Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Open Celebrant Training - Wedding Ceremony Options

Don’t forget, your client may want to include one of the following in their ceremony. The only additional cost is that of the materials used in the ceremonies.

The UK Society of Celebrants will soon be running a series of articles on the Wedding Ceremony Options (below) as part of our "Open Celebrant Training" as a resource for those of you who practice as Family Celebrants.

Wedding Ceremony Options

Unity Sand Ceremony Option
Unity Sand Ceremony
The Unity Sand Ceremony is ideal for any wedding this ceremony option symbolises the joining of the couple. We often suggest this ritual when there are young children involved and the couple is looking for a ritual to involve the children.

Wine Box  / Love Letter
The couple will write love letters to each other before the wedding which they will seal in an envelope.  They will choose their favourite bottle of wine or drink of choice and place these and any other memorabilia in the wine box. If you choose this ceremony option during the wedding ceremony, you will seal the box and vow not to open the box until an anniversary of your choice. The only other time that the box can be unsealed is when they are having thoughts of separating at which time they will drink the wine and read the letters which will hopefully remind them why they fell in love and chose to be together in the first place.

Breaking of the Glass Ceremony
Breaking the Glass
The Breaking of the Glass Ceremony is traditionally used at Jewish weddings, this ceremony option signifies the end of the ceremony and the time of celebration.

Wine Ceremony
In the Wine ceremony the couple can either choose to pour one white glass and one red glass to create a blush that they will both drink from or there can be a pouring of one glass that they both will drink from.

Broom Jumping Ceremony
The Broom Jumping Ceremony is based upon tradition which symbolises the clearing away of negativity with a sweep of the broom and creating a threshold for the couple to cross over into their new life together.

Rose Ceremony
In the Rose ceremony the couple can choose to present roses to the mothers / grandmothers as a way of showing appreciation for their support.  The roses can also be presented as the first gifts that the couple will give to each other.

Dove Release Ceremony
In the Dove Release Ceremony, doves choose one partner for life and make this commitment until death.  It is said that if doves are seen on your wedding day, a happy home is assured.  It is the belief that releasing doves is a ceremony option that signifies new beginnings.

Hand Wrapping Ceremony / Hand Fasting

The original meaning of “tying the knot”. A Celtic tradition where the hands are tied with ribbons / cloth in the shape of the infinity symbol to symbolize the bringing together of the two hearts in a marriage of strength and unity forever.

Unity Candle Ceremony
This ritual has long been used in Catholic weddings, but as a traditional ceremony option it also holds a universal meaning.  It symbolises the joining of the couple in marriage as well as the joining of their two original families.  The couple’s mothers can light their individual candles for them as a symbol to show that they are moving on from their family to create a new family together.

First Kiss Last Kiss
This is a ceremony option involves the mother of both the Bride and the Groom. They are called upon to join the Bride and Groom near the end of the ceremony. The mothers gave their children there first kiss when they came into the world and they will give their last kiss as single individuals before sending them on their new journey as husband / wife / life partner.

Ceremonial Certificate
Many clients and their prospective guests expect there to be some sort of "Signing Ceremony" which takes place at the conclusion of a Wedding Ceremony, Commitment Ceremony or Renewal of Vows Ceremony. Celebrants can arrange for a bespoke parchment to be available , which contains the names of the happy couple and their witnesses with space for them to append their signature to witness the event. Please note that this act is purely for ceremonial / ritualistic purposes in order to provide the happy couple with a beautiful keepsake from their happy event. 

Each of the above Ceremony Options will be discussed in detail on a weekly basis as part of the Open Celebrant Training series of articles on this blog.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

UK Society of Celebrants: Newsletter – July 2013

Hello to All Our Newsletter Subscribers

Well, the weather is certainly with us for Family & Funeral Celebrants alike. We have had reports that our Family Celebrants are particularly busy this summer and the weather also helps to engender that “feel good” factor.

Celebrant Training
Due to the renewed popularity of our Distance Learning Celebrant Training Courses, we are withdrawing the Personal Tuition Celebrant Training Courses from August 1st. Personal Tuition Celebrant Training will continue to be available ONLY to new Franchise applicants.

Celebrant Tales
Many thanks for all the entries to our “Celebrant Tale” competition. Jade Gracie from Manchester is the winner for June 2013 and she has already received her £25 Amazon voucher for the following tale. Thanks Jade.

“Geoff a widower, of Anglo-Scottish decent was 60 when he died suddenly after a short illness on July 1st. He leaves behind a close & loving sizeable family. Geoff’s funeral was held at a popular and beautiful East Lancashire crematorium, which was less than 1 mile away from his home, from where, he and the mourners all processed to the crem.

The bereaved chose to have a themed funeral, where everyone was asked to attend in colourful summer clothing (weather permitting) including myself as the Funeral Celebrant. The theme was a tribute to Geoff’s favourite hobby of SCUBA Diving in sunnier climes.

The funeral was held on July 8th and the weather did not disappoint. There were approximately 120 mourners who all complied with the dress theme. The venue for the funeral ceremony at the crematorium was light and bright and all the windows were thankfully wide open, providing a welcomed breeze. At the front was a life sized picture of Geoff in his SCUBA gear, sporting what I can only described as a tartan onesie and smiling eyes, under water, swimming with a large blaupunkt ray. Scary, funny & beautiful at the same time.

The funeral ceremony itself was a joyous & upbeat occasion celebrating the life of a popular man until the non-religious benediction. The family wanted Amazing Grace, by a Scottish singer that Geoff adored, to be played in the background during the benediction and the time the mourners left the ceremony. I introduced the song and gave the agreed cue to the crematorium staff to “press play” but nothing happened for about 10 seconds, except non-verbal communication being exchanged between me and the staff. (the cd player had died)

After this pregnant pause, from nowhere and at considerable volume the unmistakeable drone of a set of bagpipes filled the room from outside one of the open windows. The piper was playing Amazing Grace. An air of disbelief was palpable which quickly turned in to raucous laughter then slipped into a few tears being shed.  In a split second, I decided to carry on regardless.

Even with the PA turned up, it was a struggle for me to be heard doing the benediction above the haunting bagpipe lament, but no one seemed to notice. It was certainly the first time I have had to speak over, live bagpipes and laughter at a funeral ceremony.

Later the bereaved commented that the ceremony could not possibly have gone better, they wished they had thought of having a live piper in the first place – in hindsight I agree.

For your information – the ceremony immediately prior to Geoff’s was an all Scottish affair and they had the piper (Andy McVeigh) play their choice of music. Andy was stood outside in all his finery with his pipes, having a crafty cigarette, where he overheard Geoff’s ceremony and realised that there was a problem with the final piece of music, he stepped in  – spooky, or what!

I was honoured to be invited to Geoff’s  “wake” – needless to say, the theme continued. Geoff’s garden played host to a wonderful beach party. When I say beach, there was a sandpit in the garden that Geoff had made for his grandchildren and several “water blasters”.

I think the whole day was one to remember and that Geoff’s family and friends got to say goodbye in style, thanks in no small part to the benevolence of one Andy McVeigh.”

Anyone wishing to submit their “Celebrant Tale” for next month’s newsletter must do so by or on 15th August 2013. A £25 Amazon Voucher will be awarded to the winning Celebrant.

That is Not Us!
It has been brought to our attention that there is a “new kid on the block” in that there is a new celebrant services provider with a similar name to the UK Society of Celebrants. We do not have a problem with this; however, we affirm that to the best of our knowledge there is no relationship, professional or otherwise with the Celebrant Society.

UKSoC Go Mobile
If you are minded, please have a browse round the UK Society of Celebrants website. We have now produced a version of the website for mobile devices & listed all of our related blogs under “BLOG”. It is our intention to run a series of regular resource articles on each of our blogs, relevant to each area of Celebrancy practice.

Guest Writers
Once again, invitations are extended to you all to submit celebrant related articles/ guest blogs / editorial for inclusion in either our newletters or blogs. Of course, all submissions, when published online will be “back linked” to you and you will be given credit on the post.

We have been sounding out a number of our UKSoC  Members about the possibility of introducing a Premium Android Tablet  (Sony Xperia S/Z) which contains all you need to practice as a celebrant and much more. The package includes  writing libraries, script templates, music, celebrant training aids, bespoke – work specific cloud, blog, facebook, skype & twitter interfaces, celebrant specific apps and Office Pro. Everything would be setup pre-delivery and is only available to UKSoC Members. The cost is anticipated to be between £250 & £400 depending on which device is adopted.

We have 4 such tablets currently on trial – any suggestions from fellow celebrants would be most welcome i relation to content and cost.

That’s it for this month. Until next Time. Be Well.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Your Guide to Handfasting

What is a Handfasting?
A handfasting is an old Pagan custom, dating back to the time of the ancient Celts. A handfasting was originally more like an engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. The original handfasting was a trial marriage. It gave the couple the chance to see if they could survive marriage to each other. After a year goes by  the couple could either split as if they had never been married or could decide to enter permanently into marriage.

Today, Wiccans and Pagans are not alone in embracing handfasting as a part of their wedding ceremony. A handfasting in the modern world is a ritualistic / ceremonial sign of a commitment for "as long as love shall last." A handfasting ceremony can be tailor made to suit the couple.
Celebrant Handfasting

The Handfasting Ceremony
There are many variations of the traditional handfasting. After the intended couple both declare their intent to enter into this union, the hands of the couple are clasped and fastened together with a cord or cords just before, just after, or during their vows are made to one another. The wrapping of the cord forms an infinity symbol. The handfasting knot that is tied in a symbolic representation of oneness between the couple. In a show of unity, they become bound to each other.

The Cords / Ribbons
Each Wiccan and Pagan path has different decrees concerning the colour, length, type and of number of cords used to handfast the couple. One custom may have the couple facing each other, binding both pairs of hands of the bride and groom. Another custom is to have only the right hands, and another one of each right and left. There are many variations of the handfasting rite. It all depends on the bride, groom, and the celebrant they chose to preside over their wedding, commitment or vow renewal ceremony.

The handfasting ritual is a beautiful, mystical rite of passage. Many non-Pagan and non-Wiccan couples are adopting this old custom, much like when couples borrow from other traditions to craft their own ceremony to match their distinctive personalities.

Handfastings Q & A
Q.  What is handfasting?
A.  The short answer to this question is: a handfasting is a component of a wedding ceremony which entails gently wrapping cords / ribbons around the bride and groom’s clasped hands and tying a knot, symbolically binding the couple together in their declaration of unity.

However, the long answer entails a bit of back-story.  Today’s modern day handfasting ceremony is a revival – of sorts – of the handfastings of yesteryear.  The ritual of handfasting was originally an element to a formal betrothal ceremony (the precursor to today’s engagement) perhaps going as far back as ancient Celtic Scotland, up to the 16th century reformation-era.  During the formal betrothal ceremony, in which a couple promises to one another their agreement in future marriage, there was a formal handshake to seal the deal.  This was called the handf√¶stung, meaning, a pledge by the giving of the hand.  The betrothals eventually became so formal that it was an event in and of itself, which eventually lead up to the wedding ceremony.  Oh, the drama!  

One of the main reasons for this handfasting renaissance, if you will, is because today’s ever growing secular society can identify with the symbolism of an elaborate handshake agreement.  To illustrate the imagery and importance of the handshake, the knotting of cords around the hands was eventually incorporated, possibly by today’s neo-Pagans. Cord knotting presents an outstanding visual in illustrating intent. The handfasting ritual has been, almost effortlessly, adapted and incorporated into many modern  wedding rituals as the main ceremonial element in addition to – or instead of – the ring exchange.  Modern Pagans revived the literal tying of the knot. 

Q.  Is it a legal marriage?
A.  The handfasting ritual can be incorporated into any wedding ceremony, just as can the ring exchange.  Whether or not a couple chooses to have a handfasting does not make or break the legality of the marriage.  Rather, the couple must take the proper steps to ensure that their marriage is recognised by the government if they do so choose.  Making sure one’s wedding is legal and binding and recognised by the state (or other municipal entity) varies from location to location, so check your local laws. Anyone can become handfasted if that is their intent.

Q.  Do you have to be Wiccan to have a handfasting?
A.  No.  In fact, the term handfasting arose during the early Christian era, when Paganism had already lost much ground.  It’s the symbolism that our multicultural society has reclaimed and today embrace.  But people from all walks of life can experience the beautiful handfasting ritual during their wedding ceremony.  In practice, Wiccans are taught to place well-thought intention into ritual, and therefore they do so into the knotting of the cords. Because of this, the ritual of the handfasting invites a unique, magical experience between the couple.  But you don’t have to be Wiccan to feel the magic if your intentions are true.

Q.  How do I find someone to perform a handfasting?
A. Fortunately, most Family Celebrant members of the UK Society of Celebrants perform handfasting ceremonies to their clients specifications, just contact us here for more information.

Q. Is there one set ceremony for a handfasting, or are there options to help tailor the ceremony for a particular bride and groom?
A.  Well now that you have a better understanding of what a handfasting is, you can see that any ceremony created by a bride and groom can be customised to fit the couple’s wishes.  The most important aspect of the handfasting ritual, after the intent of course, is the cords.

Traditionally in much of cord magic (including handfastings), cords may be nine feet in length, with each end knotted or bound with thread to prevent fraying. A natural substance (such as cotton or silk) is ideal.  In many initiation ceremonies, cords are measured as per the length (height) of the persons involved in the rite; however, the numbers 3 and 9 are very magical and can be incorporated simply by using a cord that is 9 feet or 3 meters long, which is totally acceptable.

In handfasting cords, traditionally, 3 cords are used, each a different color: white for purity (or a "clean slate"), blue for fidelity, and red for passion.  However, you may choose other colours that you or the bride & groom feel match their intent.  For instance, the bride may love the color pink and be using it as one of her wedding colours.  Pink would be a lovely color to use in the cords as well.  Magically, pink symbolises love.  Or you can incorporate a green cord, which symbolises fertility and growth.  Do a search for color correspondences or go here  for a variety of references.  My wife and I used a purple cord - which symbolises emotional strength.  Not to mention that it was one of our wedding colours! 

Some people braid the three cords together, others only use one cord.  It's up to you!  The best way to pick out cords is to use your intuition along with your intent.  You can never go wrong with that.

Q. What would you say is the biggest misconception about handfasting?
A. Handfastings is just now experiencing a revival, not many people have had the chance to create false impressions about the ritual.  For those who may have heard of handfastings however, there may be a misconception about the original handfasting, or the betrothal, to have lasted a year and a day.  The “year and a day” timeline stems from Wiccan ritual, whereby one cycle of the Wheel of the Year is completed (e.g., from Samhain – pronounced “sow-in” – the Wiccan new year) to the day after Samhain of next year.  This somehow may have been incorporated into the subconscious minds of some Wiccans and Pagan folk, and they may have come to the conclusion that the old betrothals, or the promise to marry, were also exactly a year and a day.  But to the best of my knowledge there is no definitive proof of the handfastings of old to be exactly a year and a day.

Q. Any advice for potential brides out there considering a handfasting ceremony?
A.  I think that most people are concerned about family acceptance of the ceremony.  Most people have a very narrow idea of what a wedding ceremony should be, and what exactly constitutes someone to become husband and wife.  Because of this I have received several questions from people about how to talk to their parents and close relatives about having a handfasting, or even more pressing, a Wiccan ceremony.  Each family is different so approaches should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  But one should always have respect for and sensitivity towards all love ones involved.

As I said earlier, one can easily incorporate a handfasting ritual into almost any ceremony.  The further a bride and groom want to stray from the norm, the more complicated it can get (depending on the families and their beliefs), so a sensitive and understanding approach is always best.  And, like in marriage, you may just have to compromise.  The journey of marriage begins with the planning of one’s wedding