Our second Interview with one of our Graduates is with Lisa Felstead, who took our Funeral Celebrant Training. I loved working with Lisa, who had previously been a teacher and Head-teacher. She brought amazing listening skills with her, and the ability to hold a space without it having to be about her. Her interview is honest and insightful. I hope you’re inspired to explore the role by Lisa’s experience.
Tell me a bit about what inspired your journey into becoming a Celebrant.
I had thought about doing this job for a while, until finally biting the bullet and leaving my job to retrain to be a Celebrant. It was clear to me from the start that I wanted to lead Life Celebrations, rather than Weddings / Naming Ceremonies. After losing my mum and my mum-in-law in short succession there was probably an element of catharsis in choosing this role. I really wanted people to be able to celebrate the life of their loved one. But I also knew that I enjoyed meeting and being around people, loved writing and would be able to speak in front of a group of strangers!
What do you think are the top five skills you bring to the role?
Humour – think I bring humour (where it’s appropriate) which certainly helps to lighten the moment.
I feel that I can provide the clients I meet with a calmness and sense of organisation – hopefully putting them at ease.
Being Imaginative is helpful when the families don’t really know what the service can look like, and I am professional. I make it clear that any mistakes or changes are on me. They have enough to be thinking about and working through, so I want to shoulder the responsibility.
What is the most satisfying aspect for you, personally, of the work you do as a Celebrant?
When you see the whole service come together and the congregation enjoy a service and leave feeling like I’ve ‘got’ the person they knew so well, there is no greater feeling!
What’s been the most unusual ceremony you’ve been asked to create?
None of mine have been that unusual – mostly traditional. I look forward to doing a service I can make really bespoke. Probably the most unusual service was a burial first and then a service at a crematorium. The burial was at a natural burial site and the deceased had lots of grandchildren who were running around and fascinated by the hole! They were really lively, but it made it very personal and very happy.
Is there an area you particularly focus on as a Celebrant? Why did you decide to focus on this?
I tend to look at each service in three parts. Meeting the family, writing the Order of Service / Script and then leading the service. I enjoy each part, but the best bit is actually carrying out the service. I still have nerves beforehand, but I love standing at the front and seeing everything come together.
You’ve had a career in teaching before becoming a Celebrant. What would you share with others in the teaching profession who are considering becoming a Celebrant?
Save some money before doing this!! It is such a slow process in getting work and your name out there and I found this very daunting because bills still need to be paid! However, I couldn’t imagine doing anything different now and the skills that I learnt over many years of teaching in organising and planning will be very helpful to a future Celebrant. And the fact that you will always meet such a variety of people with very different needs – just like a class of children!
If you could create any ceremony, for any occasion – no time restrictions – what would it be and why?
I would love to hold a Life Celebration at the beach, hearing the waves in the background and having that wonderful expanse of sky behind us. To have lots of music, drinks and dancing after the Committal with lots of people wanting to share their memories of the person – with no time limits!
What or who do you go to for advice or if you are unclear about something?
I had a brilliant trainer but obviously I went on to work in several different Crematoriums where each one works slightly differently, not to mention how different each Funeral Director is. I was aware at the start that I was asking questions that were probably obvious (and annoying to them) but I was determined to get it right. I’m so glad I did this from the start because I now know how each Director prefers to work and I feel so much more confident in each of the processes.
Always take advice, but in using it, create your own way of working. A way that you can access easily and work more productively.
You can find Lisa on Instagram @lisa_independentcelebrant