Personalising the most important moments in your life
Chichester-based writer, actor and occasional award ceremony host Vicky Edwards has added celebrant to her list of skills. It’s a natural next step, partly thanks to her local media work, Vicky says.
“I have had the honour of hosting many community hero award ceremonies for Spirit FM and the Observer group over the years. I really love writing and delivering these kind of ceremonies; it is a huge privilege to tell the winners’ stories.
“During lockdown I decided to use the time to embrace a new challenge. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew I wanted to do something that involved people.”
Vicky, who has also written two books about weddings and written the Observer’s weekly Vicky Meets Q&A for the past 15 years, says it was at this point that fate took a hand: “Spot On Ceremonies began with a phone call from my niece, Lucy, in October. Telling me that she and her lovely fella were getting married, she told me that the plan was to visit the registry office to complete the legal paperwork and then, the day after, to hold a big wedding ceremony in woodland belonging to her fiancé’s family. One of the ways they wanted to make it feel really personal was for me to officiate!”
Thrilled to accept, it was then Vicky had a light bulb moment: “I realised that this was the answer to my ‘what next?’ dilemma: I could train as a celebrant!”
Friends put Vicky in touch with Claire Bradford at The Celebrants Collective (TCC): “I didn’t faff about. Three days after Lucy’s call I enrolled with TCC. I very quickly realised that it was perfect for me. I’d get to meet people, to write and tell their stories and, with luck, there’d be a fair amount of wedding cake involved!”
But it’s not just weddings that Vicky officiates at.
“Funerals, namings, gender rebirths, sobriety ceremonies, new chapter ceremonies – any milestone moment that you wish to mark; it’s my job to create a completely bespoke ceremony.
“Ritual has been part of our lives since time began and I love that we’re still using ceremonies and rituals to highlight milestone moments, shining a spotlight on them and preserving them as memories to cherish and to pass down as family history.
“Part of my training was focussing on the importance of people’s stories. At a wedding it is a love story and at a funeral it is a life story. At a naming ceremony the narrative might centre on protection, guidance and hope for the child’s future. But whatever the occasion, getting the tone and content right is essential.”
As for funerals, Vicky’s first was for the father of a friend, an occasion which she regards as an extraordinary honour: “It was also slightly nerve-wracking,” she admits: “Thankfully John at Reynolds Funerals was an absolute star, as were the team at Chichester Crematorium. Between them they ensured that I was across all the practicalities, leaving me free to concentrate on the family and their wishes.”
A celebrant is not bound by religion or policy. As Vicky says, she can’t complete the legalities of marriage, but there are definite advantages to a celebrant-led wedding ceremony: “Like my niece, many couples see the registrar to complete the legal paperwork and then invite friends and family to join them for their real ceremony soon after. Working with a celebrant gives them scope to make it a really personal and meaningful occasion. The content, the location – it is entirely their choice. This opens up almost unlimited possibility. Fellow celebrants have told me wonderful stories about weddings they have conducted involving everything from dogs as ring bearers to a mum and dad leading the singing of Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) because it was their daughter’s favourite song when she was little!”
And with so many weddings postponed due to the pandemic Vicky envisages a busy time for the celebrant community.
“I hope there will be lots of couples looking for a West Sussex-based celebrant, but if any couples fancy tying the knot on a Caribbean island then my passport is up to date – have flip flops, will travel!”