Hello, my name is Katy (my pronouns are: she/her) I trained and qualified as a ‘wedding and funeral celebrant’ and I am proud to call myself an ‘inclusive celebrant’; I want every person I work for and with to know that they are deeply respected and appreciated, offering them a radical love that unconditionally cherishes people for exactly who they are.
I was initially motivated to qualify as a wedding, funeral, and life events celebrant after a lifetime of attending and being a part of weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies which, without exception, left me in some way feeling ‘othered’, ‘weird’ or simply not included or considered as an individual.
Appallingly, I have witnessed first-hand queer friends and disabled/neurodiverse friends and family members, and my own mother who herself was wheelchair reliant, all excluded in some way during ceremonies. I can only imagine that this is the experience of those who fall into other marginalised groups. which is simply unacceptable. These disgraceful experiences filled me with a passion to challenge and be a part of the change, to ensure the diversity within the intersectionality of humanity is understood and embraced as standard practice by everyone.
The contemporary and broader view of ‘diversity’ today is encapsulated by the idea of diversity of thought, where different perspectives are the point of difference, rather than simply visible characteristics.
A Wedding is About LOVE
As a wedding celebrant, remaining ‘heteronormative’, disregarding disabilities/neurodivergence and the full rainbow of sexualities and gender identities and/or ignoring ‘intersectionality’ has no place in our society in 2023.
Ten years have passed now since Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013, which introduced civil marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales, and in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament legislated to allow same-sex marriages in 2014. The first same sex marriages in England and Wales took place in March 2014 and in Ireland these marriages have been legal since 16 November 2015.
After so much time has passed, there should be no need for us as celebrants, or indeed for other wedding suppliers (e.g.many ‘wedding’ photographers appear to overtly focus on this aspect too) to differentiate and refer to ‘same sex weddings’. Simply being an ‘inclusive celebrant’ available for ALL weddings will do!
What Does Being an ‘INCLUSIVE CELEBRANT’ Mean?
Quite simply, this means doing our best to make sure all our clients feel comfortable, valued, and respected. To that end, I like to make every effort to use inclusive language, using – and crucially REMEMBERING – the correct pronouns consistently, being respectful and always encouraging those I meet to share their knowledge and experiences with me too.
I am open and vocal about my values and am always prepared to listen to differing opinions and thoughts, whilst keeping an open mind. Being honest and asking our clients for their input when we may be unfamiliar with aspects of their culture, beliefs, or lived experience is an invaluable habit as a celebrant. It is so important for us to develop and learn; to consider equity, inclusion, and diversity in all ceremonies we create and conduct, as well as ways in which we can ensure that people with a disability of any nature are included in a ceremony too.
It is estimated that more than one billion people in the world have a disability/neurodiversity, many of which are non-apparent. We know that disability is a natural and neutral aspect of human diversity, and that everyone’s experience and relationship with this is different. Therefore, it is essential for us as celebrants not to generalise and to continue to seek ways of ensuring they feel included in the ceremonies we create too.
One example being the consideration of those who use wheelchairs at ceremonies – is positioning these as an after-thought at the end of a row of seats or at a table really including that person as an equal part of the ceremony?
Is it our responsibility as celebrant to ask if there are arrangements in place at each venue for those with disabilities or other support needs? Or should this be left up to the client in each instance?
In my opinion, it is commonplace when event planning now to pose the question of ‘any dietary requirements’, this really should be extended to ‘any additional requirements or access needs’. For example, those with sensory processing disorders may be affected by louder noises, large numbers of people in one room, bright colours, bright or flashing lights and for some, even sudden outbreaks of laughter. If we are contemplating incorporating any one of these aspects into the ceremony at the request of the client, are we being inclusive? We may even choose to explore partnering with sign language interpreters to deliver quality access to d/Deaf* people, enriching and enabling the d/Deaf community to share the experience of the ceremony too.
We need to consider ourselves part of a global society, learning the skills to communicate and interact with communities, concepts, and belief systems that we are unfamiliar with.
This also means being truly respectful of religious and cultural appropriation. Wedding customs and traditions in other cultures and religions should be avoided in the ceremonies we write if our clients aren’t affiliated with nor have any cultural heritage links to these things. (e.g. ‘tea ceremonies’, ‘arras ceremonies’, ‘breaking a glass’ and more.)
As a truly ‘inclusive celebrant’, my objective is to shine the spotlight on that occasion for whomever I may be speaking to and for, approaching each ceremony in a truly non-judgemental manner, with empathy and understanding. Being inclusive is ensuring that the dignity of every individual is respected, and they are all are made to feel welcome and included.
Being an INCLUSIVE CELEBRANT Includes Taking a Stand Against Those Who Are NOT!
In addition, in the spirit of advocacy and allyship, I will continually call out bullying and hate speech whenever and however I come across it, ensuring that my website, social media presence and all images used, my workspace, and the ceremony spaces in which I work are safe spaces for all.
In the 21st century we are all aware how change and progress waits for nobody. We must acknowledge together that there is NO NORMAL. We already seem so comfortable as a majority with acknowledging that there is no ‘normal’ way to grieve, so why do many still seem to find it so difficult to accept that there is no ‘normal’ way to LOVE? British-Swiss writer and journalist Johann Hari said: “We grieve because we have loved.”
Flexible thinking is key as a celebrant, we have the opportunity to see through many different lenses and experience the kaleidoscope that diversity of perspective has to offer. Cultivating acceptance within our ceremonies, that facilitates belonging, we will begin to diminish the misconceptions and prejudices that fuel discrimination.
The moment we believe that we are the ‘normal’ ones, scandalised whenever we encounter another with a different and entirely individual definition of what ‘normal’ does or does not mean for them in their lives, we are placing ourselves in a position of judgement.
It is vital that we apply an inclusive approach to every ceremony, celebration and acknowledgment of love and union now too. Promoting diversity is the first step to becoming not just tolerant but rather truly demonstrating inclusion and acceptance as celebrants.
Please Note: NORMAL SERVICE WILL NOT BE RESUMED.
*d/Deaf: a person who identifies as being deaf with a lowercase d is indicating that they have a significant hearing impairment. Many deaf people have lost their hearing later in life and as such may be able to speak and/or read English to the same extent as a hearing person.