Celebrant Training UK: Do you have what it takes to be a celebrant?
Celebrant Training UK is a boutique celebrant-training school which offers one-to-one training. It was founded by tutors Veronika and Paul Robinson. Oftentimes, when a potential student phones and asks me if they have what it takes to be a celebrant, I share the essential skills and qualities that I believe differentiate a mediocre celebrant from a conscious, creative and compassionate celebrant. Qualities and skills sometimes have a cross-over element, but broadly speaking a skill is something which can be learned or improved whereas a quality is innate to our personality.
Here’s a look at what I mean:
(in no particular order, though the number one skill is the ability to listen without agenda):
Speaking clearly and articulately
Able to write bespoke ceremonies
Able to officiate according to the client’s beliefs, rather than their own
Acknowledging others’ values
Time value and time management
Qualities of a Celebrant
Ability to take direction from clients
Ability to give direction
Awareness of self and others
Knowledge of what works/what doesn’t (this can come from experience but also from intuition)
Contrary to some opinions, you don’t need to be an extrovert (and actually introverts bring something deep and meaningful to the equation which is often overlooked by others)
Sense of humour
Sense of occasion, and respect for ritual
Love of ceremony
Strong sense of duty
Solid, clear, well-articulated voice (this crosses over into a skill and can be developed through vocal training, such as with our voice and presentation coach, Paul Robinson)
Calm, composed and able to relax clients
Serene, soothing, gentle presentation
Can hold the space, regardless of how many people there are
Excellent listening ability (able to keep mouth closed and let the other person talk without interrupting or having to share your own story. This is doubly so in funeral work)
Appreciates the value of ritual, and choreographs them with ease
Gifted at developing relationships so can liaise with funeral directors, families, crematorium staff, and cemetery staff; wedding planners and other wedding suppliers
Is compassionate, reverent, professional, and respectful
Is reliable, organised and punctual
Valuable Assets of a Celebrant
Rich with ideas
Knowledge of various customs and traditions
Good hygiene and presentation
Excellent standard of client service
Understanding of law around weddings and funerals
What else do you need to be a celebrant?
It’s not enough, though, to have those skills and qualities. You also need to value yourself, and your work, enough to be your biggest supporter. An essential part of celebrant life is marketing yourself. As part of our celebrant training we look at two types of marketing: mainstream and metaphysical.
In a nutshell, it can often be easier to market yourself for weddings than funerals, as clients usually come direct through your website, directories or word of mouth.
The funeral industry isn’t necessarily easy to break into (it’s a combination of where you live, your personality, the FDs you contact), and if you’re relying on funeral directors to phone you then you have to put in the groundwork to build up good relationships. Many experienced celebrants complain about new celebrants ‘poaching’ their work. I don’t believe this is the case. Firstly, the right clients for us won’t pass us by. It’s an old metaphysical law: the law of attraction. (Summed up well by the Scots: Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye!)
The right clients for us
Won’t pass us by
We never say there are too many hairdressers in the area or too many lawyers or too many cafés. We value the choice! Why should it be any different for celebrancy? When I can’t take on a booking, due to already being booked, I offer suggestions for other celebrants. The names I give are based on their personality and what I feel would be a good fit. That would apply whether there were 200 celebrants near me or just two.
Sometimes funeral directors will turn a new celebrant away because they’ve got their top three on speed dial (it’s not an uncommon practice for it to be the ones they can make a mark up on rather than ones who are gifted at their job). A decent funeral director will give you a go to prove yourself.
To break into this field you need self belief, resilience, determination and commitment. If you’re writing bespoke scripts (rather than using the cookie-cutter/template option) then you’ll also need to be hardworking. This isn’t something any celebrant-training school can give you. It’s innate.
Setting yourself up as a community celebrant has many advantages over relying on funeral directors. For example, you can work in your community by setting up a Death Café, liaising with hospices, bereavement midwives and so on, so that clients come to you directly. When people in your area know you’re a celebrant, they will recommend you. A client can therefore choose you rather than the celebrant the FD had lined up.
Think about your time commitments. Funeral celebrants need to be available during the week, whereas the majority of weddings and namings tend to be held on weekends, thought his has changed somewhat in more recent years (and especially since the Pandemic). I, for one, now have weddings on any day of the week where previously it tended to be Saturdays or Wednesdays.
Are you prepared to give up many Saturdays during the year? Weddings generally get booked three months to three years before the date. A funeral can be anything from 24 hours to three weeks after the death (more like six weeks, if you are somewhere in or around London).
Are you able to work at speed, be flexible, and complete a task to excellence at such short notice? It can mean working at midnight on a Friday or dawn on a Sunday morning to complete a script. Your meetings with clients might not fall in business hours, either. Are you willing to be flexible?
The role of a celebrant has many layers and levels to it, and as such the training you undertake must correspond to that. It’s not a matter of knowing what funeral reading to recommend or what type of clothes to wear to officiate a wedding. This job is detailed and finely nuanced from how we meet and greet clients, the ability to cast our ego to one side and truly listen, the presence we give to creating and writing scripts, how we develop bespoke and meaningful rituals, the time we dedicate to becoming familiar with our script, to our public speaking style and emotional intelligence, to the reputation we build out in the world.
At Celebrant Training UK, our certified Heart-led Celebrants have had one-to-one tuition and completed modules which prepare them for professional celebrancy. Our certification is based on aptitude not attendance. We make no apologies for our high standards. The clients our celebrants will serve deserve the best.
Veronika Robinson has had the immense privilege of being a celebrant, internationally, since 1995, and has officiated across all rites of passage. Her passion for ceremony, ritual and excellence in the craft and practice of celebrancy extends to her role as co-founder and co-tutor at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training and as editor of The Celebrant magazine. She is also an author, novelist and workshop facilitator.