waterfall, on a boat, in a forest.

The beauty of a Celebrant-led wedding ceremony is that you can choose anywhere you wish for your venue. As it's not the legal event, you are not restricted in any way as to content or location (though some public locations might like you to let them know if you plan to have a ceremony in the area).


For more information, visit my website at Ellen Bower Ceremonies! If you'd like more perspective on how a bespoke ceremony can be arranged, completely without obligation, get in touch via my website. Or visit my Facebook Page.




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What Should You Ask a Celebrant ... BEFORE You Hire Them?

Wed, Sep 21 2016 07:16 | Permalink
Now that the wedding season for 2016 is starting to slow down a bit, many couples are thinking about organising weddings for next year or beyond. And finding a Celebrant to officiate the ceremony is likely at the top of most lists.

Your ceremony is the most significant event in your life at this time and, in a way, you are asking someone to 'hold your heart' while they tell your story, which you hope will be in a beautiful, meaningful and passionate way.

What are YOUR questions?

Here are some of the things many couples wonder about when they research Celebrants and begin the process of enquiring about their services. Perhaps you'll find some of your answers here!



I want someone who will 'tell our story' in a meaningful way. How will you do that?



This is such an important occasion in your life and the person responsible to officiate must be able to do so with professionalism, with the right level of emotion, as well as with an understanding and an empathy for the story being told on your behalf. You might gain an idea of someone's style by speaking with them or meeting with them before you make a decision.

It is very important to me that I get to know both of you, and learn as much as I can about your family and friends before I write your ceremony. With this perspective, I can write in a style that will suit your personalities, as well as meet your expectations of what will be said in the ceremony on the day.



I would like someone with a lovely voice, clear and easy to listen to; someone who captivates our guests.What do people say about your speaking voice and how do you engage an audience?



Similar to the above response, you will gain a good feeling about a Celebrant by speaking with them, either by phone, by Skype, or in a face-to-face meeting. A Celebrant should always be willing to accommodate this request before expecting you to book with them. You will also want to have a sense for whether the Celebrant will be 'performing' or whether their personality and style will blend well into the ceremony.

My clients all tell me they love the tone of my voice. I have a soft American accent (Californian), which is very appealing in this British culture. I am told often that my voice is captivating and that it is a great style for story-telling - and let's face it! Telling your story is what will make your ceremony unique!



Why do you enjoy your role as a Celebrant?



This is a good question to ask because you likely want a Celebrant who believes in the joy, love and emotion of your occasion in the same way that you do. This is an extremely reasonable expectation, and while it may not be possible to fully know a Celebrant's background or current personal
   circumstances, a comfort level should come through
   during your initial contact and subsequent meetings. If
   you do not feel that the Celebrant you are interviewing has
   the level of empathy and/or emotion that you desire, then
   they are not the right person for you.

   I created my vocation as a Celebrant because I
   delight in celebrating occasions and special
   moments in life; I believe it is so important to
   mark our experiences especially when they are so
   meaningful.


I want a Celebrant who is organised and who we can trust to be punctual and prepared on the day. How do you organise your clients and your workload, particularly during peak season?



Great question! How a Celebrant first contacts you, and what they say and provide as resources is a very good indicator of their general professionalism and organisation. A Celebrant should reply to your query within 48 hours or sooner; if they cannot reply in depth then at least an acknowledgement should be sent. Their reply email should be fairly indepth, attempting to answer some of your initial questions. Their reply should provide you with a good glimpse into how they run their business and how serious they are about wanting to take you on as a client. For example, the Celebrant should explain their process, what they expect from you in terms of payment schedule, offer insight into what you can expect when you work with them, and highlight any resources they will share with you when you book their services. Following on from that, when you pay a booking fee or deposit, the Celebrant should email you a 'receipt' straight away upon receipt of the funds. You should never have to chase a Celebrant for things like receipts, nor should you have to chase a Celebrant about writing your ceremony draft; they should be on top of that and should be communicating with you closer to the date.

I thrive on being prepared and early! I always arrive at the venue 30-60 minutes ahead of time, and I always prepare a playlist of the wedding music on my own iPad as a back up (there is nothing more stressful than someone forgetting the music on the day)!


I want a Celebrant I can trust and who will make my event a priority. What happens if, for some reason, you are unable to attend our occasion on the day?



A trustworthy Celebrant will be clear about their terms and conditions, and those should be printed on the booking form that you will sign. You have every right to know what alternative plans will be made should the person you hire not be available on the day. And the reason for a Celebrant to not be available should be dire (such as a severe illness, an accident preventing them from travelling, a family emergency, and so on). The Celebrant you hire should be able to offer you alternative plans as assurance that your ceremony will take place despite their presence. Fortunately, by the time the day of your ceremony arrives, your ceremony will have been written, approved by you and finalised. So, the first alternate plan is for your Celebrant to arrange for another Celebrant from their organisation to fill in on the day. If that is not achievable, then the Celebrant should refund the final balance, with the understanding that you find another Celebrant, or you can secure a friend or family member to officiate the ceremony for you.

I network frequently with other Celebrants and I have my own list of Celebrants who have a similar style to my own, and whose intentions and ethics match my level of working with people. 



We want our ceremony to be very traditional so our guests feel they are attending a Civil Ceremony. Will a you be able to create a ceremony so that everyone thinks this is the 'real' legal ceremony?



This is one of the most common requests. Couples are warming to the idea of completing their legal ceremony at the register office ahead of the wedding ceremony, but often couples want their guests to feel they are attending the actual legal ceremony. A Celebrant-led ceremony is not a legal event, however most components of the legal ceremony can be included. This is a perfect option because couples can have a 'traditional' ceremony, while personalising it with more romance, with more of a focus on the couple, and with any religious or non-religious content they desire. The Ceremony can also include readings, singing (if desired), symbolic gestures, vows (traditionally repeated or spoken to each other), ring promises, and so on.



We want our ceremony to be non-traditional, laid back and unique to us, without the standard components of a civil ceremony. Will a Celebrant be able to create this?



This is an equally common request. Many couples see a Celebrant-led ceremony as an acknowledgement of their legal ceremony. Some refer to this as a Marriage blessing or a Commitment Ceremony. In this case, the couple decides which components of a ceremony they wish to include, plus the addition of any symbolic gestures they desire (e.g.  Sand Ceremony, Marriage Box, Hand-Fasting, Ring Warming, Candle Lighting etc.).



I have never been short on ideas! I am an excellent resource for ways to make your ceremony special and unique!





Some of our family are quite religious. Is there any way to include something that can honour their beliefs without compromising our preference for a non-religious ceremony?



I am often asked to write special prayers or blessings that can be offered during a ceremony. Sometimes I am asked to include standard prayers from the couple's faith. In a Celebrant-led ceremony, you can include anything that you desire. The decision is yours and your Celebrant should honour those wishes without hesitation. I have officiated wedding ceremonies with leaders of other faiths joining in by offering prayers (e.g rabbis, vicars, etc.) and wedding ceremonies influenced by various cultures (e.g. Hindu, Chinese, Spanish, Scottish, Korean, and so on). And at other weddings that have had a Buddhist influence, I have officiated a blessing to meet those beliefs.  Whatever the wishes of the couple, those can be honoured.



We would like to involve our children in some way. Is this something we can do?



Including children in a ceremony is lovely and there are many ways this can be achieved. Many of the symbolic gestures that I will share with you can be adapted to include children, particularly one like the Sand Ceremony where each person in the family can have their own unique coloured sand to blend together with the others. There are many ways that children can be included so be sure to explore those ideas with your Celebrant.



Do our guests need to know that we had our legal ceremony on a different day? We'd prefer to keep that private.



No need whatsoever for your guests to know when you completed your legal ceremony. The wedding ceremony will be officiated as a traditional Civil Ceremony if that is your wish. While I am present as a Celebrant and not a Registrar, there is no reason why the wedding ceremony cannot mirror a traditional ceremony on the day.



I want to include a new tradition. Is that something we can do?



Absolutely! The beauty of a celebrant-led ceremony is that you can include any new traditions or existing family traditions in the ceremony. This is the perfect occasion to start a new tradition or to blend cultures if that suits your family.



I was brought up Christian but not do not go to church any more. Can we still have some prayers in our ceremony?



Yes, as mentioned above, I am often asked to write special prayers or blessings that can be offered during a ceremony. Sometimes I am asked to include standard prayers from the couple's faith. In a Celebrant-led ceremony, you can include anything that you desire. The decision is yours and your Celebrant should honour those wishes without hesitation.



What do you generally wear to officiate ceremonies?



I always check about any theme or particular colours that the bridal party will wear because I want to be sure that the colours I choose on the day complement the general colour scheme. I tend to wear outfits that blend in well, the sort of outfits I might wear to a wedding as a guest. I personally prefer not to wear suits as it is not my particular style.



Can we have our wedding ceremony outdoors? In a field or at the seaside? In the woods or in a park? In my family's garden. In a favourite pub or place of interest?



Yes, anywhere! You can choose to hold your wedding ceremony anywhere you like, and that includes all locations that are not licensed. Since this is not the legal ceremony, you are not restricted to following strict regulations. As long as the venue you choose is receptive to the idea of organising the space for a ceremony, then you can hold your ceremony there. The only advice that I will offer is that if you choose an outdoor venue (and many couples have their hearts set on an outdoor wedding), please consider alternative plans should the weather not cooperate. A small drizzle or occasional shower is fine, but if the day is blustery and stormy, then you'll want to be under cover. This can be achieved either by arranging with the venue to use a room on the day, or using a marquee for the ceremony, which can then be reset for the meal and entertainment portion of the day.



Can we have any theme we want for our Ceremony? Will a Celebrant cooperate or do we have to follow specific guidelines?


   Yes, of course! If there is a particular message or theme
   you wish your ceremony to portray, then the Celebrant
   should work with you to achieve that. And this can be
   written into the Ceremony script as well, especially if there
   are any passages or readings that are theme-oriented. If
   your theme includes fancy dress, then you can also
   ask the Celebrant if they would cooperate by dressing in a
   particular way on the day in honour of the theme. Most
   should be willing to accommodate that wish.

  
What questions do you have about hiring a Celebrant?

For answers to your questions about hiring a Celebrant, contact me and I'm happy to offer you some guidance! www.ellenbowerceremonies.com or bower_ellen@yahoo.com



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What Should You Expect From a Celebrant?

Sat, Sep 17 2016 02:15 | Permalink

What Should You Expect From a Celebrant?

This is 'your' event, so always ask questions that are important to you!


~  Do they offer information and resources that are helpful in planning your ceremony? And do they provide a vast range of materials and informative documents to assist you in planning your ceremony, including a choice of readings, suggestions for music, an overview of various symbolic gestures to consider, and sample vows and ring promises?

~  Do they seem organised, professional and well seasoned as a Celebrant?

~  How devoted will they be? For example, will they book other ceremonies before or after yours? (This is important because life, being what it is, isn't always 'on time' and some delays are unexpected. You want a Celebrant who is devoted to your  occasion without causing you the added stress of having to be perfectly punctual.)

~  Do they include any little 'extras' in their fee such as a commemorative certificate, a beautifully prepared commemorative copy of your ceremony for your memory box, specially prepared cards with vows printed?

~  Do they arrive early, tend to your guests, and brief the bridal party on the day?

~  Will they make themselves available for a rehearsal ahead of your ceremony?

~  Will they liaise with the venue ahead of time?

~  Are they tolerant of various photographic arrangements and requirements?

A phone conversation with a Celebrant is a great way to assess their speaking skills and how they organise their thoughts on the spot. You'll get a good sense for their warmth, sincerity and professionalism, as well as how effectively they give you a strong image about what might take place on the day.

We all have certain expectations as well as many gaps about what a Celebrant can offer us, so your first interaction with a Celebrant is very important in either giving you a strong comfort level with their style, or it will raise some flags about how well they may (or may not) work with you.

Next at Ellen Bower Ceremonies: What Should You Ask a Celebrant before you hire them?

Find answers to your questions at: Ellen Bower Ceremonies
Get in touch: bower_ellen@yahoo.com


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I'm a Celebrant. (You're a what?)

Tue, Aug 23 2016 03:26 | Permalink
I was at a gathering the other day with some friends I haven't seen in some time. It was a very eclectic gathering and I knew most of the women there, but there were a few unfamiliar to me. I am often amazed at how impressive a group of women are when they get together. We represented artists, personal trainers, teachers, alternative medicine professionals, dog trainers, scientists, accountants ... and there was me, the Celebrant.

After some initial chat catching up with a few of my friends and introducing myself to new faces, one of the women new to me asked "what do you do"?

I've been accustomed to answering this question all throughout my career, in many different capacities and most of the titles I had were quite self-defining such as Marketing Manager, Sales Director, Training Manager and so on. Even my vocation as a Life Coach leaves little to the imagination in 2016. No one needed clarification on what I meant by any of those past career titles.

"I'm a Celebrant" I replied, in my usual warm and engaging way. Wait for it! I anticipated the next question.

"A what?" she politely asked. "A Celebrant" I repeated. She looked very curious and thought for a brief moment. And then came the expected question ... "What's a Celebrant"?

I want to say here that I absolutely lovemy vocation and I've never been happier in a job than I am now as a Celebrant. So any opportunity that crosses my path to explain this awesome job of mine really delights me.

"Well, I design and officiate ceremonies - you could say I'm a Ceremony Specialist. I create beautiful, meaningful, thoughtful ceremonies to celebrate weddings, baby namings, vow renewals, life transitions - those sorts of life occasions. I get to help people mark significant life events and make them truly memorable! I love my job! "

By now, my voice is filled with enthusiasm and I'm eager for more questions so that I can share more insight about this fantastic job I have. I love talking about what I do for a living, so anytime someone looks at me a bit quizzically I get quite eager and ready to explain.

I think of my profession as being somewhat of an Artisan - someone skilled in 'making things by hand'. In my case, I make ceremonies by hand, each one unique, each one fresh, each one simply beautiful. Exactly what my clients desire. I view the ceremonies I write as pieces of art because they hold the hearts and the dreams of my clients within the words that I compose. And it is a memory that stays with them, forever.

So perhaps I am a Ceremony Artisan. The word 'artisan' is based on the French verb 'artire' which means to instruct in the arts. I take the journey of someone's life, or the lives of two people in a relationship, and weave their story into a beautifully written and delivered ceremony. My product is a 'service' and not something decorative like jewellery or clothing, but the memories are one-of-a-kind pieces of art that last a lifetime.

So ... just what do I do as a Celebrant (might be your next question)?

Well, simply put, I like to meet with you in person if at all possible, so that we can all gain a better idea about each other's style and personality. I believe it is essential that the Celebrant you hire is someone who you relate to, someone whose presence suggests the same values and standards as your own, someone who listens to you and hears what you say, as well as what you don't say.

As a Celebrant, I am a writer, a designer of your event, the person who sets the tone for your ceremony, a researcher uncovering ideas and sentiments to include in the words I say on your behalf, an editor of my written work, an organiser of rehearsals and a liaison with significant people who are part of your ceremony (as well as a liaison with your venue).

As a Celebrant, I am the one who officiates 'your story' and your celebration, and I do that with style, with professionalism, with charisma, and with quality speaking skills.

Anyone can stand in front of a group of people and deliver words. But only a top notch Celebrant will do that with grace, presence and with a talent for writing bespoke ceremonies that tell your story in a way that is most meaningful to you.


I will say it again ... I absolutely LOVE my vocation as a Celebrant! And I tell my clients that the person they hire should absolutely love what they do, and that should show on their faces and in their enthusiasm when they talk about their services. The person hired to be a Celebrant should be able to show you, through their presence, that ceremonies are something they do supremely well. And that should come across in the very first interaction you have with a Celebrant, whether it be an email, a phone chat, an in-person visit, or a skype meeting.

From my view, my clients have an incredibly precious, one-moment-in-time life event, so as their Celebrant, I am the heartbeat and the soul of that celebration. My clients deserve the very best I can offer them.

As a Celebrant in the UK, my role is quite unlike the role of a registrar, though both conduct ceremonies. The clarification is that a Celebrant's role is not the legal ceremony, which is actually fantastic because we can design ceremonies any way that suits a client's wishes. There are no restrictions. Ceremonies can be as traditional as a client wishes, or as fantastically creative as they can imagine.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my role as a Celebrant is that I have the privilege to work with people who hold a broad range of life views, beliefs, traditions, cultural customs, or ethnic heritage.

It is such an honour to hold someone's celebration in my hands!

As a Celebrant, I capture memories and meaningful experiences that carefully preserve the heart of an occasion, forever. I do not impose any particular belief system, nor do I restrict clients from including a particular belief into their ceremonies and celebrations. I am a lighthouse guiding clients through every step of designing their ideal ceremony.

In my role as a fully qualified Celebrant, I devote myself to ongoing, comprehensive training, not just in the philosophy of creating beautiful and memorable ceremonies ... but largely in the art of telling a person's or a couple's story beautifully, personally and in a deeply meaningful way.

When I started writing this article, I mentioned how much I love my vocation as a Celebrant! And my words in this article are far reaching, well beyond my own little corner of the world where I work my magic as a Celebrant creating memories for special people and special occasions.

But nothing would bring me more joy than to connect with you - wherever you happen to live on our planet - even if it is just to ask me some questions about hiring a Celebrant, or if you think I can clarify any of your understanding about working with a Celebrant!

I am quite sincere about this, so please do take me up on the offer! Sometimes it can be very useful just to talk things through.

Or visit my website which is a great resource of information for how Celebrants work and what you should expect when you team up with a Celebrant!


Follow me at ellenbowerceremonies.com
Or email me at bower_ellen@yahoo.com

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Wedding Traditions - Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

Wed, Jun 15 2016 01:14 | Permalink

Cultural traditions --- They are fascinating and provide such wonderful insights into history and how customs have evolved.

There are so many cultural traditions involved with organising a wedding and some of them we follow because they suggest 'good luck' while others just seem to have become part of a standard wedding plan.

So, as it's prime wedding season at the moment, here's a treat to some of the more interesting wedding traditions and how they came to influence us still, so many years later.

Did You Know ...

The term 'Tying the Knot' came to symbolise marriage with the ancient Celts. They tied the hands of a couple together in the form of an 'endless knot' or better known as the 'eternity knot'. This involved tying the hands in a way that symbolised the binds that held them together, forever. Even today, in many cultures around the world - including Celtic, Hindu and Egyptian -  the bride and groom's hands are literally tied together to symbolise their commitment and their bond to each other. This tradition is also linked to hand-fasting, where today, couples use different coloured cords or ribbons to symbolise their commitment.

Today, hand-fasting is growing in popularity as a way to symbolise the bond and commitment between couples, and it can be a very colourful way to add character and meaning to a ceremony, through the careful selection of coloured ribbons or cords, and sometimes adding charms that hold special significance.


Proposing and Asking for the
Bride's Hand in Marriage originated with
the Romans who called this tradition 'the
joining of hands'.

During this ancient time in history, the groom
gave a coin to the bride's father to establish his
purchase of the bride. The father then handed
over his daughter to her future husband.  It was
during medieval times when a knight would
pledge his love on his knee as a sign of service to his lady.

Something  old, something new,something borrowed,
something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe is a tradition
rooted in that old familiar Victorian rhyme. 'Something old'
suggests the bride's connection to her family and to the past that
she brings to the marriage; 'something new' is hopeful of her good
fortune as a wife; 'something borrowed' represents the bride's
closeness to her family and friends who, it is hoped, will support
her in times of trouble; 'something blue' is a way of highlighting
her purity; and 'a silver sixpence in her shoe' points to the wishes
offered for happiness and the hope that the couple will avoid
financial hardship.


The Bride's Veil has a variety of
histories. One belief suggests it was an
ancient Roman custom of using a veil to
confuse evil spirits and keep them away
from the bride. Less honourable tales
suggest that a veil was used to keep the
groom from refusing to marry a woman he
found to be unattractive. And another suggests that during the age
where war and bride kidnapping were abundant, putting a sack
over the bride's head was a tactic to whisk  her away from the
groom.

We have certainly come a long way in modifying the tradition of a
veil in the more modern, beautiful headdresses that some bride's
choose. The kidnapping theory is also linked to the groom carrying
his wife into their new home, while other custom suggests that it
would be bad luck if the bride tripped and fell upon entering her
new abode, especially as they believed that evil spirits lurked along
the bottom of rooms. Today, bridal  veils aren't always used,
though they are still rooted in tradition.

The Wedding March is a traditional piece
of music that was created by the composer,
Felix Mendelssohn, and this music was used
in William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer
Night’s Dream. It wasn't just intended as a
piece of fantasy, but of royalty as well. The 
Wedding March was selected by Princess
Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria of
England, when she wed Prince Frederick William of Prussia, and
thus the tradition became more and more popular over time.

Wedding Rings and wearing them on the left
hand is believed to originate from different customs; the ancient
Roman's believed that there is a special vein that run from the ring
finger on the left hand directly to the heart, and they coined the
phrase 'vein of love'. The second custom seems to come from
Medieval Europe where it was common practice for the priest to
touch the first three fingers of the bride's left hand to symbolise the
Holy Trinity. The never-ending circle shape of the ring symbolises
the eternal love between the bride and groom, which were
presented to wives-to-be during the time of the Ancient Egyptians
as ringlets made of hemp.

Growing in popularity is the 'Warming of the Rings' at the start of a
Wedding Ceremony. Rings are tied to a cushion or placed in a
special pouch and passed from guest to guest throughout the
ceremony. Guests are asked to hold the rings for a few moments
and put their heartfelt thoughts, hopes, prayers, blessings etc. into
the rings for the couple. This is a really lovely way to involve
guests in the 'ring exchange' portion of a ceremony.

The Best Man is literally translated into 'the
best man to protect the bride'. Once upon a time,
grooms-to-be approached the most capable man
they knew to ward off potential unhappy
ex-suitors of the bride, as well as to protect the
groom in those moments when things might get
a bit nasty.

In more modern times, the best man's primary concern
is keeping the wedding rings safe and presenting them during the
ceremony.

The Bridesmaids had a role, once
upon a time, quite different to day's
custom. In the time when brawling for
the bride was the thing to do, kidnapping
her was not uncommon (thus the need
for a glorified bodyguard in the Best
Man). While matching bridesmaids
dresses have become less common in
today's weddings, in Roman times when this was a sign of good
luck because people believed that those evil spirits would attend
the wedding in an attempt to curse the bride and groom.
Bridesmaids were required to dress exactly like the bride in
order to confuse the spirits and bring luck to the marriage.

I remember realising this when I saw my grandmother's wedding
photo from the early 1920's - she and her bridesmaid wore the
same dress and for someone unfamiliar with the bride and
groom, it was hard to distinguish who was the bride and who
was the bridesmaid!

The Kiss! The kiss was, at one time, considered a legally
binding act that fulfilled the contract between the bride and
groom. It was thought that through the kiss, the couple
'exchanged souls' with each other.

The Bouquet, and tossing custom
seems to gain its roots from ancient times when
wedding ceremonies were believed to be evil
spirit magnets. In ancient Greek and Roman
traditions, brides wore flowers in their hair to
discourage the evil spirits (unexpected guests)
from settling on the bride. As far back as the
14th century, securing a piece of the bridal
gown was intended to bring good luck. Of course, bride's didn't
take well to guests cutting pieces of fabric from their wedding
dress, so, as an alternative, bride's began to give away personal
items, such as the wedding bouquet. Contents of bouquets are
equally rooted in rich cultural and historical traditions. Some
cultures sew small pockets of herbs into wedding clothing, or
drape flower garlands over the couple's shoulder's for good
fortune. In other beliefs, herbs are added to welcome ancestors
and spirits. The Victorians were fascinated by the meanings of
different flowers and what they represent in the lives of the
wedding couple. And in Tudor England brides carried
marigolds dipped in rosewater, and ate them afterwards as they
were thought to be an aphrodisiac! In the Middle East the bitter
herb 'artemisia' is added into bridal bouquets to ensure that
marriages will survive bitterness as well as sweetness. Today's
brides often include their favourite flowers for their colour and
perfume. I have been privileged to see some absolutely exquisite
bouquets made from family heirloom jewellery.

The tradition of a Honeymoon continues today.
According to Babylonian tradition, the father-in-law gave the
groom mead to be consumed during the “honey month.”
Some beliefs suggest that this length of time also served as a
“cooling period” for the bride’s family, who might not have
been so eager to see their daughter leave home.


There are so many culturally-rich traditions in families around
the globe, so when you're planning your wedding, consider
where some of the traditions you'll incorporate into your
ceremony may have originated. Some are quite outdated by
today's standards, while others still hold some charm and
meaning. 

The true beauty of creating a celebrant-led wedding ceremony is
that there are absolutely no limitations or restrictions on how
you design your wedding ceremony, what you want to be said
during your ceremony or how you symbolically mark such a
significant event in your life. Because a celebrant-led wedding
ceremony is not a legal event in the UK (legal procedures are
still organised by your local registry office), your imagination
and creativity are all you need to plan the perfect occasion!

With a Celebrant, you can create your own traditions allowing
for considerably more flexibility and freedom in how you wish
'your story' to be told!







Contact Me Via My Website
Or Email me at bower_ellen@yahoo.com


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Creating Life's Ceremonies

Wed, Feb 10 2016 01:58 | Permalink

 “When you start doubting yourself,
remember how far you have come.  
Remember everything that you have faced,
all the battles you have won,
and all the fears you have overcome.”
Unknown


Along with the evolution of our culture, comes the evolution of how ... and when ... we celebrate. And whether or not it is considered 'appropriate' to celebrate.

Every day I hear phrases spoken that suggest to me that someone has reached a time in their lives where celebration is very appropriate.  So many milestones reached, achievements met, life improvements accomplished go without acknowledgement.


"It was such a life-changing moment." 
"This is the most cherished time of my life." 
"I couldn't have achieved this without their help."
"I needed a way to say 'good-bye'."
"My life is changing so much; nothing feels the same."
"My life goals are different now;
but how do I start reaching them?"
"Who would have thought we'd be together this long?"


In our 'modern' culture, we tend to think that time-honoured celebrations are the only occasions when we should celebrate - events such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries seem to be the only occasions worthy of a 'fuss'. Yet, there cultures around the globe that may seem less sophisticated in some ways to our 'western' perceptions (though they are often more spiritual and wiser) where celebrations happen for many reasons that are not obvious achievements --- often related to the quality of how people live their values and learn life lessons.

Many years ago I read about a tribe in Australia that had made the decision to soon end its existence by no longer procreating - not uncommon amongst indigenous people who believe their time on earth has completed. The chief of that tribe explained that they do not celebrate annual birthdays, which they saw as insignificant and couldn't understand why we, in the West, celebrate simply getting older, something that we have absolutely no control over in any way. Instead they celebrated a person in the tribe whenever they had 'grown spiritually' or 'achieved a special awareness/knowledge', or 'improved a negative behaviour'. The quote at the top of this blog post reminds me of that philosophy ... that when we celebrate our lessons and growth in life, we remember them and we remain inspired to keep going on the right path. Simple. Lovely. Worthy of a fuss.

Births, Marriages and Deaths are such significant events in any family or culture. With the sense of community more of an exception rather than the norm in many western cultures today, ceremony and celebration become even more essential in marking history.

For me, creating ritual, celebrating 'getting better' at life, and telling our life stories has grown to become one of the most essential acts we can contribute to the future. Our individual chapters of life may not be preserved in the same pristine chambers as major historical documents, but they are equally as essential to the future, because once our individual stories die out with no evidence left behind --- that is when we are forgotten. And that is when those who come after us miss the gift of our place in time.

I sometimes wonder if many of us believe that anything we celebrate must be done so with, and through, tradition. Actually, we are completely free to create any ritual or celebration that brings meaning to us. We are free to create any celebration that empowers us to journey through life's experiences ... that speaks to our hearts not through a religion or a custom or through the expectation of our friends and families.

Too many times I have had people tell me that they wish they had celebrated a particular life achievement in a meaningful way, but that they thought their friends or family might think it was silly or ridiculous to do so (translate that as 'it isn't how WE do things'). What a shame to be governed so acutely by the limited courage of others.

More often than not when people learn I am a Celebrant, I am taken aside and quietly asked if I might help them create a ceremony for what they perceive to be 'unusual' reasons ... a ceremony to celebrate their remission from a life-threatening illness, an end-of-life ceremony for their elderly or dying pet, a ceremony to honour a finished relationship or a divorce, a ceremony to help them manifest one of their hopes in life, a ceremony to officially acknowledge their growing children (where a baptism or baby naming did not meet their needs), a ceremony to welcome their adopted children to their family, a ceremony to mark their teenage child's rite of passage, a ceremony to mark successful freedom from an addiction ...

Celebration is simply the intention to honour our life experiences. It is an act of acknowledging our commitment to another person.

It is permission to grieve the illness or the death of a loved one.

It is honouring the time when we pass through a particularly challenging or arduous life experience, and come out the other side better, wiser.

Celebration is simply recognising the wonderful rite of passage when a young person moves into puberty or acknowledging our gratitude for the birth of a child.

It is creating a safe platform for acknowledging the need for forgiveness in a relationship that is or was.

It is the release of harboured resentment or anger, fear or low confidence that is no longer wanted.

Celebration is welcoming a new era in life, a new decade of wisdom. It is honouring how a particular life experience served us, but is no longer needed, so it must be released.

Celebration is simply giving 'wings' to our life stories, so they can serve us when necessary, and so we can let them go, when no longer needed.

Ceremony is the catalyst to unite people, to bring people together for a common celebration, a celebration that most often inspires the right change at the right time. Ceremony is that simple structure, that beautiful 'order' that brings a sense of fulfilment, a taste of knowing that an important passage has been reached and must be honoured before you move on in life.

There are no 'wrong ways' to create Celebration and Ceremony. But there is a 'right way' - and that is what is dictated by your heart and your intuition. Your mind is welcome to come along for the celebration, but it is your heart that is the guest of honour.

However you refer to it - ritual, commemoration, rite, formality, dedication, communion, initiation, blessing, consecration ... it is my hope that you give yourself permission to celebrate the complexities and the beautiful outcomes of life's experiences.





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Celebrating Arrivals!

Mon, Jan 18 2016 06:45 | Permalink

One gets only a day or two in an entire lifetime
as incredible as the day we first saw your face. 
Nancy McGuire Roche

*************************



I well remember how much I loved this quote. It was in June 2006 and my husband and I were making our final plans to fly to China to meet our new daughter who was waiting in an Orphanage in Hunan - just 10 1/2 months old. In the form of a website, I kept an online journal for her, and about our travels in China.

Today, nearly 10 years later, it seems surreal reflecting back on that journal, reading our sentiments as we waited to become parents, reliving that incredibly wonderful moment we met her for the first time. There really aren't the words to describe that. We watched in amazement over the next week with her as she transformed from a rather weak, very undernourished, nearly immobile 10 month old baby, into a beautiful, robust blossom of a baby - strong, happy, eager, thoroughly excited about this new world that had opened up to her. The change in her in just one week was phenomenal - proof about how just a little bit of nurturing and nourishment can heal even the most dire of situations.

At the time, I felt instantly as protective of her as I felt proud that we were so blessed to have this child as our daughter. So honoured to be living the miracle of becoming her parents. I was balancing the knowledge that we needed to bond with her, and how much she needed to attach to us - the first consistent adults in her life. And even though I knew that was the very best thing to do at the time ...  my deepest desire was to take her out to Pride Rock, just as Rafiki did after the birth of lion cub Simba (The Lion King), and raise her to the world and shout "Look! This incredibly beautiful child and this amazing soul is our daughter and she is here as a precious gift to all of us, adding deeper meaning to our existence and our world!"

But I didn't. We were sensible because we wanted to follow the advice of experts and spend at least the first six months just 'being a family' while we all developed that bond that we all had missed during those first, critical 10 months of her life. Celebrating our daughter's arrival would have to wait for a while.

So, why am I writing about such personal insight into our family?

Because celebration is at the heart of what I do. Celebration is what I bring to this world. Celebration is what I hold the greatest passion for and it is the ritual that is often missing from our culture, especially when a child comes into the world. Baby Naming. Adoption Welcomes. Rites of Passage - there are so many reasons, and so many ways to celebrate the presence of children in our lives.

We devoted those first six months quietly as a family, bonding and attaching with our daughter, and providing her with the space and the safety to bond and attach with us. And then it was drawing closer to the time when we felt ready to introduce her to our world.

So, nearly a year after our daughter came home, we designed and organised a Naming Ceremony for her, and invited everyone who would cross paths with her in some way. I wanted other people in our daughter's life to experience their own worlds becoming more beautiful because she was now in their lives as well.

We asked our friend, Pauline, who is an Interfaith Minister, to preside over the 'blessing' and the formal 'naming' of our daughter. She is named 'Annaliesa Grace Xiaohong'and her name is deeply meainingful. We wanted her to have a family name, so 'Annaliesa' is a blend of my grandmother's name and her sister's name - two of the women I most admired and loved in life. 'Xiaohong' is her Chinese name.


We designed the ceremony around one of my favourite books called 'The Twelve Gifts of Birth' by Charlene Costanzo. (I highly recommend the book; in fact I give this as a gift to a baby/young child at every opportunity - birthdays, naming ceremonies, baptisms, adoption welcomes ... )

It tells the long ago story, in faraway kingdoms, when wise women travelled swiftly to the castle whenever a new prince or princess was born. Each wise woman (faerie godmother) presented a noble gift to the baby. The wise women understood that the 'twelve royal gifts of birth' belong to every child, born anywhere, at anytime. Unfortunately, the custom of the land prohibited the women from proclaiming the gifts to all children. But the wise women gathered one day and made the prophecy that some day all children of the world will learn the truth about their noble inheritance and when that happened, a miracle would unfold on the kingdom of earth.

We wanted our daughter to know the secrets of the wise women, and the story continues to say that when a child is born, as they take their first breath, a great celebration is held in the heavens and twelve magnificent gifts are granted to them. Those gifts include:


The gifts of ...
Strength ... Beauty ... Courage ...
Compassion ... Hope ... Joy ... Talent ... 
Imagination ... Reverence ... Wisdom ... Love ... Faith 

(In fact, I made colourful boards with each of these words being displayed all across the top of her bedroom walls. Even at age 10, she loves those words decorating her room. We have had so many lovely chats about what those words mean to her and to us as a family.)

Using this book as the background for our ceremony, we made promises to our daughter to love her without smothering her independence. To shelter her without stifling her spirit. To give to her generously without expectation. To encourage her to explore this world, hand over hand, pushing limits far beyond the security of her room, her home, her garden. We promised that we would inspire her to jump feet first into life as though it were a huge puddle; we knew that she would delight in the joys and the messes of the splash!

We know that there will be people in her life who may tell her “Be Cautious, Don’t Trust, Stay Safe” … those who might make her doubt the strength she feels in her own legs. There are those who may try to silence her, who might stand in the way when she expresses her spirit. There are those who may challenge her values because of their own limitations, and perhaps try to impose a sense of wrong onto her.


But this 'theme' to her 'Welcome and Naming Ceremony' encourages her to remember her twelve gifts of birth, especially her gift of courage and the sense of wonder that she will hold in her heart.

Participating in such a meaningful 'Welcome and Naming Ceremony' symbolised our hope that she would never feel that she has to compromise herself. That the world is an awe-inspiring place if she allows it to be so. And that it is our deepest hope, as her parents, that she will always fly with the freedom of joy and adventure. Most important, we wanted the day to symbolise that she is always surrounded by love - in that moment, in this moment, in every moment during the rest of her life.

The celebration continued by honouring grandparents, acknowledging the role of Godparents, marking the significance of our daughter's full name (telling the stories behind our choices), and presenting our daughter with the gift of some 'life gifts' in the form of little charms in a silver box:

A tiny silver key - the gift of Empowerment
A tiny silver flower - the gift of Inspiration
A little clover - the gift of Luck
A little silver angel - the gift of Protection
A tiny silver heart - the gift of Love and Friendship

We continued the ceremony with a blessing for my husband and myself, as her parents, and an expression of our hopes for her and her future.

And we concluded with a blessing for my daughter's birth parents, declaring our immense gratitude to them for choosing to give our daughter life so that she could be united with her forever family.

We scattered poems, music, readings and a few stories throughout the ceremony, but this is the heart of how we chose to honour our daughter, and to raise her to our world with pride and deep gratitude.

This is just one way that a child can be welcomed into a family - this was our chosen way. I invite you to contact me if you are considering something similar, or even if you aren't sure what you'd like to do, but you know that you somehow want to acknowledge your child's presence in your family. It would be an absolute honour to chat with you about that - a conversation that is completely complimentary!

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