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Funeral Celebrant Stories

We are thrilled that Stevie Glover from Northumberland was nominated as 2016 Celebrant of the Year at the Good Funeral Awards. The Awards were sponsored by ourselves and we are so pleased that Stevie won as we trained her in 2010.

Stevie is pictured here at the ceremony with her award with Anne Barber, Managing Director of Civil Ceremonies. The awards were held at the prestigious Porchester Hall in Bayswater on 8th September.

Read more of Stevie’s story.

Stevie Glover celebrant

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.

David WinchesterDave Winchester

Dave Winchester has an unusual story and he explains here where his Funeral Celebrant training in April 2019 led him:

So just over a year has passed since I left the grounds of Highgate House on my journey to be a celebrant, and I just wanted to share a little of what has been going on and just let you know the training was not all in vain!

Not a week after I passed, I was extremely fortunate in that one small family run independent funeral director gave me my first funeral ceremony within 24 hours of me dropping my business card into them. Only one out of the many I visited. It was very much a sink or swim service, it was for a man even younger than myself, who had died of an accidental overdose, whose 9 year old daughter was also in attendance. Needless to say, it was a challenge and not quite the ‘easier’ standard elderly natural death I was expecting to be given as a new Celebrant to the scene. However, the same funeral director has continued to put me through my paces with various cases and families that have been a real challenge to work with, the constant infighting and squabbles have been a real eye opener. I have so far done services from gypsies, to rich CEOs of national companies to the poorest and less affluent in society. I have even had a police presence with a convicted murderer in chains sat in the front. I have been to mansions, council estates and now having to do everything over the phone and not meeting the family until the day because of this dreaded virus, has been a hard but very rewarding challenge.

A few months back an opportunity came up to assist the shorthanded funeral director on a collection, we have all grown quite close as a unit and work very well together and through hard work they have grown to trust me immensely. I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the industry and, as fate would have it, I am now working for them full time as well as acting as an in-house celebrant when needed. I collect the deceased, dress them, put them to bed etc and then I then have the honour of either carrying them as a bearer or conducting the service myself.

So much has happened, it has been a real rollercoaster of a year and I just wanted to give you a brief rundown otherwise I could ramble on. Once again I thank you and your team for getting me through the meltdowns and crises in confidence I suffered on the course. Who knows where I would be now had it not been for all your support. Thank you.

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