Confessions of a Celebrant

Do you really know what a Celebrant is or what a Celebrant does?

Well… if we look at what it says in the Collins English Dictionary, it states:

Celebrant – in British

1. a person participating in a religious ceremony
2. an officiating priest, esp at the Eucharist

Celebrant – In American

1. a person who performs a religious rite, as the priest officiating at Mass
2. any person who celebrates; celebrator


Mmm… with that, one can be forgiven for thinking that I may have suddenly found a new religious path… “Have you turned all religious then?” was said to me by someone who shall remain anonymous.

Not at all – my religious beliefs are unchanged and I have now chosen to add something more powerful. These are a set of beliefs that I am passionate about, and I believe in following my conscience and my heart. I believe that life is for living and for making dreams come true. I believe in giving before taking and being prepared to put others first. There is nothing really complicated in how I choose to live my life and I have so many peers and mentors to keep me inspired.

With years and years of experience running an events business, the success came as a result of being able to put the desires of others at the top of the list and to fulfill the needs of those I was working for. So if we refer back to the definition of Celebrant, in my case, and as stated in the Collins English Dictionary, my celebrant role is “Point 2 – In American: any person who celebrates; celebrator.”

Being able to take someone’s dreams and turn them into a reality is where it all gets very exciting on every level. And then, the big aim is to excel on those anticipations so what we create is just sublime. The feeling of having achieved a special moment for someone, is beyond exhilarating.

I decided to become a Celebrant really because it was one box in my list of goals that I felt I needed to tick and it is a role that encompasses all the skills and knowledge I have gained over the years. It is something that gives me personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

In my role…

  • I listen – to your words
  • I watch – your expressions
  • I feel –  your passions
  • I capture – your emotions
  • I write – your story
  • I create – your dreams

I become… your voice!

Personal experiences, good and bad, all come into play in the role of Celebrant. Ups and downs, highs and lows, are all a necessary part of being able to have empathy when dealing with anyone choosing to use a Celebrant. It is the ability to reach deep into someone’s conscience, take those precious emotions and bring them to life.

So what does being a Celebrant mean to me?

To use that oh so over-used cliche… It means that I am able “To make a difference”! Not necessarily the desire to do so on the global stage but on an individual one to one basis, or in a small gathering. Being a Celebrant ‘to me’ means having zero ego… I don’t mean that I do not have pride. Wanting to be the best version of myself means that my focus is on delivering someone’s dreams and wishes in the best way possible and at the highest level.

The 3 Rs

  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Resilience

The role carries a great deal of ‘Responsibility‘. People open up and talk about their deep and private thoughts, their wishes, their dreams. We have a responsibility to fulfill that in the most beautiful and heartfelt way.

You need to have ‘Respect‘ for people’s individual and personal beliefs. No matter what the request or however strange an idea may be, as a Celebrant we say that this is ‘Your Day – Your Way!’. And we mean it.

We need to be prepared for all eventualities for those unexpected moments and to have ‘Resilience‘- to be able to continue and keep the flow of the ceremony, incorporating humour and create an air of calmness.

As a Wedding Celebrant  – this just has to be the best job ever! When meeting with couples most of my time is spent just listening and I do mean really listening. In a face to face encounter with someone it is their expressions that speak volumes to me. One’s body language is key to who someone is. Their reactions, their movements reveal so much about a person’s personality. Even on the telephone, it is possible to tune into a voice, much in the same way as when you listen to someone on the radio. We often hear people before we see them, and by using my experience, very quickly we are engaging in a positive conversation.

As a Funeral Celebrant – This is one of the most humbling and privileging jobs anyone can do. At a difficult time when there are few words that can be of comfort when losing someone close to you, a Celebrant really is your voice, who will listen and capture all that you hold precious; the memories, the reflections and the stories. Then as we create a ceremony that is true and suitable for both you and your loved one, the mission is to bring light into a day that may feel dark and to someone who may feel desolate and very alone.

So I can confess that I love what I do and surround myself with people who believe in what I do. I trained with who I believe is the best training organisation on the planet. FOIC with founder David Abel at the helm, has been more than a source of inspiration. Boundaries are expanded and stars are reached. Do I wish I trained earlier? No, not really… I believe there is a time and place for everything in life – the things we do, the people we meet are sometimes a result of the moment.

Everyone has their moment, you just have to be ready to seize it.

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Your wedding day is a special occasion – the day of your dreams! Make your wedding day the most memorable of days.

My mission is to create a unique ceremony especially just for you.

As a funeral celebrant – with your precious memories, your stories, your reflections, we will celebrate your loved one’s life, making it a true and fitting tribute.

+44 (0)7908 583837 or +39 339 724 8538

Anna Fill – Celebrant and Event Coordinator

Death by Design

I hope no-one is deterred or incensed by the title of the article but all will become clear as you read on. I received an email requesting my services as a celebrant for an event, and asking me if I could arrange a meeting at my earliest convenience, to discuss the arrangements.

With the appointment being on the French Riviera, I made the assumption I was meeting a couple who were planning a wedding or perhaps wishing to celebrate an anniversary with a vow renewal ceremony. The tone of the email was neutral and details were not forthcoming and I did not pursue them beforehand. This is something I am quite used to owing to a number of couples I meet who offer no prior information and then request I sign a non disclosures agreement before the discussion begins.

I arrived at the specific location as arranged and was greeted by the housekeeper who led me into a most elegant room. Within minutes I was sat opposite a couple who opened the conversation by saying that I had come highly recommended… “Positive start” I thought…

The gentleman began by asking me a few questions about my role as a celebrant and the online magazine I run: The Riviera Woman. I certainly had the impression I was being carefully scrutinised for something quite eventful…

“My wife and I would like you to lead a ceremony for us.” he commenced. “I want to have a celebration attended by all my friends and family, it will be a large affair, and it is to celebrate my life.” he added.

I listened attentively and hoped that my facial expressions were appropriate. He came across as someone very composed and someone who had given this a great deal of thought.

“I have always been in charge, always lead from the front. I have a successful global enterprise and I have enjoyed life with my friends and family to the fullest.” he continued. “And now I want to take control of my ultimate destiny in my own way. Can you handle this? I wouldn’t have called you if I thought you couldn’t.” he didn’t wait for me to respond either way…

This was an opportunity I was not going to refuse. I had the feeling that refusing was not an option anyway. I immediately knew this was going to shape how I felt as a human being and in my capacity as celebrant. It was an honour to have been selected to perform such an unexpected ceremony for someone who for whatever reason had decided to take this journey. I needed to ask a specific question and with very little time to gather my thoughts, I went ahead and asked.

“You are planning to celebrate your life with your friends and family, and why have you chosen now to arrange this?”

He told me that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and very ‘soon’ he would be leaving for a clinic situated in Switzerland, where the treatment, owing to the aggressiveness of it, would be life changing and he wanted people to remember him as the person who lived… I had the feeling that the clinic was to be his final place but I was not going to make anymore assumptions.

And so the planning began… I recommended that the ceremony itself should last in the region of 35 to 40 minutes, to which this was agreed. The venue was arranged and this guest of honour had selected those he wanted to attend as his guests. We discussed various ideas to which he embraced them all; readings, poems and music. He had actually already chosen a selection of pieces he would like and who he would like to read them. Music would be performed by musicians and he had commissioned a classical pianist (who would make use of the grand piano at the villa) and arranged for a 4 piece jazz band to entertain. I mentioned the possibility of using candles in some way and both he and his wife agreed that a candle ceremony would be ‘most fitting‘, saying: “love is eternal as long as we keep the flame alight“. His life story would feature images and film with a live voice-over orchestrated by me. And he had prepared his own ‘committal’ which he would deliver himself.

He had arranged a photographer that would be on site and to have a family portrait taken on this day with other photos from the ceremony, all to be included into a memory book he was having produced.

I was given a brief tour of where the ceremony would take place and then guided to a wine cellar stacked high with quite an impressive collection. “We will have my favourite wine to drink…” I was shown a magnum of St Emilion Château Cheval Blanc, 2010. One glass of this and we will all be in fine spirits, two and we will be rejoicing, n’est pas!” he smiled…

Every detail of this day had been so meticulously considered, and he resembled an author writing the final chapter of his autobiography, excited at the prospect of presenting it to all who know him. This really is a true celebration of life!

It would be easy to think that this is a form of egoism but on the contrary, in my case, all I can say is that you had to be there to realise that this was one of the most selfless things I had ever witnessed. In his own speech, the emphasis is on the importance of ‘living’. He wishes to share his love with those he loves. He wishes to see smiles and not frowns. He knows he we will no longer be able to be in control from where he is going and wants to leave behind his wealth of knowledge and show his gratitude to those who have shared in his life.

We are not all fortunate to be in a position to be able to make such arrangements as these, and for so many reasons, but it opens up the debate of why we can’t have the discussion with those we love about ‘that time‘ in life which none of us can ever escape from. It is a fact of life that we die… and if we are able to organise our final chapter well in advance, it will be one more box on the to-do list ticked, leaving us to enjoy our life with those around us, in the knowing that in some small way we have helped our loved ones when the unavoidable time comes.

To quote my Mr. X who said to me: “I want to R.I.P….” …Rejoice in Person!

This article has been fully vetted and approved by those who gave me this wonderful opportunity to celebrate a very special life!

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My mission is to create a unique ceremony especially for you.

+44 (0)7908 583837 or +39 339 724 8538

Anna Fill – Celebrant and Event Coordinator