Interview with a Celebrant: Berni B – Full Life Celebrant

Categories:

We’re going to be featuring regular interviews with our Graduates and of course, we had to start with our very first – Berni B, Full Life Celebrant. When Dinah, our Chief Training Officer, was writing the Wedding and Funeral Training programmes, Berni took the course and provided invaluable feedback as we built and adapted it. A massive THANK YOU to Berni for continuing to be an advocate for the Academy and for always being so supportive.

1. Tell me a bit about what inspired your journey into becoming a Celebrant.

Berni B – Celebrant:
I’d been wanting to be a celebrant for ages.  I’d been to many drab/grey Welsh Methodist funerals, and they were so boring and really told you nothing of the personality of the deceased.  Followed by the obligatory ‘beige buffet’ at the local hostelry.  Then I went to my uncle’s humanist service and the great alternative living and then deceased wakes we had.  It showed me there was a better way to say goodbye.  A more memorable and authentic solution and I wanted everyone to have access to that.

I think I’d met you (Dinah) shortly after you arrived and mentioned it.  You had the same interest; difference was you could afford the time and had the resources to train and I was all talk and no action. 

You trained and realised the shortcomings in the training, (lack of business management and marketing for example (crucial to a self-employed entrepreneur), and I already had so much admiration for you and your extensive mentoring skills, that when you said you were going to create a training program I gladly offered myself up as a tester client for the product roll out!!!

2. What do you think are the top five skills you bring to the role?

Berni B – Celebrant:
Being a great listener because I am genuinely interested in everyone’s story; I love how families / couples open up and share so much of their private selves.  I genuinely believe I hear what is spoken and what is not… that reading between the lines, noting the nuances, recognising what’s missed out – their so important if you want to really represent the totality of a person/people.

Being a good advocate, empowering people to say and do what they want, signposting them to the solutions they need.

I’m a good writer, I take all the information I’m given and write a story/script that very rarely has any changes made to it other than the odd name or date.  Getting the right tone on the first draft is a skill I’m delighted to have discovered.

I’m open-minded, compassionate, and totally flexible (is that 3?!)  – I think being non-judgemental is so important. 

I allow people the space, time and give them the permission and normality they need to be and feel whatever it is they are being or feeling in that moment.  Whatever it is, is ‘normal’.

3. What is the most satisfying aspect for you, personally, of the work you do as a Celebrant?

Berni B – Celebrant:
I genuinely feel I have found my reason to be.  Making a positive difference, be that in commemoration, condolence, or celebration. I love sharing stories and becoming part of someone’s life novel… and more so, them becoming part of mine.

4. What’s been the most unusual ceremony you’ve been asked to create?

Berni B – Celebrant:
That’s a hard one.  I specialise in ‘alternative’ to the point that alternative is normal.  I once wrote a wedding for someone that was more like a play or a tv show, incorporating a storyteller and a Mr & Mrs type format. 

At a funeral I started by handing out bags of Maltesers as a thank you for joining in a singing along (as the deceased was a chocaholic). 

We’ve paraded across a green burial ground to lay ashes, blasting out Delilah with everyone singing along.

There’s something ‘unique’ in each ceremony simply because every person we’re saying goodbye to, or every couple we’re sharing love and gratitude with, are unique.

5. Is there an area you particularly focus on as a Celebrant? Why did you decide to focus on this?

Berni B – Celebrant:
I always wanted to focus on funerals because I really thought that’s where I could have the most positive impact.  And I still do love that, but I’ve realised I can do the same for alternative couples, particularly those who want to do something more intimate and less ‘showy’; finding ways for people who lack confidence to say they love you without standing in front of hundreds of people and speaking is a great thing.

6. How do being a Celebrant and an End-of-Life Doula complement each other / overlap?

Berni B – Celebrant:
The two roles really dovetail together nicely.  Both require some similar skills, no judgement, patience, listening, empathy etc.  I always refer to myself as a Full Life Celebrant, because life needs its pauses and moments of reflection from beginning to end.  We’re good at beginnings but less good at endings.  Helping families deal with anticipatory grief, plan for death, talk openly about it and communicate with each other in a warts and all, authentic way is paramount to healthy living and grieving.

It’s a holistic approach offering more than just the hello or goodbye, helping people before they die, supporting their families both before and after is hugely rewarding.

7. If you could create any ceremony, for any occasion – no budget restrictions – what would it be and why?

Berni B – Celebrant:
For me its not about big, showy, ££££    In fact I always prefer the shoestring, budget conscious, eco-friendly celebrations.    I think mine would be a ceremony of gratitude that involved all the friends/family from the start – we’d announce a theme or a look and then gain some momentum over the 6 months running up to it with everyone making costumes, props, etc etc.  It would be about community and togetherness, over a period culminating in a grand finale that everyone continues to reflect on.

8. Can you recommend something you’ve read or listened to (blog or book or Podcast) for anyone considering becoming a Celebrant?

Berni B – Celebrant:
I’d recommend our Podcast “Ask A Celebrant”!!  Not just because it’s ours but because it genuinely is two friends who happen to be celebrants who are genuinely passionate about what we do, simply having a joyful unscripted conversation over coffee.  It assessable.  It answers questions. And, if I wasn’t already a celebrant, it would make me want to be one!!!

9. What advice would you give to people looking for a celebrant?

Berni B – Celebrant:
Whether your chosen celebrant was found via a search engine or recommended to you, always have a no obligation chat with them first. . Its important you ‘click’ , even if they’re lovely, if there isn’t that connection then find someone who is.  Any good celebrant will offer this and not be offended if you go elsewhere.

Also check their qualifications, anyone can call themselves a celebrant, pick one who has received recognised training and I’d also suggest one that’s a member of a trade association or network, they’re all sole traders, so membership gives you security of comeback if they fall ill or something goes wrong.  I’m a member of the Association of Independent Celebrants

10. Is this your full time job?  

Berni B – Celebrant:
I have what I guess is known as a “portfolio lifestyle” , I call it multi-hatted! I run a guesthouse in mid Wales which is now also a micro wedding venue.  I’m also a stained-glass artist and teacher

11. Tell us about Berni Benton the person – Five facts about you that are not celebrant related?

Berni B – Celebrant:
I’m a member of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, AKA Lady Lily the Pink and have stood for General Election and Welsh Assembly election in the past.

I designed a large stained-glass window for the Year of The Welsh Legends in 2016 and it was unveiled by the then Prince of Wales, now King Charles III

I’m the proud mum of three grown up boys (two stepsons whom I happy consider my own)

I’ve been with my partner, John, for 28 years. We’ve never married but in 2022 we did have a gratitude ceremony, on no particular special date, just to acknowledge our journey to date and look forward into the future together.

I drive a magenta pink 1968 Hillman Husky, which (certainly at the moment) matches my hair.

12. Where can we find you?

I’m over at bernib.co.uk

On insta @bernib_full_life

On fb @thealternativecelebrant

Thank you Berni.

It’s such a joy to share Berni’s interview here on the blog and we’ll be featuring one of our Graduates each month, so do keep an eye out for more. If you’re inspired to find out more about training with us to become an Indepent Celebrant, book an Informed Decision Session into Dinah’s diary now and let’s talk about the next steps.

Dinah

No Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.