When people ‘get’ what I do as a Celebrant, they realllllly get it. Readily. Eyes brighten and tense shoulders drop. Not only do they get it, they dig it. People I serve at Sweetgrass are relieved to know they have a choice for ceremony guidance that is beyond the ordinary. I love to see their relief and excitement about what is possible!
Sometimes I see furrowed brows for a few moments. That is okay. Once in awhile folks truly hear what I do – only by asking what I don’t do. “So you’re not ______? Or ______?” “No,” I patiently say. It takes awhile until we reach their ‘aha’ moment.
After a recent flurry of these defining conversations, I am moved to post more here. I’ll describe what a Life-Cycle Celebrant® is and is not, plus tell some stories to give historical perspective.
Most notably, we are part of a world-wide movement that is more than 3,000 people strong. We create and lead custom ceremonies for individuals, communities and organizations that transcend the ordinary. We hold ceremonial space for occasions from ‘womb to tomb’. We come with no judgments. We base our work on the stories, beliefs and values of people we serve.
Here is the thumbnail version of the movement: Civil Celebrancy began in Australia, during the early 1970s. It was initiated by the government, offering people flexibility for holding meaningful ceremonies. Civil Celebrants in Australia ‘marry or bury’ people in settings outside of the church or government registry offices, while still upholding the Laws of the Commonwealth. Today, the majority of weddings and funerals in Australia are composed and led by Civil Celebrants.
Now leap from AU in the 70’s to the U.S. in 2001. A core group of women in New York and New Jersey witnessed a yawning chasm in our culture, days after September 11th. They saw, felt and heard community yearnings for ritual or ceremonial ways to acknowledge heaving losses. They saw how people not associated with a church or government body needed to gather and make meaning somehow. So, they enacted multi-generational, multi-faith or non-faith, inclusive and relevant ceremonies. For example, they led memorials at train stations in NJ. Such locations were silent reminders of loss, where cars parked by people who would never return sat eerily empty.
After experiencing these post 9/11 scenarios, this core group began investigating the work of our Civil Celebrant friends in Australia. They gleaned lessons from the Aussies and brought pieces of the model to North America. Through a true labor of love and enlightenment, they founded the Celebrant Foundation & Institute in 2001: where I was certified as a Life-Cycle Celebrant® and where I currently teach Funeral Celebrancy. The Institute offers specific training in the art of co-creating rituals and ceremonies for all of life’s milestones. Upon successful completion, students are certified to provide the utmost professionalism and quality services, and agree to perform those under a Code of Ethics.
And well, if it helps to round out this explanation by saying what I am not (yet some other Life-Cycle Celebrants may well be!), then I offer this brief list. I am not celibate. I am not an attorney or event planner; a judge, county clerk, funeral director, counselor, chaplain, pastor or life coach. (Cue to unfurrow the brow.) 😉
As a full-time practicing Celebrant, I am a highly attuned ceremonial guide. I meet you where you are in your life experience. I work with you and/or your animal companions. I help you celebrate and acknowledge new life, love and loss – in a way that feels real for you.