A celebrant has the power to make or break a ceremony, whether it be an upbeat, positive event such as a wedding or a naming ceremony, or a more sombre affair such as a funeral. But what exactly makes a good celebrant? What characteristics do you need to be a good celebrant? And what are the main things that a successful celebrant does differently to those who are less successful?
We interviewed couples, families, suppliers, and celebrants themselves to find out what sets a good celebrant apart from the rest. We reveal what makes a good celebrant below.
What Makes a Good Celebrant?
Celebrants come with a huge variety of backgrounds. From Yoga Teachers to Librarians, each celebrant has a few things in common that make them great for the job.
In general, there are three characteristics are necessary in order to do the job of a celebrant at the very basic level.
Tip 1: Being a Good Listener
The first step in any celebrant’s process is to meet the family or the couple and hear about their story: whether it’s learning about the life of the deceased, or hearing the humorous anecdotes of a couple’s life together, getting the details just right are crucial to crafting a perfect ceremony. Knowing how to actively listen and take effective notes is key to retaining all the information that you’re being given.
Tip 2: Being a Good Writer
The second step in the process is to write the ceremony itself, and it therefore goes without saying that a celebrant needs to be able to write well. The way to structure a ceremony can be learnt, of course, but there has to be some sort of innate ability to bring the information you’ve acquired together to form a flowing speech. Remember, the script that you’re writing isn’t meant to be read; it’s meant to be spoken.
Tip 3: Being a Good Listener
The final step is actually delivering the speech on the day of the ceremony. After all the behind-the-scenes work, this is the part that most people will see, so it’s vital to get it right. Many people struggle with public speaking, but stage fright can be overcome, and the more you speak, the better you’ll get at it. This isn’t just about saying the words in a clear, professional way; it’s also about finding the right tone for the occasion.
Can Anyone Be a Celebrant?
Essentially, yes. If you have the desire to do the job of a celebrant, there’s nothing holding you back. The job doesn’t legally require a qualification, although most, if not all celebrants complete training before stepping into the role on a regular basis.
And while the basic requirements above are fairly necessary to do the job well, all three of them can be learned; of the three, writing is the hardest to develop if you don’t have the natural ability, but it’s far from impossible to learn how to be a good writer.
There are, however, other concerns that budding celebrants might have. Perhaps you think you’re too old to start a new career – but in fact, most new celebrants are moving towards retirement age having had a fulfilling career in an altogether different sector. In terms of age, you’re only limited by your imagination.
Maybe you’re concerned about whether you have the right type of personality to be a celebrant – but, in reality, anyone who enjoys spending time with and meeting new people has everything they need to build a successful celebrant career on. Or perhaps you’re worried about the amount of time it will take to study for a qualification – but most courses take less than 6 months to complete, and are nowhere near as time-consuming or cost-prohibitive as courses required for other professions. Not a celebrant yet and interested? Check out our blog on ‘Should I become a celebrant?‘.
5 Things a Good Celebrant Needs to Stand Out
There’s a big difference between a good celebrant and a celebrant that fits perfectly for the event in question. Therefore, we asked couples, families, suppliers and celebrants themselves about the main stand-out characteristics of a celebrant, and what the best ones do differently in order to succeed. The answers are below:
1. Be Calm
The answer that came up as the fifth most common was the ability to remain calm in all situations. This is crucial to all roles as a celebrant – both during funeral and wedding preparation, your clients’ minds may well be elsewhere, and they will start panicking or worrying about the smallest detail. It can really help to offer a steady hand and simply say ‘I’ve got this’, giving them one less thing to worry about. As the famous Kipling poem ‘If’ reads: “If you can keep your head while all around you are losing theirs…” then you’ll make a good celebrant!
2. Don’t Judge
Being non-judgemental is also a vital characteristic to have if you’re planning to become a celebrant. People come from all walks of life these days, and it’s so important that you don’t project any sort of judgement upon the families around you. Families can be complicated; just accept them as they are, meet them where they’re at, and do your job without casting judgement.
3. Be Flexible
Flexibility is key to the role of a celebrant. This manifest in many ways, with the two main ones being the flexibility to cater to the wishes of the family or couple (in terms of what elements they want in their ceremony), and the flexibility to work outside ‘normal’ working hours. Many family visits may have to be conducted in the evening or at the weekend, while some funerals have quick turnaround times that require burning the midnight oil.
4. Be Empathetic
The ability to be empathetic of the feelings of others is so important in the role as a celebrant. When someone is telling you about losing one of their parents, it helps a lot to be able to understand exactly what they’re going through. That’s not to say that you need to have lost close family members to be a celebrant, but most of us have experienced loss in our lives, and the ability to tap into those strong emotions and convey your empathy to the family will help them to understand that you know how they’re feeling, and that they’re in safe hands.
5. Be a Good Fit
The top answer that most couples and celebrants gave was that you simply have to be a good ‘fit’ to the family or couple in question. Often, when choosing a celebrant, couples will have an initial interview with a couple that they find interesting, but the ultimate decision will be made based on gut instinct. Who did they have more of a laugh with? Who did they feel they had the most in common with? These aren’t measurable things that you can really learn or be taught; you just have to be your genuine self, and your ideal couple will find you.
Find Your Niche
There’s another aspect to all of this that is really important, though: finding your niche. When you first start as a celebrant, it may seem logical to be a celebrant who appeals to everyone – you want to do as many ceremonies as possible, so you want to appeal to as many people as possible, right? Wrong. If you try to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to no-one.
A far better way of approaching your celebrant career is to find your target market – maybe it’s couples who want a ceremony outside, or a high-end hotel wedding, or a destination wedding (but not all three!) – and then focus all your output and content towards that market. That way, you’ll appeal to exactly the right family or couple, they’ll find you because you offer exactly what they’re looking for, and your business will grow exponentially.
Check out The Celebrant Directory for examples. You’ll see a whole range of celebrants from high-end to boho chic.
Would I Make a Good Celebrant?
Want to know if you’ve got what it takes to be a celebrant? Take our celebrant quiz today or download our 10 MUST-HAVES FOR A SUCCESSFUL CELEBRANT BUSINESS.
about the author
Hi, I'm Jennifer, the Founder of the AMC and a massive lover of all things celebration! Are you interested in embarking on a career as a celebrant? Take the Quiz to find out if you have what it takes!
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