I adore being a celebrant, after working in the public, tertiary and not-for-profit sectors, as a teacher, coach and facilitator. Being a celebrant brings together the skills and talents I’ve developed over a life time of working with people, allowing me to celebrate and commemorate the most significant events in your lives.
It all started when …
… as a young girl, I remember attending my first wedding: that of my infant teacher, Jan. The photos from this time shows my sister and me in identical blue dresses (lovingly made by mum); gloves; white socks and shiny patent leather shoes; and red plastic handbags, courtesy of Japan Air Lines. The bags must have been a giveaway on a JAL flight, but some undisclosed donor had passed them on to us - we thought we were just the cat’s pyjamas!
Later - much later - I was to walk down the aisle myself, freshly back from six months in Japan (I must have wanted more of those cool handbags!), and ready to begin a life with the man I loved. We tried to accommodate a Presbyterian minister and a Catholic priest, and although the ceremony had its moments, (my dad singing to me was stunning), we could have done better.
After my marriage dissolved, I became serious about photography. Although I’d always taken snaps of my sons, they were pretty ordinary. So I put time and energy into developing my craft, starting off with plants and flowers in the beautiful Auckland Botanic Gardens. They were easy - they didn’t run or hide from the camera, or pull a face when I whipped out my lens. But increasingly I wanted to capture people. I took my gear to the local markets; I photographed school and community events, including the Sunrise Walk for hospice in the Gardens; I did a wedding for friend, and another … and then I was hooked! The wedding day was a special, and no one minded being photographed. Brides blossomed (it’s true - they just glow!), and I discovered I could put a bride (and her prospective partner) at ease, using those skills I’d learnt years before. The ultimate was a bride who was three hours late for her wedding - I have shots of us stopping at a petrol station, while all around us, Auckland is gridlocked!
Weddings are wonderful, but funerals are tough. I’ve attended my fair share, many of the people too young to go. My bridesmaid’s funeral on a hot summers’ day, a tangi in the rain for a well-respected kaumatua, a memorial service for Dad in the crisp winter air; a new bride buried in her wedding dress. All painful, all hard to do. But grieving is important, and bringing people together to share the loss can start the healing process.
All of us have stories. Our lives have highlights, low points, and a whole lot of very normal in-between. But the stories are there, rich and inviting. Our first kiss, nervous but expectant; school sports or academic excellence (or if you were lucky, both!); learning to drive and your first ticket; choosing a career (then choosing another to suit us better); overseas trips with excitement, trepidation and disappointments. Family, friends, colleagues, communities and pets surrounding you on your journey.
As a celebrant, it’s my role to tell those stories: to share with your guests at the wedding tales of first love, the bonds you’ve formed, the dreams you have. At a funeral, to invite friends and family to remember the funny parts and the bits you’ll miss so dreadfully. Stories hold us together - they help us to create a lifetime of memories.
Photo credit: Don Millar (my Dad), circa 1970.