This month I’m delighted to welcome Ali Williams of Perfect Ceremony, to the Blog. Ali was already a successful Wedding and Vow renewal Celebrant when she took our Funeral and Life Celebration training. Ali has worked with kids for much of her career and is also a trained singer, so she brings a multitude of talents to the role. I adored working with her and her sense of fun and joy of life are evident in everything she does.
You were already a successful wedding celebrant when you took your funeral celebrant training with us – why did you decide to take this second training?
I was pretty sceptical for a number of reasons; I wanted to have a sense of whether I actually enjoyed being a ‘couples and naming’ celebrant first. Once I had established that in fact I LOVED it – I started to imagine that maybe I could do the funeral training. However, I didn’t make a decision until I did some additional training with you on mindset and writing. I always doubt myself and you gave me the confidence to believe that I was good enough to do it!
What do you find the most rewarding part of your Funeral Celebrant work?
Being there for the family; losing a loved one is devastating and then the family has to organise a huge event, even though they’re utterly broken. If I can make that journey slightly less painful, that is reward enough.
What are the top five skills you think you bring to the role and how do they make a difference?
Empathy, understanding, good communication skills, attention to detail, ability to listen, learn and write!
Empathy is key; putting yourself in their shoes is paramount. Everyone I work with is different, so you have to be adaptable and know what a person or family needs in order to guide them (especially when emotions are running so high) and so you can get the tone of the ceremony just right.
Once you understand and know what they need, I like to adapt if necessary and make/change the process, so it works for that specific family or individual.
Communication skills are vital; when you’re liaising with the family and the funeral director, and of course when it comes to delivering the ceremony on the day. Again, as a celebrant you set the tone and pace and being good at public speaking is fundamental.
Attention to detail is essential; you can’t afford to get any details wrong (especially pronunciation of names) when I speak to my family, I tend to record the meeting and then write it up. It is a little time consuming, but that way you get all the details correct. If my family are too distraught to talk – I will leave them some questions to answer in their own time.
Listening, learning and writing; let them talk – it’s often what a person or family who has lost their loved one actually needs. It’s very cathartic and all part of the grieving process. Plus, the more you absorb and learn about the loved one lost – the better ceremony you can write and (hopefully) capture the essence of that person perfectly.
I know you’re a singer – with a fabulous Jazz vibe – and that you’ve recently started to include this in ceremonies for couples – can you tell us more about how this works?
First and foremost, I’m a celebrant – but whenever a couple show interest in the musical aspect of their wedding, I like to throw it in the mix.
Essentially, I’ll send them some recordings and I have a few live recordings of me in action too. However, I never want my couples to feel pressured to incorporate anything they’re not comfortable with. Sometimes, they’ve already chosen a particular recorded song that they want to stick with, or they may have already booked a live musician. But because I trained as a singer, have been in numerous bands and have sung at many live events (including weddings) I do like to give my couples the option. I’m delivering the ceremony anyway, so for a very nominal fee they can have a live song as well.
What do you most love about being an Independent Celebrant?
I love people, no one is the same and finding out about their love story or journey fascinates me! No couple or family are identical, so it always feels very fresh. Every ceremony is so different, and I love that aspect of the job. Plus, I’m my own boss and can decide when I want to work and who I want to work with – that’s very empowering.
If time, money and space were not an issue, what ceremony would you LOVE to create and why?
Maybe a musical ceremony; having such a passion for singing – maybe a sung ceremony with a live orchestra would be rather fun!
You’ve worked with kids for a large part of your career – can you tell me how this helps you as a Celebrant?
I’ve always worked with children; after Uni I did a lot of TIE theatre work (going into schools and performing educational shows and running workshops afterwards) More recently (last 14 years) I’ve run my own music and movement classes for the under 5’s in and around Bromley and Beckenham; www.boppintots.co.uk
I adore children – they’re your most harsh critic and sometimes you have to persevere in order to win them over. But I like a challenge! To be honest I have always talked to children on the same level as I would an adult. Again, no one child is the same and you have to adapt and respect their space and give them room for their own little personalities to develop.
So, in answer to your question…
These days it’s not unusual for a couple to get married after they’ve had children and for the children to be an important part of their special day. I am always full of ideas and ways of accommodating this. Plus, naming ceremonies is another string to my bow – so it’s great when you can combine a naming ceremony with some disco action! I knew years of kids parties would eventually come in handy! I have so many brilliant toys and props to play with and lots of disco bits – so it really does allow me to bring something special and unique to my ceremonies, if the family or couple are interested in something like that.
What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a Celebrant?
It’s got to be something you feel really passionate about; it’s not a one size fits all kind of job. Everyone you work with has their own story and even though you may have a framework (you work with) you have to be prepared to adapt and cater for what that family or couple needs from you.
Being a celebrant is about connecting with people and it takes a lot of time, hard work and attention to detail in order to write, create and deliver the best ceremony possible. It’s not the kind of job that’s going to make you a millionaire, but in terms of job satisfaction – it’s the best!
You can connect with Ali on her website or on social media via:
Our ‘Interview with a Celebrant’ series features Graduates of our training who have completed either our Wedding or Funeral Celebrant Training, or both. You can see a previous interview here