This month I got to conduct a very special wedding. Every wedding is important and the joining of two people who love each other in the sanctimony of marriage is a deeply profound right of passage in people’s lives. This has felt even more prominent this last year as social gatherings have been legally forbidden and wedding have had to be postponed. My couple this month had experienced these things first hand with their wedding first being postponed, and then having to change their date only a month before the big day as their venue cancelled on them. These challenges would be enough to test the resolve in any couple of having their perfect day tainted so much. Yet, in the midst of turmoil my couple chose to dismiss the chaos and adjust their plans to have a simple and beautiful ceremony with the people that were most important to them in life. The Sottish sunshine was out creating a stunning summer day and the new venue could not have been more helpful and accommodating. The couple were married and became joined forever.
I am a hopeless romantic at heart, and one of the reasons I wanted to become a celebrant was to share in the idealistic fairytale romance that resonate in wedding days. However, having a deep passion for equity, social justice and inclusion I also have a particular interest in helping non-traditional couples solidify their relationship formally in marriage. Scotland is a global leader for recognising the validity of two people loving each other, no matter what their gender, and I feel privileged to be a part of this forward thinking nation and able to provide a ceremony for any type of couples. For so many years same sex couples were unable to formally marry, and in many parts of the world this is still the case. I love that I can help to facilitate loving couples make a commitment to each other and become bound by marriage. So for me, this wedding that brought together two people who loved each other that years before would have been denied a wedding was a very special moment for me. As I completed the wedding and watched their emotion and how much they loved each other I found myself feeling emotional and was in danger of welling up with tears.
My lovely couple who had responded to so many challenges in the lead up to their special day finally got to stand up in front of the people who were dearest to them and declare their love and commitment for each other. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever been part of and it filled my heart and soul with joy. Being part of these moments is so completely fulfilling and grounding, abstract from all of the normal day to day routines, and symbolic of a deeper purpose in life. Being a celebrant warms my soul inspires my passion.
There is a feeling of lightness and hope in the air along with the summer sunshine that is finally arriving. In Scotland, we are coming out of lockdown after over a year spent mostly in the highest levels of restrictions. People are able to meet again both outdoors and indoors. Restaurants and venues are opening up and people are starting to plan for the future again. It seems almost stepping out into the unknown after spending a year only leaving the house to work of with immediate family. Making plans to meet friends feels indulgent and luxurious, as if meeting purely for a coffee is too frivolous and should require some grander occasion. I feel like this is prompting people to start planning for just such grander occasions as I have contributed to several conversation in just the last week over booking weddings and naming days. I think people are desperate for these rights of passage in life to return to normal and to create events that will become custodian to memories that have been denied for over a year now.
The shift that I am noticing with enquiries about booking a celebrant is that people are wanting small and meaningful ceremonies. Everyone seems to be very aware of the legalities of how many people can be in a room at the same time and of the restrictions on movement between districts over different levels of safety which is prompting ceremonies to be designed closer to home and to much smaller numbers than had been the previous norm. I have noticed people who had previously planned to marry in a registry office reconsider to a more unique venue and with a humanist celebrant who will write an d consult a more personal ceremony. People are considering vow renewals after such a long and isolated year in social distancing restrictions and finding they want to celebrate the love and commitment they have with their partner as a formal celebration and be thankful for all that they have. People with babies, and even toddlers now are feeling they want to introduce the child to the world as the old culture of baby classes and coffee dates has been denied them and for many even family members and close friends have missed out on the baby stage of a significant child in their life because they have not been allowed to socialise.
The conversations around these topics most definitely pull on the heart strings and show the negative effect the pandemic has had on so many, yet, in the face of a new beginning the first thing people want to do is come together and celebrate. There is beauty to be found in this idea of always coming back to family and community to share in the rights of passage important to us. I feel like there is a special sort of beauty in the planning of ceremonies at this point in time. There is an intimacy and aura of authenticity surrounding a ceremony that is not designed with trying to please everyone else, but to punctuate important life moments through a desire to participate rather than to be seen. That is not to say that the trend for larger ceremonies will not return as government restrictions allow, but it places a genuine validity in the choice of having ceremonies in the near future with smaller numbers attending. Personally, I love the personal connection with small ceremonies and will always feel honoured to be part of them and share in these special memories.
I have loved being out and about a little this last week since the cover restrictions were relaxed and things began to open up again. It it just the simplest moments that make the deepest impressions. Families enjoying a day out together at a farm park. The joy of different generations meeting up to have a picnic and feed the llamas is something that seemed so generic before and now is the most profound luxury. Grandparents getting to play with their grandchildren, cousins getting to play together, parents feeling the support and relief of having family around, you can see the effects in everyone’s eyes and smiles. The most pointed realisation I notice is when looking at the amount of prams and toddlers plodding around, these children have never experienced this before. A whole generation of our smallest people who have never been to a soft play, a swimming pool, or a play cafe. The experiences that have missed out on and the interactions that have been denied them. Yet, in these moments all that can be seen is joy. A toddler who sees a goat for the first time and gets to feed it. Babies playing in a giant sand pit. Siblings who get to teach their little ones new ways to play. It is very humbling to watch and leaves an impressions of humility for the little things in life we used to take for granted.
It is these realisations that prompt me to think just how important our social rights of passage are to our culture and to our own individual wellbeing. The act of being denied the opportunity to interact with each other for a year of our lives has put so much on hold. Weddings have not taken place, naming ceremonies did not happen, and the critical connections that bind us together have become frayed and fragile. Fo many of us we dream of a beautiful wedding day, or the celebration of a new child in our lives, and having the opportunity for those things taken away for a year has been very disempowering. Cancelling an event may seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of a pandemic, but to the individual its not about the event, its about the dreams that it represents. Putting on hold the pivotal moment of transitioning from being simply an individual to becoming part of a new family unit it a momentous right of passage and takes a lot of consideration in the decision. To then be told that this cannot happen, and told again, and told again as the pandemic rages on is heartbreaking to the people who are ready for this transition and right of passage. Already established families have been expanding during the lockdown, but new families denied their start are yet to come into existence.
As we move forward there is a quiet undertone of hope. The moments of heartbreak and isolation are starting to feel like memory with renewed hope and enthusiasm for the future. People are pensively starting to dream again of the events that were denied to them and to re-ignite a faith in the traditional rights of passage in our social cultures. By committing to plan the longed for ceremony, dreams and hopes can be awakened and the deepest yearnings inside to be part of a new family can be realised. Watching how families are re-connecting and enjoying simple pleasures like a picnic in a farm park is showing us that society is still strong, people will alway come back together, and there is always hope for the future.
Spring is here, albeit the coldest spring I can remember in a long time. I actually saw snow in my street last week and most of the flowers in my garden are still tucked up under soil scared to come out in the frost. Yet, the lighter nights are here and this extra daylight is a great relief after a long cold winter of snow, no public Christmas lights because of local authority cuts to provisions, and of course the lockdown restrictions that have help us captive in our own homes for so long.
Recently I’ve seen a few friends on social media have their wedding day despite lockdown. I imagine that the day was smaller than the couples had planned and there was probably a feeling of breaking the traditional mould as the guest numbers had to be so small. Personally I love the idea of small intimate weddings that are just about the couple and their dearest friends and family rather than the social norm that has evolved around huge expensive weddings with endless guests and extravagance.
One of my friends put a lovely quote on facebook just before her wedding day. A quote from Harry Potter… “Seems silly doesn’t it?A Wedding. Given everything that’s going on.” (Ginny Weasley)… “Maybe that’s the reason to have it. Because of everything that’s going on” (Harry Potter). I absolutely love the sentiment of this. Real life goes on. We need to come together and enjoy the good and special moments of life and not just be caught up in the mundane or difficult things we have to do. In the midst of a global event like non of us have ever seen before the idea that we can make little glimmers of joy and beauty in our lives seems very special to me. For those that have chosen to have a lockdown wedding and find their moment of joy in our darkest days I truly wish all the happiness in the world. I admire your resolve to go against the socially constructed and commercialised norm of large weddings and instead host the celebration of you coming together as a married couple in a personal and intimate way.
But, for all the couples that are holding on to their dream of a larger wedding to include all of their family and friends that are important to them and have had to reschedule, perhaps multiple times due to the continued restrictions I send my deepest thoughts. For some the idea of having their ceremony without people important in their lives is too much of a compromise. Nobody wants to choose which loved ones get to participate and which ones don’t so a postponement is the choice of many. We are a year in to the lockdown restrictions now and for some couples their special day has been rescheduled multiple times, each time bringing more disappointment. I can’t imagine how difficult the decision is to postpone such a special event once, let alone multiple times. There is no doubt that this type of challenge is testament to the strength of a couple’s relationship and a sign of their commitment to one another. Hopefully when the special day does arrive all of the waiting will seem like a distant memory.
I suppose what I’ve been reflecting on these last few weeks is the importance of relationships. Neither option of choosing to have a ceremony now and exclude people or postpone to a later date is easy. Both bring compromise and the ability to work as a team to come to the decision that is best for the couple. I have unlimited admiration for everyone that is having to make these decisions and can see the added strength in the relationship that will come from doing this. I think the understanding, bonding, and collaboration that comes from making these decisions will form a special relationship that is built on strength and cooperation that a lot of married couples don’t experience until later on. The pressure of making these decisions and choosing a path for themselves in times of lockdown restrictions is a great challenge but one that couples of today are embracing together.
Many may think that in times where families are losing loved ones to Covid, health care staff are over-worked and underpaid, and there is vast unemployment due to industries shutting down that the idea of weddings is frivolous and unimportant in the scale of things. I personally think that this is the time when these types of activities are of the most importance. Life is for living and we need to hold on to the special moments and special people that make us who we are. We need to celebrate our personal victories otherwise what are we all fighting for in this war against a disease. I feel that coming together over important life events with rituals is an important and vital aspect of life just now and we should embrace it rather than question how appropriate it is. The infamous Harry Potter thinks it important and he is always right isn’t he.
My final thought is please give yourself permission to do what is right for you.
Joining A Quiet Revolution has felt serendipitous.
Do you ever have the feeling of being exactly where you are supposed to be, just at the right time? Meeting the other trainees and members of A Quiet Revolution has felt like that to me. I don’t know whether it’s joining a humanist organisation that appreciates people as individuals without bias of the wider societal structures and systems to conform to, or if it’s the connection all of the members have with their craft. Perhaps the combination of both have shown me there are different ways to be. An authentic way. Humanism brings people together because of their uniqueness and individuality. I recently watched the movie Bohemium Rhapsody which had a line that really resounded with me. As Queen were about to be signed by the record company they were asked what makes them different from all the other bands out there. They said they are just a bunch of misfits, playing to all the other misfits who feel like they don’t belong. I loved this. If we are true to ourselves then we will all be misfits, and that is a good thing. But being a misfit, an authentic individual, and feeling like you belong because of this is what I love about humanism.
At A Quiet Revolution the members don’t follow any specific religion, but nor do they refuse to include a specific religious ritual in a ceremony if it is what the client wants. Rituals are simply that, a ritual. A series of words arranged in an order that means something specific to the individual. The use of an item that has a personal significance to one of the participants. Perhaps even honouring a family member by including a cultural ritual important to them. It is this crafting of a ceremony that is exciting. No defined rules of faith to follow. No societal template to define the structure. Just the authentic aspects of the couple who want to represent themselves in a rights of passage ceremony. I think this is beautiful and feel honoured that I will get to be a part of these moments.
I think happiness all comes down to shared values. A Quiet Revolution shines with values of equity, inclusion, and collaboration. A lovely ethos that is non competitive and simply aims to match a couple with the celebrant that is right for them. No offence is ever taken if a couple doesn’t click with the celebrant, in fact, the members of A Quiet Revolution will always actively promote each other because its not about making the most income, its about connections and joy. And on top of this, A Quiet Revolution is a charitable organisation that has a strong social conscience. For every wedding that is conducted a portion of that income is fed into the charity to help tackle funeral poverty, which is strong interest and focus of the organisation. Personally I love this. The charitable aspect rings very true to my own values and I again feel honoured to be part of something that at its core was created to help people.
So I really don’t think there is anywhere else in my life just now I would rather be. Being a celebrant is not my main source of income, and I love that. It is the passionate thing I get to do as extra in my life. I get to be part of an amazing organisation as the misfit that I am, helping all the other misfits out there create a ceremony that reflects their authentic selves without boundaries or rules. I validate the ceremony with the legal requirements but allow them to bring as much personality and individuality as they want, that is really exciting to me!
I’m not sure what I expected when I decided to do the training to become a celebrant. Perhaps I thought that the legal side of things seems daunting and would be dry, or that there would be a lot of theory to cover. In fact, the training was perfectly balanced between getting to know the nitty gritty and logistics of becoming a celebrant and a wonderful experience of practice with the other participants. This experiential aspect of learning is definitely something that I prefer as a student and having the opportunity to talk through everything in a series of activities was very useful. Yet, the most appealing thing of all was the other participants. The training was made up of a lovely group of people, and I was amazed to find I felt so settled and supported in the group like a big warm duvet of encouragement.
The commonalities of being drawn to a love of words and crafting a story was something I hadn’t expected to find there. I myself am fascinated by the idea of being able to take a couples experiences, things they perhaps feel are uninteresting and mundane, and transform it into a beautiful story that reflects their relationship together. The other participants seem to share this enthusiasm, carefully selecting words that carry far more meaning than you would first think. The skill of actively listening while posing questions and capturing the little shiny moments that compose the story seems the most exciting part of all.
Becoming part of a supportive and inspiring team is a fantastic bonus for me. I imagined being a celebrant as an individual task, but quite the opposite is true. Sharing experiences and enthusiasm seems to come as part of A Quiet Revolution and is a comforting notion when considering we as celebrants are the custodians of deepest moments. There is something comforting in knowing these moments are treasured in our little community and used to inspire each other. The humanist aspects allows there to be room for everyone in our ceremonies and this value of inclusion is very close to my own heart.
So here I am, all trained and ready to go. I love the excitement and passion that comes with any project but this seems particularly special. The notion of being involved in transitional shifts in peoples lives, landmark occasions and rites of passage seems like such a privilege and an honour. I feel like the sun is rising on a new aspect of my life. Covid has been a dark cloud for all of us, me in particular because I had a long recovery from a slipped disc, but here I am at the dawning of a new era. As the Covid clears and we all re-emerge into the world the idea of coming together will seem more important than ever. Celebrating an occasion or a right of passage with friends and family will now seem like a luxury that has been denied to us for such a long time. Coming together and enjoying the social aspects of life will again become normal and the idea of planning an occasion to share with our loved ones will again become part of daily life. I am excited to be trained and ready in my new role as a celebrant to help facilitate these occasions and help people to find their meaningful words to be crafted in to their story.
I think we all feel sometimes that shift in our gravitational field of motivation. Suddenly things that grounded us in routine and necessity begin to drift and fade. We start to feel drawn to another path without knowing what it is or even where to begin. I think 2020 has inspired this sort of shift in a lot of us. Suddenly being removed from the clockwork game of routine we find ourselves questioning our choices, our paths, and begin to imagine a different future for ourselves. But this can be a difficult process. The world is overwhelming in opportunities yet equally restrictive in requirements.
Many begin to imagine a new future by visualising what should be in it. A house, a car, a relationship. These things seems distant and unobtainable from the current position, so how can a vague inspiration of wanting something new become a reality? For me, the process has been not focusing on what things I want, but how I want to feel. I let stress and anxiety rule my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am very good at managing it and it doesn’t feel like a burden, most of the time, yet it is always there inside needing caged and managed like a wild animal ready to escape. My epiphany was, what if I choose not to bring the stress into my life in the first place. What if I look for paths that are built on love and respect rather than competition and ambition? This is when I began to feel my shift.
Altering my perception to focus on visions that bring me comfort and calm was my first step. Following inspirational people, not always 100% synched with my beliefs but filled with the positive energies I was looking for was my first conscious action. This helped me visualise the positives I had and the ones I hope to create for myself. I realised that nobody will offer me a one size fits all package to fill all of my needs, that if I want to feel whole then I need to spend the time filling myself up with all of the parts that I’m missing. But you don’t know what you are missing until you find it when it comes to emotions. You didn’t know you wanted a partner until you find one who makes you feel more complete than you ever have. You don’t know you wanted a child until you have one and are filled with an infinite amount of love you never thought possible. My point is, there is no final destination, no finite amount of parts of your life to make you happy, there are always more paths on your journey, but you need to keep following your passion and exploring what they could be.
So, with my passion lit by curiosity and my heart yearning to be filled I realised that is what I want to feel. I want to feel moments of love and connection. Just as I reached this part in my journey I saw the post about A Quiet Revolution holding training to become a celebrant. I instantly felt that this was something that I had to do. Cautiously tho, I let it sit for a little time. I know I can be impulsive and jump into things that perhaps are not the right choice. So I let it percolate inside me, waiting to see if it was in fact the flavour I was looking for. As soon as I officially signed up for the training I felt excitement but also calm, like it was the right decision. The interesting thing for me was I probable thought I was looking for a hobby or a group to be part of, not necessarily a new job, which is exactly my point about following how you want to feel rather than what you want to achieve. I realised I wanted love and connection, but it wouldn’t have initially occurred to me that I could gain this by facilitating special moments in others. My advice, not that you are here for my advice, but is to follow your heart and connect with your feelings, then your path will become visible.
Next stop, training….