As with just about everything significant that I have ever done, there were many reasons and it wasn't a decision that I made lightly.
I worked at Liverpool Register Office from 2002. Following specialist training, with the highly regarded Civil Ceremonies in 2014, I continued to work part-time as a Superintendent Registrar, while also working as an Independent Funeral Celebrant.
I created and conducted unique, well researched, personalised, respectful, ceremonies which told the stories and celebrated the life of the person who had died. I led every single funeral and memorial service with the most genuine intent to help families and friends say farewell and honour their loved one in a way that reflected them, the life that they lived and, if pertinent, their beliefs - or lack of beliefs.
I chose to train as an Independent Celebrant because I felt that, within that context, my own beliefs were irrelevant. I felt that the content of the ceremony should always be about the person who had died - never about me (and I still do, but please bear with me).
In September 2015, after leaving the Registration Service, I was able to take bookings for other types of ceremony, including bespoke wedding celebrations, civil partnerships, namings and renewal of vows (which were very different to those that I had to conduct while working as a registrar - where just about everything was prescribed, generic, and template based!).
I immediately became super-busy crafting all kinds of personal and personalised ceremonies for amazing and awe inspiring couples and families. I loved every minute, received fabulous testimonials, went on to win several wedding industry awards and I was delighted to be fully booked for the past five years - including 2020 (but more on that in a moment).
Although I have already said that, initially at least, I felt that my own beliefs were irrelevant in my role as a Celebrant, I have for many years identified as a Humanist. I was born into a Roman Catholic family and adopted and lovingly raised by a Church of England family but I have never believed in any God, or held religious (or supernatural) beliefs of my own.
So, fast forward to 2020... We all know what happened - is still happening! So much heartbreak and uncertainty for so many - and, sadly, it continues. With 90% of my weddings and civil partnership ceremonies postponed, I found myself with plenty of time on my hands - and quite a few inches on my hips (thanks to a new found pastime of baking)
Even after making umpteen trays of cakes I still had time to do A LOT of thinking (and reading, note taking, and list making) whilst eating the cakes!
As a Celebrant, I have been asked to include (and adapt/invent) a plethora of traditional, fun, poignant, cultural, symbolic, inclusive, innovative and creative elements in ceremonies - alongside telling unique and special love and life stories. Elements such as these (and many more)...
It is worth mentioning that apart from funeral and memorial services, I have never been asked to include acts of worship in ceremonies. However, I have been asked to lead prayers in a small proportion of the (almost 700) funerals that I have conducted. It was something that I sometimes felt uncomfortable about, but as it was for and about the person who had died (and their beliefs) it didn’t feel unethical.
But earlier this year, after many conversations, deep reflection (and lots of cakes) I realised that it had started to feel morally wrong for me to conduct funerals with acts of worship. Once I had this epiphany it felt disrespectful and disingenuous to continue to lead prayers, or for me to directly refer to a belief in heaven and/or reuniting in the afterlife. In fact, it was more than that, it began to impact on my feelings of personal integrity, my sense of self, and my mental health.
I concluded that my own beliefs ARE relevant when they are at odds with those of the couple or family that I am working with/for and their desire for (and my aim to ensure that they have) a meaningful ceremony. In other words: If a person holds/held a faith that is/was important to them (particularly when there is a request for acts of worship within a ceremony), they should always be served by someone who genuinely shares that faith or the ceremony will potentially lack meaning for them.
Once I had reached this conclusion I realised how relevant my own beliefs are and how paramount it is for me to feel that I act authentically in EVERYTHING that I do. So, I decided to take my own, often given, advice of: 'Follow Your Dreams'.
I contacted Humanists U.K. and applied to be accredited as a Humanist Celebrant. Providing high-quality, personal, non-religious ceremonies to the highest possible standard is something that the organisation takes very seriously. I was delighted to meet their discerning admission criteria, partake in some additional training, pass their stringent assessment, and be welcomed to the quality-assured Humanist Celebrant Ceremonies network.
Some Independent Celebrant colleagues have suggested that I could have continued as an Independent Celebrant and they're right. But I felt an obligation to be open and accountable, along with a strong desire to align the services that I offer, and how I offer them, with my Humanist beliefs. I mean no disrespect to my valued Independent Celebrant colleagues, but nor do I feel the need to offer them further justification for choosing to make such a personal, positive (and for me) life affirming decision.
However, I was conscious that my decision could potentially affect my existing couples. Before I formally accepted my accreditation, I wrote to all of my already 'booked in' wedding and civil partnership couples. Although I was confident that I had made the only decision possible, for me, I was worried that my couples had already had enough to deal with this year. I was concerned that I might cause them additional stress, but I wanted, and needed, to be honest with them - they deserved a fuller explanation.
This is an extract from one of the messages that I sent:
"I am writing to let you know that I have taken advantage of the unexpected free time that I had this summer to reflect upon my life and the future of my work as a Celebrant.
I personally identify as a humanist, this is something that I have never shouted about nor hidden. It means that I believe that this is the only life that I will have and I try to live it well. I endeavour to be kind to people and animals and help others as much as I can - by thinking for myself and acting for others.
Of course, I fully respect that other people hold different beliefs (or none at all) and I have always vigorously defended their right to do so (and always will)...
However, after years of deliberation, for quite a few different reasons, I have finally made the decision to align my personal beliefs with my business practices..."
I sent the emails with trepidation, but I needn't have worried. I received overwhelmingly positive replies, like this one, which came back almost immediately:
"...I think that your Humanist beliefs are something you should definitely share - it is a really positive belief and outlook on life in general...
God for a second I thought that e-mail was going to say you've decided to stop doing weddings... I was about to cry!"
And this is an extract from another response:
"Oh this is wonderful news for you and we are delighted that something really positive has come out of this time!
Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. Congratulations for becoming recognised and aligned with Humanists U.K. This must feel like a fantastic step for you both personally and professionally...
We actually were having quite an interesting chat the other day about humanist/agnostic/spiritual beliefs! We currently don't know what we are, but seek to be kind and do good, maybe that's a good first step..."
I fully respect everyone's right to believe in anything, or nothing, at all - and always will. I chose to identify as a Humanist because I agree with the values and ethics of Humanism. I support many Humanists U.K. campaigns and I look to science, reason, empathy, and compassion in order to live an ethical and meaningful life (it could be that you're a Humanist too - tap/click here to take the quiz!)
I love being a Celebrant. I love connecting with people, getting to know them, hearing their stories and helping them to celebrate life’s milestone moments.
Designing and delivering personalised, meaningful, person-centred ceremonies is my area of expertise and over the years I have been very successful. I have always loved what I have the privilege of calling my job, but since becoming accredited as a Humanists U.K. Celebrant I am loving it even more - which I honestly didn’t think was possible!
I would love to hear (and tell) your story. If you would like to check my availability, or would like more information, please don't hesitate to get in touch and I will come back to you as quickly as I can.
To contact me please email: email@example.com or call/message: 0744 932 3988
I have always loved being a Celebrant and I didn't think it could possibly get any better - but in the midst of a global pandemic, it did! I could not be more excited about the future and I can't wait for moments like this to happen again...
For anyone who has a strong faith, spiritual, supernatural or other non-humanist beliefs who would like a personalised religious/spiritual ceremony there are many excellent Independent Celebrants who are more than happy to incorporate prayers, rites, and worship. A quick Google or checking out The Celebrant Directory is a good place to start.
Hi, I am Lorraine Hull, an award-winning Celebrant, based in Liverpool.
I am most usually asked to conduct ceremonies in North-West England and North Wales but I am happy to travel anywhere within the U.K. or abroad.
At the risk of shouting (and sounding extremely cheesy) "I LOVE MY JOB!".
I really love getting to know the couples and families that ask me to be part of their special celebration, whether that is for a Wedding/Civil Partnership, Renewal/Reaffirmation of Vows, Naming/Welcoming, or Celebration of Life/Funeral
I love hearing, writing and telling love and life stories (and also finding out about hopes and dreams - which are the stories of the future!)
I love to create and conduct unique, meaningful, non-religious ceremonies that are perfect for each couple, individual, and/or family.
I love helping to create and celebrate happy and poignant moments, which form memories that will last a lifetime (that also includes the memories that I get to keep too - what's not to love?)
I believe that ALL people (and animals) should all be treated kindly, fairly and with respect.
We are all unique and we all matter. I think for myself and act for others. I embrace and enact anti-racism and the appreciation and celebration of diversity. I advocate and work for justice, equity and equality for ALL through everything that I say and do: Love is Love, Family is Family, Life is Life.
You may also like to know that I am accredited by Humanists UK and a recommended LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings supplier. I hold Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance, I adhere to a strict code of conduct and I am committed to developing and sharing best practice with my Independent and Humanist Celebrant colleagues, so that we can all be the best Celebrants that we can possibly be.
To contact me please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 0744 932 3988