There’s something that will always stay with me: the moment I picked up a book on How to Become a Celebrant and it said to be a celebrant you need: a computer, internet, printer, paper, folder, car, Sat Nav. It described the job as one that’s recession proof with good cash flow.
If I hadn’t already been a celebrant for more than two decades, I might not have given it another thought.
As a celebrant trainer, I teach celebrants in training that the following skills and qualities are essential to becoming an excellent celebrant. The world doesn’t need mediocre celebrants but it does need conscious, creative, compassionate celebrants who are always willing to learn, grow and be better.
Sometimes a skill and a quality cross over.
Essential Skills of a Celebrant
Listening and hearing (being able to close your mouth and truly listen to the other person without the urge to interrupt or share your own stories)
Humility (the ceremony isn’t about you)
Time value and time management
Writing (good command of the language)
Speaking clearly and articulately
Acknowledging others’ values
Not discriminating against other people because their choices, body, lifestyle, circumstances or belief is different to yours or what is familiar to you.
Being a celebrant is often wonderful work where you can be flexible, interactive and creative. It can also be debilitating, exhausting and sad, and you need to find ways to be resilient, for example if you have a murder, suicide or infant death to officiate.
Not only do you need the above skills but you also need to value yourself, and your work, enough to be your biggest supporter as you’ll have to market yourself if you expect to attract work. It’s a lot easier to market yourself for weddings than funerals, as clients usually come direct. The funeral industry isn’t easy to break into, and if you’re relying on funeral directors to phone you then you have to put in the groundwork to build up good relationships. Alternatively, you can work in your community by setting up a Death Café, liaising with hospices, bereavement midwives and so on, so that clients come to you directly. Setting yourself up as a community celebrant has many advantages over relying on funeral directors.
Some celebrant-training organisations are focused solely on training, and have no ongoing interest in your work. As a celebrant, it is important to feel supported, and that you have a place to go to for any questions or guidance you might need, as well as moral support. (Not just from colleagues but your tutors who should be industry experts)
Think about your time commitments. Funeral celebrants need to be available during the week, whereas the majority of weddings and namings tend to be held on weekends, thought his has changed somewhat in more recent years (especially since the Pandemic). Are you prepared to give up many Saturdays during the year? Weddings generally get booked three months to three years before the date. A funeral can be anything from 24 hours to three weeks after the death (more like six weeks, if you are somewhere in or around London). Be realistic about whether you want to commit to someone’s ceremony that might be three years away.
Are you able to work at speed, be flexible, and complete a task to excellence at such short notice?
Qualities of a Celebrant
A quality differs from a skill in that it is often inherent in one’s personality rather than something that is learned or developed through training.
Ability to take direction from clients
Ability to give direction
Awareness of self and others
Knowledge of what works/what doesn’t
Contrary to some opinions, you don’t need to be an extrovert (and actually introverts bring something deep and meaningful to the equation)
Writing skills and imagination
Sense of humour
Sense of occasion, and respect for ritual
Love of ceremony
Strong sense of duty
Solid, clear, well-articulated voice
Calm, composed and able to relax clients
Serene, soothing, gentle presentation
Able to produce bespoke ceremonies
Able to officiate according to the client’s beliefs, rather than their own.
Can hold the space, regardless of how many people there are.
Excellent listening skills
Understands the value of various rituals, and can perform them meaningfully
Gifted at developing relationships so can liaise with funeral directors, families, crematorium staff, and cemetery staff
Is always compassionate, reverent, professional, and respectful
Is reliable, organised and punctual
Valuable Assets of a Celebrant
Rich with ideas
Knowledge of various customs and traditions
Good hygiene and presentation
Excellent standard of client service
Understanding of law around weddings and funerals
Veronika Robinson has had the immense privilege of being a celebrant, internationally, since 1995, and has officiated across all rites of passage. Her passion for ceremony, ritual and excellence in the craft and practice of celebrancy extends to her role as co-founder and co-tutor at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training and as editor of The Celebrant magazine. She is also an author, novelist and workshop facilitator. Veronika lives in rural Cumbria, and enjoys nature, walking, swimming, music, reading, gardening and cooking.