Many celebrants (and other people) use the words ‘ritual’ and ‘ceremony’ interchangeably. They’re two different things. One example is when celebrants talk about a sand ceremony. It’s a ritual. The ceremony is the wedding or naming service. The ritual is the symbolic act of pouring sand.
So, to be clear, the ceremony is the overarching service. That is, from the moment we begin with music or speaking right through till we finish speaking or end with music. It is the complete ceremonial rite of passage.
A ritual is a symbolic action within the ceremony. It might be, for example, a bride walking down the aisle, or a coffin carried down the aisle or to the graveside. A ritual might be the giving of rings between a couple or the tying of hands. Sometimes a ritual is an action we’ve not witnessed before. Regardless of whether it is something which has transcended generations or is bespoke to that ceremony, the point of the ritual is to express something that goes beyond our language.
When training new celebrants in the art of ritual (and it is, ideally, shared as an art from), I explain that it is comprised of two parts:
• the narrative we share leading into, perhaps throughout it if it is a detailed ritual, and as we lead out of it.
• The action is the choreography; and, like a dance, it is given the reverence, respect, beauty and art form it deserves. Sometimes you’ll see celebrants who hold a chunky A4 folder in one hand, a microphone in the other, and they’re trying to tie the knot for a couple with both hands full. It looks unsightly, to say the least.
Beauty. At every level of our ceremony creation, we should be guided by beauty. This is what will nourish our client and our guests. When teaching ritual development with our celebrants-in-training, I encourage them to take an omniscient view of their ceremonies. That is, to see it from all angles and views.
Ritual tells us a sensory story, whether through sight, sound, taste, touch or scent. It has the ability to elevate our ceremonies in a way which is rich and rewarding.
These moments of presence are at the foundation of a heart-led life, and indeed our Heart-led Ceremonies. These actions connect us from heart to heart and also to something beyond the ordinary. The intention behind, and reverence infused into, these rituals is brings added value to the ceremony.
As a Heart-led Celebrant, my heart is integral to every ritual and travels with me throughout a ceremony. These are the gifts I share with our celebrants-in-training.
Veronika Robinson is a specialist in ritual and has been officiating beautiful, bespoke ceremonies since 1995. She is a certified Infant Loss Professional; founder of Penrith’s first Death Café; is a celebrant for the charity Gift of a Wedding; and mentors celebrants around the world in all aspects of celebrancy including mastering writing life stories and love stories.
Along with her husband, Paul Robinson, voice and presentation coach for celebrants, she’s a tutor at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training.
Veronika is the author of many books including the popular Celebrant Collection:
Write That Eulogy;
The Successful Celebrant;
Funeral Celebrant Ceremony Planner;
Wedding Celebrant Ceremony Planner;
Three more titles will be added in January 2024:
The Gentle Celebrant’s Guide: Funerals For Children;
The Discrimination-free Celebrant;
The Celebrant’s Guide to the Five Elements.
These books are all included (as a bonus) with our training packages for our students.