So, you may have seen that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot over the weekend… But instead of pouring over the fine details of their big day, we’re focusing on the business of getting married.
Specifically, how one vibrant red-haired entrepreneur lept from a 15-year stint as a life coach to award-winning celebrant in less than a year, and what it really took to venture into the complete unknown.
Before you hear her journey into this unusual profession, Claire Bradford of Creating Ceremony explains what a celebrant is, and does:
“A celebrant (sometimes called an officiant) is the person you might see leading a wedding, vow renewal, baby naming, funeral or other ceremonies. We are different from religious leaders like priests or registrars, but perform a similar task in conducting a service. The main difference is that we celebrants aren’t tied to legal or liturgical scripts, meaning that each ceremony we create is unique and bespoke for the family or couple we are creating it for.
Inspired by an early 90s career test
The seed for Claire becoming a celebrant was planted years ago but it only blossomed after the death of her father-in-law:
“Many moons ago, I took a careers test at college. After many questions and much calculation, the computer clattered out the ideal job for me onto dot matrix paper. I was (it thought) destined to be a minister of religion.”
“Immediately, I could see myself doing the job and loving it – who knew that early 90s programming could be so perceptive? The problem was, I wasn’t particularly religious at the time, and that’s a fair prerequisite for the job, so sadly I had to find other career options.”
“That was, until a few years ago, when my father-in-law died and I discovered the existence of celebrants and how they could create highly personalised, tailor-made funerals (and, it transpired, other ceremonies too). My interest was piqued – here was the job I’d so fancied but not had the required belief system for previously.”
“When a friend asked me whether I’d think about conducting her wedding, I considered it a ‘sign’ and went for it!”
Source: Bobby Mills Photography
Taking the first step
As celebrancy isn’t a regulated profession, there’s no legal requirement to be trained, but Claire wanted to make sure she was going in as informed and trained as she could be:
“You really don’t want to be making rookie mistakes at someone’s wedding or funeral, which is why I enrolled on a course run by the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants before embarking on marrying my friends!”
“It was important to me to dive in as soon as I could after training otherwise I knew I might lose my nerve.”
It was this attitude that propelled Claire forwards in her new business and her first official ‘job’ of marrying her friends:
“My friend’s wedding – my first – was an emotional and professional ‘moment’ for me. I’m so grateful to her and her husband for taking a gamble on using me to conduct their ceremony.”
From there, Claire reached out to her well-established business network to start drumming up interest in her new business.
“I already had quite a few contacts through networking, and I’ve continued to network in local networking groups, as well as wedding and funeral specific ones. Networking is really key, as even if people aren’t a potential client, they will often spread the word for you, and vice versa. I love how this works – it’s like karma in action.”
She also reached out to the Funeral Director who had dealt with her father-in-law’s funeral to see if they could work together. They had got on so well, and Claire and her husband had been very pleased with their service – it was a natural fit.
“I was chuffed when they started using me for some of their funeral ceremonies.”
Source: Bobby Mills Photography
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer
Whilst things took off quickly for Claire, spreading the word about what celebrants can do, particularly in weddings, was a big challenge.
“So many venues tell couples to book a registrar and it’s often one of the very first things they do. Then they find out about celebrants and wish they’d known beforehand! I’d love to see the day when celebrants become widely known about and actively chosen by more couples.”
“On the funeral front, it can be difficult to get ‘in’ with local funeral directors, especially if there are a lot of celebrants in the area already.”
One of the other challenges Claire has faced is her family having the put up with her being out and about just about every weekend from May to September. But it’s worth it…
In the past 18 months to two years, Claire has had the joy of being an integral part of many people’s special days, memorials and big life moments.
Alongside that, there’s been plenty of other ‘pinch-me’ moments.
“Winning the regional, then the national title of ‘Celebrant of the Year 2018’ at The Wedding Industry Awards was a huge highlight! It was the first time the category had existed, and the only people who can vote are couples you have married in the previous year. I cried when I read all their wonderful feedback.”
Source: TWIA Official
“Becoming Content Editor for the ‘Celebrants’ Collective’, a membership site for celebrants, writing coaching-style articles and coming up with interesting material for fellow celebrants has also been really rewarding. I’ve also been asked to deliver some of the training for the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants…”
“But one of the best things that’s happened so far as a celebrant is being asked to conduct baby naming ceremonies after having conducted their parents’ wedding!”
Claire is completely upfront about how she expected to segue gradually from coaching to celebrant work:
“I anticipated that I would run the coaching business and the celebrancy side by side for 2-3 years until it became clear which was working best for me.”
“What actually happened was that the wedding, naming and funeral bookings started coming in much faster than I had expected. I had gone into my first year knowing that I had two weddings booked and wondering whether I might get one or two more before the year was out – I ended up doing 15 weddings, five namings and 22 funerals that year! I was flabbergasted by how quickly it took off.”
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