Kate Barker

You’d make a good funeral celebrant”.  March 2015 and an off the cuff comment made by a friend planted a seed of interest in my mind.  Like many people, I didn’t know that a job like that existed but this chance comment proved to be the right thing said at exactly the right time.  However, in reality, my journey towards becoming a celebrant had begun long before. 

When I left school, I trained as a secretary and “fell” into legal secretarial work.  This was fine for a few years but, after a while, each day became just a bit too predictable.  However, during that time, I gained invaluable skills in that job including typing and proof reading together with prioritising workloads and developing strong organisational skills. 

In 1993, I decided to retrain in my first love – theatre.  I took a BTEC in Performing Arts following by a BA (Hons) in Acting at LIPA.  Both courses were very much based in the practical and voice classes were central to our training.  Projection, support and good diction are part and parcel of any actor’s training.  Together with using your voice with effect.  Finding light and shade.  Altering the tone and pace.  Yet again, more skills for the celebrancy bag. 

Since graduating, I have been a self-employed actor.  The bag of skills carried on growing.  So when my friend made that chance comment in 2015, it felt “right” even though I didn’t really know what the job entailed. 

The Civil Ceremonies website was one of the first I looked at and I was instantly intrigued - even though it took me three months to pluck up the courage to call them.  Anne was so helpful right from the get-go, encouraging me firstly to speak to funeral directors, visit local crematoria.  It is imperative to find out whether the job is right for you but, most importantly, whether YOU are right for IT.

I can’t deny that it was a nerve wracking decision to do the course.  It had been 15 years since I last studied.  Undertaking a full qualification in under a week I knew would be a very intensive experience.  Let alone having to take my first written exam in nearly 30 years.  The course is hard work but we were supported all the way by the Civil Ceremonies’ tutors.  I have formed lasting friendships with my fellow trainees, thanks to our shared experiences and they have provided an invaluable support network since qualifying. 

I led my first ceremony in November 2015, just a couple of weeks after passing the course, and I became a very proud member of the IoCF in April 2016.   

Life as a celebrant is very rewarding.  I learned very quickly never to underestimate how grief can affect people in different ways.  For me, the core of my job is to ensure I tell that person’s story in the very best way I can.  Building a trusting relationship with my clients during the interview and running up to the ceremony is central to that. 

I have not regretted for a moment picking the phone up to say I wanted to take the course.  The job offers such personal and professional satisfaction.  To genuinely help people through one of the most difficult times in their lives, even in a small way, gives me a great sense of pride.   

My occasional days off are pretty precious as the work involved in bringing together the perfect ceremony can be all consuming.  The job has taught me the importance of enjoying the quieter moments in life too.  It is important to have some down time.  Long walks in the countryside are a perfect time for me to reflect and to find inspiration. 

I am just very glad that my friend made that chance remark.  It was without a doubt the right thing said at exactly the right time in my career.  An opportunity that I am very happy to have offered to me.  I will continue to look forward to meeting and working with families from all walks of life, learning about their loved ones’ lives.  And taking pride in ensuring I honour their memories properly.