The sky was a bright blue overhead, and the sun shone gloriously on the campus grounds as I walked slowly away from the place where just ten minutes before I had pronounced a couple: “By the power vested in me by the state of Indiana, I pronounce you husband and wife!” The applause that ruptured the bucolic sounds of the woodland setting chosen for their outdoor wedding ceremony was heartfelt, passionate, full of joy and hope, as the beautiful young couple, holding hands, danced their way back up the aisle to the playful sounds of “Frolic” (the theme song from the TV show, Curb Your Enthusiasm). A fitting musical selection for a quirky pair who adore humor!
As autumn leaves, dry and crunchy, whirled in eddies around my feet, I contemplated how lucky I am to have been chosen to perform this picture-perfect wedding on the campus of one of Indiana’s most esteemed universities. I got to experience the beauty and stature of grand buildings and majestic old trees the night before at the rehearsal, and again in the afternoon wedding ceremony. Given all that beauty, I understood why they chose this setting, where they had met years earlier as students.
I paused to stop and sit on a low stone wall before I made my way back to my car for the journey home. I began listing the blessings that I receive from being a celebrant. By the time I got home that night, my list had grown, and I want to share it with you:
- I love the people I meet. I meet so many different types of people at weddings, and funerals, but they all have one thing in common: they are loving and caring people who give of themselves generously. At these life transitions, they give attention, prayer, support, admiration, affection, and they give of their time, talent and treasure to show their feelings.
- I love the cross-generational events I officiate. Weddings, celebrations of life, baby blessings, house blessings – these meaningful events are attended by a mix of friends and family members of all different ages who come together with a single purpose in mind: to celebrate the crossing of a significant threshold in the lives of a loved one. The family history is often woven into the language of the ceremonies, and I have met some really interesting aunts, uncles and grandparents.
- I love the mythic quality of my clients’ lives. Even though we all grow up with myths and archetypes (like fairy tales, Bible stories, Greek mythology) most people don’t recognize that we are all the heroes of our own lives. Brides and grooms, for example, have such amazing love stories that I share and in each one, there is something magical and mythical about how they met, how they overcame the challenges they faced, and how they prevailed to be together against all odds (in some cases).
- I love the sacred space in which I work. The presence of Spirit is always a feature of a celebrant-styled gathering; many of my favorite things are included in creating sacred space, such as candles, chimes, a Tibetan singing bowl, beautiful music, prayers, poetry, and flowers. I find that my own spiritual life is enriched and affirmed by the holy intimacy of the ceremonies that mark the life transitions of others, especially those from loss and grief. I love inviting a spirit of peace, and healing to abide in the ceremonies I write for the families I serve. In that space, we recognize together that Spirit dwells in us and among us, as well as beyond our understanding, and this is a felt sense for me, a gift of celebrancy that humbles me.
- I love the writing and the speaking skills I get to use. Creating rituals, ceremonies, rites of passage, and celebrations of life is a calling; not everyone is meant for this kind of a career. In order to be fulfilled in this role, you must have a passion for words and a respectful understanding of their transformative power so that you can use them in speaking and writing for the good of others. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.”
In closing, to be a celebrant is to be open to the pain and difficulties in life, and, even, to have suffered a broken heart a few times; this seasons us for our supportive role. Our work comes from our being. We show our love for the world through our work; indeed, I believe we are part of the medicine for the world to help heal it. We expand the circle of caring each time we officiate at a wedding, a funeral, a celebration of life, a blessing of a new baby, or a new home. What better time than now to give thanks for all that I love about being a celebrant? Many blessings to each of you!