• Glynis Woodhead

Let’s celebrate with Celebrants!

Unless you’ve been to a wedding or funeral in the last few years, it’s possible you may never have heard of a celebrant, but the chances are you’ll come across one sooner or later. So what exactly does a celebrant do?

Historically, ceremonies such as marriages, christenings and funerals were conducted by members of the clergy, and most commonly within a church of some denomination, but as fewer and fewer people engage in collective worship, or even have a religious faith, there's been a growing need for ceremonies of these types to be performed by trained professionals outside of the clergy. Those who train and conduct the ceremonies are called Celebrants, or sometimes Officiants.

Broadly speaking, they can be divided into two categories: civil celebrants, and humanist celebrants. Civil celebrants are secular, that is, they don’t belong to a particular religious organisation, so they conduct non-religious ceremonies, but have the flexibility to cross religious boundaries and include hymns or prayers in any ceremony, if requested to. Humanist celebrants are, by their own definition, atheist, so any ceremony they conduct must be entirely non-religious with no overtone of religion whatsoever.

What they both have in common, however, is that the ceremonies they conduct are most definitely human-centred, and deeply personal in respect of the person or people at the centre of it. A celebrant will get to know you, or your loved one in the case of a funeral, and really take the time to understand what you’d like in a ceremony.

What does that mean in reality? Well, for a naming ceremony, your child will have a unique ceremony focussed entirely on them and their new family; a funeral celebrant will celebrate the life of your loved one and make the whole focus about them, with beautiful readings and songs which reflect their life; and a wedding will be centred around the vows which the couple are about to make to each other and which are, after all, the most important part of the wedding day (but so often are overlooked), so they will be intensely personal and reflect their feelings, hopes and dreams.

There’s a growing number of people entering this profession, so finding a celebrant is not going to be an issue, but do make sure they belong to an accredited organisation so you know they’ve done the appropriate training – after all, there’s only one chance to get a ceremony absolutely perfect and you want to make sure you're in a safe pair of hands.


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