This month’s interview with a one of our Graduates, is with Beth Falconer, who completed her training with us back in April this year. It was a great experience working with Beth and I’ve been looking forward to sharing her thoughts on the blog with you. Her focus on neurodiversity and inclusion were evident throughout her training and I learned a great deal from working with her.
Becoming a Celebrant has been one of the best experiences of my professional career.Beth Falconer
Tell me a bit about what inspired your journey to become a Celebrant?
Well it all started with a swipe…… on an Instagram post of a wedding where the person doing the ceremony had all the guests take photos of the couple before the ceremony began. She was making everyone laugh and I just realised that actually, you know, this would be a great job, and I could get paid for making people happy. Which was a Christmas tree in a Trafalgar square sized lightbulb moment for me.
What are the top five skills you think you bring to the role and how do they make a difference?
I love to solve problems, and have frequently been called a “no box” thinker. So if you need to find a way to have a kosher, Vegan Hog Roast, my mind goes to carving aubergines into little pigs.
As someone with Dyslexia, and ADHD, and early onset arthritis, I know what it is like to function in a world that was not built with people like me.
Designing a wedding ceremony is something that is completely new to my couples, and that they are under a lot of pressure and expectations to get it “Right”.
When I grew up I wanted to be Lucile Ball and Pepe Longstocking, so it came as a surprise to absolutely no one, but me, that I love being on stage. And can make almost any one laugh and feel at ease, which is so important when guiding couples to craft their weddings.
I have a very strong visual aesthetic and know how to make who I am shine through in how I present myself. And I have worked with a lot of people to figure that out
What type of couples are you planning to work with and why?
I am planning on working with couples who are neurodivergent or who have disabilities. Because I feel very passionately that they are so underrepresented, and under served by the wedding industry . And that is just not fair.
So much of the wedding industry, and creating a ceremony, is set up for able-bodied neurotypical people. Planning a wedding is stressful, expensive and complicated in the best of times, but it is so much harder for people who have to navigate life with a disability.
As someone who spends my adult life masking my ADHD symptoms, being discriminated against for being dyslexic, getting through daily life is exhausting. And I know first hand how liberating it can be when I’ve been in a space where it has been set up to be accessible to me. And so I have set up my business to be accessible and welcoming to every one.
How do you think your past work experience has helped you as a Celebrant?
For the past 10 years I was a programme manager in a large international bank. which meant that I got to boss people about and know how to diplomatically talk people out of ideas that won’t be possible in their budget!
Through needing to get access to assistive technology for myself, I became an advocate for people with Dyslexia and ADHD and fought for the Companies I worked for to change their policies and processes to work with rather than against the tools that neurodivergent, deaf, and visually impaired people use.
I have incorporated this into my website and client materials and also offer multiple ways for couples to answer their questionnaires if they are not comfortable writing on paper.
I chose to work in finance because I always found writing and spelling incredibly difficult, so the idea of doing anything creative seemed impossible. But my artistic soul, craved more than spreadsheets and so I also moonlighted as a Stand up Comic and a drummer in a glam punk band, called the Hypersonic Owls, and made incredible costumes for fancy dress parties. All this has given me a lot of confidence on stage and in front of strangers.
Most people I’ve collaborated with are introverted, quite shy, or have not been on a stage since the were in a nativity play. So, they feel really intimidated by the idea of being in front of a crowd. I am able to guide them and give them a visual understanding of what will happen on the day. I also offer options to do rehearsals and run through of the ceremony as part of my packages.
If budget and location were not a limiting factor, what type of ceremony would you love to create?
I would love to do a ceremony in a Library, the beautiful old fashioned kind, Like the Admont Abbey in Austria or the Biblioteca Joanina in Portugal, or Trinity College Library in Dublin. I am in two minds about doing the ceremony, silent disco style, or like a story time. It would be very intimate, but have appearances from the characters of the couples favourite books.
What is it about a Celebrant wedding ceremony that is so special, from your perspective?
For me a celebrant wedding ceremony, is that it is completely bespoke and unique to the people involved. And I also love that celebrant ceremonies are not restricted to being held licenced venues. This creative licence to incorporate all the meaningful elements, of the family, cultures, community, and adventures that brought the couple to choosing each other can be blended together. And they start a new chapter of their lives together, where they don’t have to leave who they are at the door and follow a prescribed script.
What is Neurodiversity?
In the UK, Neurodiversity is a term used to describe a range of neurological differences including: Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). Many people who are neurodivergent will have more than one type of neurological differences.
This short film gives a very insightful overview of the neurodiverse universe:
Why is it important for wedding celebrants to be aware of the needs of Neurodiverse clients?
As around 15% of the adult population in the UK are diagnosed with one or more neurological differences, and so fall under the neurodiversity umbrella, it is quite likely that you have had clients who are neurodiverse. And it is very likely that you will have them in the future.
Women often go undiagnosed, so the actual number is likely higher.
It is also very likely that your clients who are neurodivergent may not feel comfortable telling you that they are because there is a very strong stigma associated with it. So when you are getting to know your clients, you should ask them if they use assist technology or if there is anything that they find useful for written communication.
As celebrants we want to make the experience of crafting a wedding ceremony an enjoyable experience.
But there are so many small thing in the process that put up extra barriers. For example I use screen readers and voice dictation software, but they really do not work with PowerPoint, or Canva designs. So some of the documents you are sending out to clients would be blank.
Or something that drives me up the wall is when I get event invites that can’t be directly added to my calendar so I need to copy and paste text from emails to calendars. And these small things can push neurodivergent clients away from your business or even having a wedding at all.
I am working on a guide that will be out in early 2024 for Celebrants on how to make your business accessible to neurodivergent clients. I also offer one to one consultations for Celebrants on how to make your business easier for people with ADHD and Dyslexia to access and use.
WWW.InclusiveWeddings.co.uk 07380318629 info@InclusiveWeddings.co.uk
Our ‘Interview with a Celebrant’ series, features Graduates of our training. You can find other interviews in the series here.