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  • Writer's pictureSiân Julia Jackson

How I came to be a Humanist Wedding Celebrant

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

The tale of a crazy-paved path from Siân to celebrant

Many moons ago, I saw a job advertised as a registrar and I thought ‘What a wonderful job, marrying people for a living’. I didn’t apply as I was too busy making chaos masquerading as theatre at the time, but it always stuck in my head.

So, I loved the idea of being a registrar and having a lovey-dovey job but then a friend told me about Humanist Ceremonies, so I looked into it and this was so much more ME! Not only would I be marrying people but flexing my creative muscles at the same time. It seemed perfect. And from there, I had it in my mind that one day I would become a Humanist Wedding Celebrant.

And the more and more weddings I attended, I thought to myself, ‘I’m sure I could do a much better job than this’. In front of me stood two people, deeply in love, with rich and fulfilling lives. They’ve been on great adventures, share hopes and dreams and have accomplished so much together. Two incredible humans making a profound (and freaking-wonderful!) commitment to each other. So why is the ceremony, supposed to be representing all this joy, just lacklustre, impersonal, boring? It was puzzling, so I made up my mind to reinvent the wedding ceremony!

I told friends of my ambitions and in 2014 two bosom buddies bestowed a great honour upon me by asking me to be their celebrant… I was delighted!

With no training on how to write a wedding ceremony, I set about the task by starting with what I saw as the most important facet of the whole shebang… the happy couple, Rosy and Dave. I sat down with them and had a good old gas about their lives. I got nosey and asked questions like, “What does marriage mean to you?” and “What is it that you love about each other?” trying to get to the crux of what was important to them.

As well as all the couple questioning, I started pondering the significance of a wedding ceremony. What are the constituent features of one? Which traditions are still relevant? How does the concept of marriage fit within a modern, western society? How do other cultures approach it? And why do we even bother at all? Wow… what started as a desire to help couples celebrate their union developed into a deep anthropological excavation! There was no going back, and my enquiring mind was left asking more questions than my research had answered.

Contemplating the big questions about marriage, society and culture is interesting but it’s those very structures that have led us down this drab path of ‘insert name here’ and ‘one size fits all’ ceremonies. So, after some stimulating reading, I reeled my neck back in and concentrated on what all these things meant to Dave and Rosy. And if I’m ever in doubt about the direction a ceremony is moving in, I come back to this very same place.

Dave and Rosy's ceremony was heart-warming and quirky with flickers of fun and some old traditions updated for a contemporary couple. Looking back, that ceremony wasn’t a patch on what I produce these days, but it certainly wet my whistle and fuelled a thirst to pursue this as a career and my aspiration became a burning passion.

I'll always be grateful to these two gems for giving my first taste of a Wicked Wedding. After rumours of that wedding spread far and wide I was thrilled when some other friends asked me to step into my celebrant shoes once more.

Marrying Sarah and Si got me buzzing again. I decided to stop saying to myself “I’m going to be a celebrant one day” and, instead, take action to become one! So, I applied to train with Humanists UK.

Thankfully, I got through and course was ace, so with a bit of extra knowledge, boundless enthusiasm and the support of a nurturing network I hit the ground running. I kept my toe in other part time work just to ensure I had a steady income, but the bookings flooded in. To this day, every couple I meet and every ceremony I conduct confirms to me that I've found my calling.

And being part of the Humanists UK network means I have plenty of opportunities to develop my practice with conferences, seminars and workshops all aimed at sharing ideas, upskilling and making us better, more informed, celebrants.

When I started out, I wondered if I’d get quicker at writing ceremonies, funnily enough the exact opposite happened: with experience my ceremonies became longer, deeper, more detailed and the process I go through with couples evolved to reflect that. At the beginning I’d spend one or two hours with a couple getting to know them. These days it's not unusual for me to spend six or more hours, spread over two or three meetings, helping them unravel their thoughts and feelings and suss out what really matters to them. And I’m still fascinated by the whole topic of weddings and marriages. I’m forever reading about traditions spanning different cultures and ages, building up a big bank of inspiration to draw upon when talking to couples.

Being a celebrant never gets boring. Every couple I meet is different and each wedding is unique. I’m still so surprised when I read homework and how it varies from one couple/person to the next. One of my favourite questions to ask is ‘What does love mean to you?’ Love is a tricky little sensation to try and define and I’m often left blissfully dumfounded by people’s response to this one. I love it when a big burley bloke writes something unexpectedly eloquent and authentic. It just goes to show that love is important to everyone, and you should never judge a book by its cover!

So, the moral of this story is simple: I love being a celebrant and I’m so glad I made that leap from dabbling with my friends to doing this as a day job. I’m immensely proud of myself of achieving one of my life goals and chuffed I’ve carved out a career for myself that’s rewarding, fulfilling and bursting with joy and love.

I can’t think of a better way to spend my working life than using my passion and creativity to help couples create the ultimate celebration of their love. Awesome!

Yours smugly,

Siân :)

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