Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Independent Celebrant: Additions to a Ceremony: Handfasting

As a Celebrant I have learned about a number of wonderful ceremonies that can be added to the Wedding celebration..
In this, my third piece, I will be describing the colourful ceremony of Handfasting
Originally this is the historical term for a wedding or betrothal and is believed to have Celtic origins. 
In this beautiful ceremony, the couple hold hands and their wrists  are tied together with ribbons, or a specially plaited handfasting cord.  This is then knotted three times and their hands are slipped out,leaving a permanent reminder of their vows to each other. In other words-they have 'tied the knot'.

I will write the ceremony and make your unique handfasting cords. Handfasting can be a stand alone ceremony, or it can be part of a Betrothal, Wedding or Renewal of Vows.
Some couples choose to have a Handfasting ceremony in place of a legal marriage; perhaps they have been married before and do not wish to re marry.                             
Having a Handfasting ceremony means they can make their loving vows to each other and celebrate their commitment and happiness with friends and family.
The Handfasting can be performed anywhere and is particularly suited to outside celebrations.

 Members of the family may take part, each adding a specially chosen ribbon. This is a wonderful way of illustrating that two families are joining together.

Photo by Maria Dragan

If you have a fairly small gathering, the whole congregation can be involved! One long ribbon is passed around and held by everyone present as the couple make their vows to each other.

When choosing the colours of the cords and ribbons, some people like to follow the meanings of colours, for instance red for passions, blue for patience, green for fertility, others prefer to match the colour scheme of their wedding.
If you have a favourite piece of material that holds a special memory- perhaps lace from your Mother's bridal veil- I can incorporate it into your Handfasting cord.

Charms for a couple who love their home by the sea

I like to add special charms that are specially suited to the couple.
In the photograph below, I've added a champagne bottle, a car and antique cut glass crystals.

If a beloved family member has died, then a locket containing their portrait can be added as well, so they are still part of the ceremony.


The ribbons and cord, with the meaningful charms make a lovely keepsake. This is a cheerful, colourful ceremony and one that is easily adapted to suit any Wedding day.
If you have any questions about this ceremony, or indeed any aspects of my celebrant work, please don't hesitate to contact me and I will do my best to help. My details are:


Mobile 07706 617 838
Or you can message me here or on my Facebook page


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Independent Celebrant: Courageous writing: Eulogies

As a Celebrant, I spend much of my time writing the stories of people's lives. When it is a funeral- the celebration of a life lived, it is vitally important that it is perfect. I need to capture the character of a person and include those all-important anecdotes, so each is a unique Eulogy, not just a list of dates and achievements.
 I am always touched when family members find the courage to write the Eulogy or send me their memories of their loved one. Finding the strength to turn away from their personal grief, to search the past for happy stories, is extremely difficult to do..
 Yet it can make such a difference. A ceremony full of happy memories and heartfelt descriptions of their loved one, comes alive. It becomes a ceremony that it uplifting, honest, and true to the person lost.
 Most often, people's lives are filled with happy times and if we are able to see past our immediate grief, we can create a proper memorial, an ceremony that makes us smile through our tears.
 I understand the courage it takes to write when we have just lost. One of the most difficult things I have ever had to do was to write a short piece in honour of my beloved Father.
 I include it here in his memory:


My Father L.K. Way (right)  and my Grandfather J.E.D Hall both Political Journalists-
Conservative Conference, sometime in the 1950's at Brighton

28th September 1916- 8th November 2011 

My father lived for 95 years.
His life spanned nearly a century- it's hard to imagine the changes he has seen. He was at Dunkirk and was rescued by a ship from the beaches. He never spoke of the war but regretted missing so much of his two elder sons' early lives and his wife's last years -she died of cancer not long after he returned from duty.

All his life he was involved with words and politics. He had been awarded a C.B.E, had poems published and was a political journalist respected by all political parties.
He always spoke of the joy and delight he felt when he met my beautiful mother, who was then an ice dancer with 'Holiday on Ice' and how lucky he felt to be given another chance at happiness when he had a second family- myself and my brother- together with her.
I will not now speak of all the things I could tell you of him: his goodness, integrity and intelligence and I will only say that to me he was the perfect English gentleman.
I refuse to mourn his passing.
For the last few years all the things that he enjoyed and all the things that made him himself have been slowly stripped from him. He coped with courage, wry humour and dignity but I could feel only fury.
That has passed now and I feel sadness but no more rage.
I am lucky to have my faith and believe that when it is my time to make that final leap over to the other side, his hands will be there to catch me.

 This short piece cost me many tears and was such a battle to write. Now I can never underestimate the value of the words sent to me by families for the funerals I write.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Additions to a Wedding Ceremony: Part 2 : Wine Ceremony

As a Celebrant, I have learnt that there are a number of wonderful additional ceremonies that can become part of a couple's wedding day.
In this second piece, I will be describing the popular Wine or Loving Cup ceremony and some of its variations.

Photo by Vicki and Dan


Wine has been part of celebrations and ceremonies from our earliest history and the Loving Cup or Wine ceremony at weddings has its roots in Celtic, French and Jewish cultures.
They all have a similar theme; that of the sharing and or mixing of drinks to celebrate and mark the joining of two people and their families. Drinking the wine also symbolises the sharing of the sweet and the sour- the good and the bad times together.

Just before the Wine Ceremony

A popular version involves red wine and white wine.The Bride and Groom will combine some of the two wines into a common cup, creating a blush, which is symbolic of their blending together through the committed relationship of marriage.

I like to do a variation on this; in a ceremony later this summer, the Bride has chosen Champagne for her drink and the Groom a rich Hedgerow Liqueur made from Sloes, Blackberries and Rosehips, which is perfectly in keeping with their romantic woodland wedding. 

Photo by Vicki and Dan

This cocktail can then be made in quantity and served to all the guests immediately after the ceremony.

 I enjoy making a variety of English countryside liqueurs which are perfect for unusual Wine Ceremonies

I like to give my couples a chance to make their ceremony as unique and personal as the rest of their wedding day.
What about this for a Mexican Fiesta style celebration?

Although the traditional ceremonies are all about the wine, there is no need for things to be less exciting if the couple prefer not to drink alcohol. I have just been making a batch of Rose and Pink Elderflower cordial for a summer celebration.

If there are children who wish to be included in the wedding ceremony, then this is a perfect choice. The children can even be the ones who mix the loving cup. I'll be there to lend a steadying hand if needs be!

Everybody enjoys the spectacle of the Wine Ceremony. It makes for lively and interesting photographs and adds fun and laughter to the wedding day.
I will source unusual, antique or bespoke glasses to suit the couple's tastes and then present them as a special gift after the wedding.

If you have any questions about this ceremony, or indeed any aspects of my celebrant work, please don't hesitate to contact me and I will do my best to help. My details are:


Mobile 07706 617 838
Or you can message me here or on my Facebook page


Thanks to Samuel Gwillim Arnold for photos



( The first photo was taken by friend and fellow Celebrant Cindy
http://www.uksoc.com/petersfield-hampshire-civil-celebrant-cindy-groves.html )

and Vicki and Dan at www.sweetpeaandivy.photos

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Additions to a Wedding Ceremony: Part 1: Ring Warming Ceremony

As a celebrant, I have learnt that there are a number of wonderful additional ceremonies that can become part of a couple's wedding day.
Some are new ideas, others are based on traditions going back to medieval times. These ceremonies are colourful, unusual ways of making the wedding ceremony unique. Many of them involve family and friends, which adds laughter and enjoyment to the day.

I have decided to start by describing the ceremony of ring warming, as I have just picked up a beautiful hand-made cushion and I couldn't resist taking some photographs of it!

A ring warming ceremony is a simple addition to the wedding day. All the guests can take part and it allows everyone to share their feelings of love and goodwill.

During my meetings with the couple I learn about the style of the wedding and the bride and groom's favourite colours. I then commission the perfect hand-made cushion for the ceremony. It's the little touches that count- I love the crystal beads at the edges of this cushion.

One the day, the best man carefully ties the wedding rings onto the cushion and just before the vows are made, I will explain the ring warming ceremony to the guests.
Depending on the number of people and the age of the bridesmaids, I like to let the bridesmaids take charge of this precious cargo. They will hand the cushion to the family member nearest the bride and groom and it will then be passed around everyone. Each person briefly lays their hands on the rings and sends loving thoughts, blessings and good wishes to the couple.

Photo by Greg James

When the cushion is returned, the rings are warmed by the loving hands and thoughts.

Photo by Vicki and Dan

If there are a large number of guests involved, this is a good time for a piece of music to be played and it also gives the professional photographer a lovely chance to take some heart-warming photos.

I'm very fond of this simple, loving ceremony and the beautiful cushion makes a perfect keepsake for the bride afterwards.

If you have any questions about this ceremony, or indeed any aspects of my celebrant work, please don't hesitate to contact me and I will do my best to help. My details are:


Mobile 07706 617 838
Or you can message me here or on my Facebook page


My thanks to Lavender and Belle Vintage for the cushion.photographs by

Vicki and Dan - www.sweetpeaandivy.photos
Greg James www.gregjamesphoto.co.uk


Sunday, 28 May 2017

When a Celebrant has no words

When a Celebrant has no words.
When we meet someone who has suffered a great loss, most of us are terrified that we will say the wrong thing; that we will blurt out the wrong words and add to that person's unimaginable pain.
I had hoped that as a Celebrant I would somehow learn the right thing to say, that I would conquer my fear.
I haven't.
There are no right words to say to a parent who has lost a child....

Each person is different and what may comfort one may hurt another.

The most important thing I have learnt is that you have to approach with love.
I have to be brave enough to listen and learn of the depths of love they had for their child.
That I can draw courage from the strength that love gives to a family.
And just for a little while, I have to learn all I can of the unique beloved person they have lost, so that I can love them too and create a ceremony that is worthy of them.
So although I still don't have the right words for that first painful meeting, I now accept that my fear is natural and that it is all worthwhile because everyday I am learning how to find those perfect words that make up my ceremonies.
So that together we can celebrate a unique and beautiful life.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Independen Celebrant: Making a connection

I am very lucky in that being an independent celebrant, I have a chance to get to know the families I work with.
Whilst this might be expected with marriage and naming ceremonies, it can be less so with some mainstream funerals.

I am able and willing to spend enough time to make sure that the wishes of the deceased and their families are carried out.
Anybody can choose to have an independent celebrant, even if there is a pre-paid funeral plan. Tell your funeral director your choice and they will be happy to follow your wishes.

I feel it vital that families can have the ceremony that suits them. This might be Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist, Spiritual, or a more traditional Religious ceremony. It is their feelings that matter and it is their choices that will result in the form the ceremony takes. I am happy and comfortable in following their wishes.

When a death occurs, the family and close friends are in shock. Their grief is strong and yet they have so much to do, so much to organise. A good funeral director can make all the difference and I work together with them to help things run smoothly.

The key is communication and yet more communication. I give my families my phone number and they know they can phone or text me at any time. If you are grieving, can't sleep and suddenly want to change an aspect of the ceremony, or have suddenly remembered the name of a poem, it is a comfort to be able to send a message immediately, even if it is the middle of the night.


When the funeral director first contacts me with the details, I will ring the family and arrange a meeting. This can be at my home or theirs and we try to get as many people gathered together as possible. This is a comfort and support and it is  also helpful to hear a variety of anecdotes and loving memories.

Mungo making me feel welcome at a family visit

We may sit together and talk and plan for two or three hours if necessary. I am honoured by the trust people have in me. They let me into their hearts and together we build up the story of a life, so that when the ceremony is completed, everyone will say " That was just right, that truly captured their personality and who they were"

I chose poems I feel will suit and read some out, we listen to music, we look at old photographs. There are tears, of course but you might be surprised how often there is laughter.

Happy memories

After the first meeting we are in constant contact by phone and email and I am always happy to meet again, especially if there is a family member who has had to travel and not been present at the first gathering.
I will help them plan the Order of Service, so the ceremony runs smoothly and naturally. Then I will write the Eulogy or work with the person who wishes to deliver it. If needs be, I am happy to coach someone who wants to read a poem but is nervous with public speaking. We are a team.
And the end of all this?
We will have created a ceremony that if uplifting and befits the person whose life we are celebrating. They were a wonderful, unique human being and they deserve to have their story told and their life celebrated.
Sometimes we are able to add an unexpected element to the funeral. There have been 70 purple helium balloons released at one, a motorcycle cortege, a Boxer dog as guard of honour at others. These wonderful gestures can lift the spirits of everyone present.

One of the motorcycle cortege
When people are loving and trusting and work together it is amazing what we can create.
Together we can celebrate the life of a lost loved one in a beautiful, unique ceremony that is a true thanksgiving for their life.