Our Dr.Seuss Naming Ceremony

Way back when I was born in the 1970s, being lapsed Christians of differing flavours, the choice for my parents not to have me Christened was an easy one. Although I'm sure the wider family gathered to "wet the baby's head" with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit (probably), my parents agree that had there been an alternative ceremony, they would have loved to welcome my brother and I into the world in a more official way.

When my twins arrived I was determined to welcome them into the family and the wider community with a naming ceremony. Apart from anything else, I was keen to give my very full arms a break!

 I booked the horse-drawn barge on the Tiverton Canal, wrote the ceremony and asked a friend to perform it and others to join in. On a glorious October Sunday afternoon in 2007, we welcomed the twins aged 9 months into the world while gliding peacefully down the canal pulled by the strongest and most gentle horse you've ever seen!

I chose to give the ceremony a Dr.Seuss theme as I'd always loved his books, particularly "Oh The Places You'll Go" which was read by a friend. Some friends played the guitar and flute, others sang a beautiful lullaby and the twins "non-godparents" or life mentors read and made promises.

I spoke about the origins and meanings of the twins names and the family members we had honored with their middle names. Finally their Dad and I made vows to be the best parents we could possibly be.

And then it was the part I'd been waiting for... after 9 months of breastfeeding twins my adoring friends and family whisked them off on a tour of the boat, so that I could be "arms free" and have a refreshing glass of bubbly!

It's probably worth mentioning that my twins are  now 11 yrs old and back then Smartphones had not arrived to make us all a little less smart! It's well worth encouraging your guests to relinquish them at the door! Assign one person to do the photography and your ceremony pics won't risk being spoiled by the presence of the ubiquitous smartphone!

Over the years we've enjoyed going back to the canal and cherished looking back at the photos of the day together and although they of course don't remember it, the twins can easily pick out faces in the photos that they consider to be their tribe!

The family run Tiverton Canal co. took great care of us and were a wonderful part of an unforgettable experience, but there are so many beautiful venues throughout the South West, I look forward to hearing about the places you'll go to celebrate your little one's arrival! 



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What is a Life Celebrant?

With over half  of the UK population now self-describing as "non religious", free from the confines of "hatch match and dispatch"  we finally have some more choice about how we celebrate life's defining moments. 

All of this change - which if you think about it has only occurred in the past 50 years after 1500 or more years of Christianity - produces some confusion. There are so many terms bandied around Secular Celebrant, Civil Celebrant, Humanist or Life Celebrant. What's the difference?

My name is Marianne Kavanagh and I am a Civil Celebrant but I prefer to call  myself a Life Celebrant because  I write and perform  ceremonies for every significant moment in life; weddings, namings and funeral ceremonies.

Funerals or end of life ceremonies are centred on the life of the person who has died. Most Celebrants perform life centred ceremonies, but what is the difference between a Civil Celebrant and a Humanist Celebrant? Below are the differences to consider when looking for a Celebrant to perform a ceremony for your loved one.

A Civil Celebrant is somebody who is trained by a professional organisation to write and deliver weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies. Civil Celebrants will add or leave out religion if required. Hymns and prayers can be included in a funeral ceremony led by a Civil Celebrant and the ceremony will be centred around the life of the deceased. A Civil Celebrant may or may not have a personal religious belief or could be an atheist, but this won’t be apparent in the ceremony. Spiritual and personal beliefs of the deceased can be included into the ceremony, as can a reflective period during which mourners are given the chance to say a personal prayer or share a thought for the deceased. Any choice of music can be played at a funeral ceremony led by a Civil Celebrant.

A Humanist Celebrant is somebody who is trained by a professional organisation to also write and deliver weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies. Humanist Celebrants are non-religious and believe in life centred funerals, and won’t generally include any hymns, prayers, readings, poems or anything mentioning religion or referring to an existence after death and which may be considered an act of worship. Humanists do not believe in any kind of after-life and believe death is the end.

There is often a misconception that a non-religious funeral is a Humanist funeral, but this isn’t always the case. A Humanist funeral has no religious content at all. The presence of a cross, or any other religious objects, religious music and saying ‘Amen’, won’t be seen or heard during the ceremony.

A Secular Celebrant is similar to a Civil Celebrant in believing that equal rights for people of religious and atheist views are observed on an individual basis. A Secular Celebrant is also trained by a professional organisation to write and deliver weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies. Religion can be included in their ceremonies if required by the family or the wishes of the deceased person. It is usually the choice of the individual Celebrant as to whether they refer to themselves as a Secular or Civil Celebrant.

When planning a funeral, celebration of life or memorial ceremony, it is important to the memory of the deceased and to their family to honour personal beliefs.

All Celebrants believe the ceremony should be about the person and everyone of us will work with the family to produce a personal and life centred ceremony relevant to that person.

The Real Fairy Tale Ceremony

Marianne Kavanagh from Pink Moon ceremonies brings you The Real Fairy Tale wedding ceremony! 

As a storyteller and Celebrant I am in a unique position to offer you a ceremony which blends fairytale and myth into the ceremony itself. Taking inspiration from the old tales from our oral tradition along with the Pagan customs, which are inseparable from our ancestral myths, I will help you to create a ceremony imbued with meaning incorporating elements from story which speak to you personally. 

Pictured below are elements included in a Real Fairy Tale ceremony. The chosen colours represent the elements; blue for the sky and sea, terracotta and green for the earth, white for the air and orange and gold for fire. Each element is carefully woven into the ceremony and your story as a couple.

You can choose from a range of elements to make your fairytale wedding come true; a hand-fasting, you and your beloved can jump the broom, pour sand to create your own unity sand bottle to keep and display, or participate in  a 4 elements ceremony...

Here's a bit more information about each of the ceremony elements.

Handfasting Ceremony

A handfasting is an old Pagan custom, dating back to the time of the ancient Celts. A handfasting was originally more like an engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. The original handfasting was a trial marriage. It gave the couple the chance to see if they could survive marriage to each other. After a year goes by, the couple were either free to go their separate ways as if they had never been married or could decide to enter permanently into marriage. 

There are many variations of the traditional handfasting. After the bride and groom both declare their intent to enter into this union, the hands of the couple are clasped and fastened together with a cord or cords just before, just after, or during their vows are made to one another. The wrapping of the cord forms an infinity symbol. The handfasting knot that is tied is a symbolic representation of oneness between the couple. In a show of unity, they become bound to each other. 

Unity Candle Ceremony

Although the origins of a candle being lit by the couple at weddings are unknown and it seems to have become popular in recent years, people have been lighting candles in order create an intention in ceremonies for hundreds of years. This creates an opportunity for Mums to become involved as it's usually the bride and grooms mothers who light the candle from which the bride and groom take a light for their own candle.

Warmth and light from the sun are the foundations of life. Fire holds a special place in fairytales and in our consciousness. This is why the lighting of candles can be a powerful ritual. We all have our own relationship with the element of fire and we all feel a sense of reverence in its presence.

Unity Sand Ceremony

The roots of this ceremony are contentious. Whether it's derived from a Hawaiian custom of mixing the sand and seashells beneath the couple's feet, the Native American tradition of sand painting, or from the Jewish tradition of using salt to cement an agreement, this element gives you the opportunity to open the ceremony up to others, to make your ceremony feel both inclusive and intimate. 

It's a great way to involve children in blended families and you can choose colours according to Jung's colour theory or pick colours that have particular significance to each of you involved.

Jung's colour theory

COOL BLUE: showing no bias, objective, detached, analytical

EARTH GREEN: still, tranquil, calming, soothing

SUNSHINE YELLOW: cheerful, uplifting, spirited, enthusiastic

FIERY RED: positive, decisive, bold, assertive

Four Elements Ceremony

Invoking the four directions and the elements associated with these directions, gemstones, herbs and other natural matter will be selected to symbolize your values, hopes and dreams for your marriage and journey in life together and packaged into a ceremonial bag. There will be an opportunity for each of your guests to hold the ceremonial bag and send good wishes to you as a couple. The elements of the bag will all be returned to the earth after the ceremony, as a symbolic act of taking nothing and leaving nothing but love.

Broom Jumping Ceremony

Again the roots of this custom are contentious. The custom of jumping the besom broom seems to come to us from Wales, primarily, but there is some contention as to whether it comes from Romani Gypsy people living in Wales or come from the Welsh people themselves.

The earliest mention seems to come from the early 18th century though Romani have been in Wales since at least the 16th century. Regardless of origin, jumping the broom has been embraced by the Welsh as a sort of common-law marriage symbolic act. The symbolic role of the broom or besom in the home is rich and varied in Celtic culture.

Perhaps its greatest role is that of setting the boundary between the home and the wild. The act of sweeping the floor was not only a way of cleaning, but also demarcated the boundaries of the home. In ancient times, dirt floors were common and often to keep them clean enough to live on they had to be swept several times every day. This has the effect of creating a boundary for the home, just by sheer repetition. So, often the broom was considered one of the first lines of defense for a home maker.

You and your loved one will step or jump over a besom broom before you leave the ceremonial space, this act symbolizes walking into a new space together. One which is both home and wildness. 

In addition to all of this I am available to tell an ancient tale after the ceremony as a part of your wedding day celebrations.

The Real Fairy tale wedding ceremony elements

The Real Fairy tale wedding ceremony elements

Handfasting cord ties

Handfasting cord ties