Friday, 6 May 2016

Dying Awareness Week | The Big Conversation | Funeral Celebrant

Dying Matters Awareness

Next week is the time ...

To have "The Big Conversation"

Each year has a week which focuses on getting folks to talk, really talk about death, which should no longer be a taboo subject.

As a funeral celebrant I often see the devastation experienced by families who simply have no idea how they would like to celebrate their loved ones lives, or indeed what their loved ones wanted for themselves.

As a result I am a strong supporter of the annual awareness week, which this year runs from 9th - 13th May.

I am thrilled to announce the activities that I am hosting along with fellow industry specialists, in my area in order to promote "The Big Conversation" - because as the campaign succinctly puts it - you don't die because you talk about it, and you only die once.

Dates to diarise for Silverlode Celebrants Get-togethers:
Monday 9th May 2016 13h00-17h00
At Ballard & Shortall
29 High Street, Lingfield

Plan what you want!
Tuesday 10th May 2016 14h00-17h00
At Costa Coffee (in association with Ballard & Shortall, Horley)
Victoria Road, Horley

Wednesday 11th May 2016 13h00-16h00
At Co-operative Funeral Care
9 Prices Lane, Woodhatch, Reigate

Thursday 12th May 2016 10h00-13h00
At Costa Coffee (in association with Ballard & Shortall, Horley)
Victoria Road, Horley

Picture courtesy of
Thursday 12th May 2016 17h00-19h00
At Costa Coffee (in association with Co-operative Funeral Care, Reigate)
38 Station Road, Redhill

Come along and join us for coffee and a chat ... we look forward to meeting you, in an informal and relaxed setting.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Death | Let's Talk!

It is, nowadays, a really common theme – everyone is talking about the fact that everyone doesn't talk about death. It is a “taboo”. And yes, as I have written before death IS personal.

So what on earth do we do? Well, firstly, I am thrilled to see that the first formalised Death Café has opened in permanent premises in London – it is a fantastic step in the right direction. But the last time I looked the United Kingdom is pretty huge! So it is also encouraging to see that various smaller groups not just Death Cafés are starting to pop up – some are just informal meets, others have more structure – but it is good!

(Carolyn Savigar - photo credit)
For me, as a funeral celebrant, one of the most heart-breaking aspects of my work is when a family simply has no idea what their loved one would have wanted. Their distress is tangible – and believe me I work so hard with them (as any civil celebrant trained professionally by UK Society of Celebrants would do), to make sure that the distress is removed so that we can on the day do justice to, honour, and celebrate the life of their loved one. 

On the upside, as a funeral celebrant, I seem to be getting pretty clear instructions and indications from family and friends around me – it seems that fun coffee club mornings, by way of example, will dissolve into weird and wonderful conversations that leave the patrons nearby (who inevitably are drawn to eavesdropping on our lively conversations) either scrabbling for the bill, or nigh on falling off their chairs to lean in closer. 

Natural Burial - Snowdrops
So I would ask this – is it taboo to speak about death, or are we just too darn scared to step outside of our cosy boxes and confront death AND life? I think if we got our death plans sorted, we could get to the really important part – Living now! Living well! Really living now, and experiencing every single precious, beautiful moment.

A little while back, I was incredibly privileged to conduct a Celebration of Life for a young man, three years my junior. Working with the most phenomenal Mother and Father (let’s call them Bob & Bet for privacy) in creating that ceremony, I was really humbled by their approach, they were just beautiful human beings and that is it.

I had two incredible, invaluable experiences that day:

The first when Bob came to me after the ceremony and said this to me: “Thank you for celebrating my son’s life, but thank you too for allowing us to celebrate his death. His life was not easy and for him death was good”.

I know that I will never be able to comprehend the pain, the agony of losing a child; I truthfully, for this, had and still have no words – we simply hugged, and then he gave me the saddest but most beautiful smile that I will treasure always.

The second, on a somewhat lighter vein, followed when, breaking normal protocols, I did attend the wake at the family’s insistence, rather than polite request. Bob wished to introduce me to a chap, a life-long friend he said, and for again for privacy sake, we will call him Jack. Jack had lived and worked in South Africa, as had I, and so Bob felt that we would get on famously.

Well, he wasn’t wrong! Jack is definitely knocking on late 70’s, and he is delightful, a real old fashioned gentleman. With a wicked wit, and some pretty slick moves to boot.

We chatted, we exchanged histories, and then Jack got down to business – he wanted to talk about death. Right there, right then! Well pretty soon we were discussing the differences between regular and eco-burials. He doesn’t fancy cremation.

Grave depths, double plots – “Oh no dear, the ex-wife probably won’t want to share”; coffins; shrouds – we pretty much covered it all. What music he loves, oh and heaven forbid NO dirges!

It was a delight, here was a man who was happy to break the taboo, and live – and believe me – his life is amazing, full of fun and adventures, I hope I have half his stamina at his age! 
At peace ... (G. Martin photo credit)

And I think the best thing he said was “Now, you don’t know this, but Bob and Bet want to invite you for dinner in a couple of weeks – you know, when things feel less raw …. Would you mind terribly if I angle for an invite?” …

I did tell you – slick moves!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

An Italian Dream | Wedding Celebrant

Overlooking Lake Albano
In June this year, I was incredibly privileged to perform a wedding ceremony, my first in fact, in Italy.

Jon and Ania had chosen their location to accommodate the families, as it was to be a chance for families to reunite on ground that they loved, and relatively speaking was close enough for all to get to.

I was completely smitten with Castello Gandalfo, and its surrounds on Lake Albano, situated about 25 minutes from Fiumicino Airport in Rome. The town itself, is quite breath-taking in its quirkiness, and I spent some very nice times sitting in the square absorbing all the activity – filled with what we have come to know as Italian passion for life.

It was to be quite a mixed bag in terms of cultures – Polish, Italian, South African, English – and we wanted to get things just right – a nod to all of their heritage, but also a celebration of the new legacy that they would start creating as their united on their wedding day.

We considered family traditions, including the fact that some of the family had been raised within the Christian faith, and others not. We wanted everyone to be comfortable with the ceremony, but also to embrace that this really was a fun celebration of the joining together of two wonderful people.

I love being a Celebrant
The Hand-Fasting
Based on this we included a rose ceremony, a hand-fasting element, followed by more traditional vows and exchanging of rings, and the signing of a commemorative parchment.

We also included a traditional Polish blessing at the end of the ceremony.

On the day, we all awoke to a sultry and somewhat humid day, beautiful clear skies, and the air over the lake almost shimmered in the heat. Following a lovely morning meeting with the family in the town square we all went our own ways to get ready, and prepare for the ceremony, to be held later that afternoon.

There was a lot of gazing up to the skies, as they grew darker and darker, clouds rolling it. The storm broke about 15 minutes before the ceremony was to begin. Fortunately it was as intense and passionate as the Italians – but very short-lived, with a short delay we began the ceremony.

Jon and Anna took my breath away – just such a beautiful, loving couple; and their families, now united, were a laugh a minute – though very well behaved during the ceremony, in spite of many light hearted indications earlier in the day that I may have my work cut out for me. I have to admit to falling in love a little with Luca – the delightful ring bearer – he quite simply stole my heart.

Luca and I - no wonder he stole my heart!

The ceremony was followed by a delightful evening under the Italian stars – true romance, true delight.

All that remains is to wish Ania and Jon all the happiness and joy that they dream of. And as the translated Polish Blessing goes: “Good health, Good cheer, may you live a hundred years, one hundred years.”

Photographs with kind permission of the
Bride and Groom and their families.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Ceremonial Elements | Unity Ceremonies

Today, there are so many options available to bridal couples in terms of personalising their wedding ceremony. One of the most popular options to include is a unity ceremony. A unity element is a fantastic way to involve family or loved ones within your ceremony. They can take quite a few different formats, but here is a guide to the most common ones.

Unity Candle Ceremony

This ceremony would include three candles traditionally. The first two being lit by representatives of the bride and groom, and then the bride and groom take the flames from these candles, lighting the third which represents the combining of the two families, and their joining together.

Unity Wine Ceremony

This ceremony is intended to celebrate the bride and grooms union. It often takes place after the vows and exchange of rings, however this can be discussed with your wedding celebrant. The bride and groom each pour wine from separate carafes into one cup, from which they both drink.

Unity Sand Ceremony

This element works really well when you want to include a larger group of folks in your ceremony. This can incorporate as many or as few guests as you would like. The sands can be chosen to suit your colour theme, or you can investigate the meanings behind the colours making it even more symbolic – or you could apply your own meanings for each colour and this can be explained to your guests as the ceremony is performed.

Alternatives - Do It Your Way!

Of course these elements are really only limited by your creativity and resources – there is nothing to say that you can’t have a unity art ceremony, or a sand ceremony with a lovely container which becomes useful in your kitchen after the special day; there have even been sandwich ceremonies, sushi ceremonies, cocktail ceremonies and tree planting ceremonies.

The truth is – with a professional wedding celebrant at your side, these elements can be incorporated to make your day just as magical and special as you dream it to be.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Competition | And the winner is ....

So for the month of July, we ran a competition relating to our blog post about wedding favours.

We are pleased to announce that the winner is
Cindy Groves.

Thank you to all those who participated and interacted.

Cindy your parcel containing Rose Petal and Almond Shortbread / Parmesan, Rosemary & Lemon Shortbread will be making its way to you in the next week.

Please could you send me a personal message to confirming your postal details.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Ceremonial Elements | Volentes (Wishing) Trees

Modern Wishing Tree - Picture Courtesy Momaroo
The Volentes (wishing) tree, can take many forms in today’s ceremonies, from simple branches, carefully cleaned, kept natural or painted, and put into a container of your choice, to shop bought kits – there are many to choose from, although I love all the possibilities of the more natural, home crafted versions which allows you to really personalise it and claim it as your own. It can be as large or small as you like, and you can custom make your tags to fit any theme at all.

Today’s modern take on the this ceremonial element, has its roots (no pun intended) in long established history, and originally had very little to do with weddings or celebratory events.

In early Celtic times folks would offer up a coin to the spirits that they believed inhabited trees, usually the trees were in a significant place, or a specific type of tree. The coin would be offered up in thanks for a blessing received, or as a wish to be blessed was made.

Celtic Wishing Tree - Picture courtesy Daily Mail & Google Images
In China in 1771, during the Qing dynasty a temple was built near Hong Kong in Lan Su. Two beautiful Banyan trees were planted, and it became ritual that people would travel great distances on the event of the Chinese New Year to make their wishes for prosperity, longevity and happiness at these two trees. The ritual would involve burning a joss stick, writing your personal wish on the wrapper, and binding the two together with an orange which was then thrown into the tree. If your wish stayed in the tree – it would come true. In recent years though, tradition and ritual have been replaced by practicality – a few years ago two of the branches, so weighed down with offerings, collapsed and injured several people – not, I am sure what they had in mind. So the offerings are now tossed up onto beams which have been erected nearby.

Chinese Wishing Tree Offerings - Picture Courtesy Daily Mail and Google
In Hindi mythology, there is a tree called Kalpavriksha – translated this means wish-fulfilling tree and this tree represents eternal life due to the way the trees branches extend seemingly endlessly.

Back in England in 1840, Prince Albert introduced wishing trees around Christmas time, or Yule Festival, the pine trees were decorated with apples, sweetmeats, candles and ribbons – all of which were meant to represent different wishes.

Apparently more recently in the USA, they have founded, if that is the right term – shoe trees. And yes you guessed it, you throw your shoe into the tree, make a wish, and if it remains in the tree your wish will come true.

It would be true to say that the link between all these historical wishing trees and the ones we commonly include in our wedding ceremonies, is the symbolic wishing of luck, prosperity, happiness, health and joy. They are also a beautiful addition to naming ceremonies – giving guests the opportunity to wish the same for the new arrival, or newly named child.

But here is a thought – this is also a ceremonial element that could well be included in post funeral ceremony gatherings. It would be an opportunity for the folks present to wish the bereaved family strength, offer up compassion and support, the cards could be used to write messages to the family, or share a little memory in memory of your loved one. All of which could offer up great and much needed comfort, and serve as a fitting celebration of a life lived in all its fullness.

So if you are planning your wedding, renewal of vows, naming ceremony, and yes even a funeral – give some careful consideration to this wonderful ceremonial element, and its inclusion in that special day. Remember you get to make the rules!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Wedding & Party Favours | History and Modern Twists | Family Celebrant

Bonbonniere - French Style - Google Images
We have all been presented with a wedding favour as a guest, or even planned and made our own to present to our guests – but just how did this tradition start?

Records seem to indicate that the tradition began in the Late Medieval to Early Modern history eras, and was predominantly a European affair – and not just for weddings – favours would be presented at many different types of celebrations.

The French coined the term Bonbonniere, and the Italians Bomboniere – they were normally 
beautifully hand crafted and decorated boxes made from porcelain, crystal, semi-precious stones or metal, and they contained sugar. This was because sugar was a very highly valued commodity – and was indicative of one’s status if you like, within high society.

Ribbons & Lace - Bing Images
Here in the United Kingdom, it is noted that from as early as the16th century, wedding guests would be presented with beautifully tied love knots made from ribbons and lace which represented the couples bond in love. 

As sugar became more readily available to the general public, favours began to change. At first five almonds, or sometimes candies, were presented – these represented fertility, health, wealth, happiness and longevity. These developed into what we know today as Jordan Almonds (or sugar coated to you and I). The symbolism has remained.

Around the world traditions vary as to what folks present to their guests, and this is changing all the time. Italians still favour the Jordan Almonds, Russians may present tiny pictures, candles or trinkets, the Spanish always favour cigars for the men and a little gift for the ladies. In India it is considered very fitting to be presented with a little elephant – an animal which they hold in very high esteem.

The great thing about the age we live in, is that we can break the rules if you will, really the only limitation we have is our imagination, so if you are planning your wedding, or renewal of vows; or even inviting folks round for a celebration like a naming ceremony, here are a few ideas that are really great to consider.

Going Green:
Today we are being made more and more aware of our impact on the planet – how about presenting your guests with packets of seeds for them to plant, to encourage our bees and remind them of your happy occasion! Or you could go a step further and present them with mini potted plants, in fun containers that match your themes. Ideal indigenous species could include bluebells, pansies, poppies, cornflowers, primrose or valerian.

Beach Themes - Flickr

Beach time dreams:
How about a little bucket filled with shells, for a seaside themed occasion, they make great decorations too for your tables, and you could double them up with name place cards to fulfil two functions in one.

Almond Alternatives (or lots of food!):
This is where I become perhaps a little over-enthusiastic, as I have spent a great deal of my life in kitchens and I adore food related gifts …

How about home-baked Rose Petal and Almond Shortbread; or for those with a savoury palate - Parmesan, Rosemary and Lemon Shortbread.

Then of course you could always present your guests with a hand crafted wickedly boozy jar of chocolate sauce, or a delightful strawberry conserve.

Another great idea is cookie jars – the jar is filled with all the dry ingredients to make up scrumptious biscuits after your special day – believe me … they will remember you with lots of love after the fact when they munch on their biscuits or cookies.

If you are lovers of a little spice and heat, why not commission a batch of spice just for you – to be presented in little jars.

Pretty Pottery:
There are many wonderful pottery studios around, and they often have absolutely beautiful little goodies, which can be personalised (by yourself, or them if you are short on time) … hearts, candle holders, mugs – you name it – it is really worth considering.


A few of my favourites mentioned above, and no doubt this will require a revisit in the coming months, but I would also love to hear about all your “favourite favours”.

Enter your comment either below, or on our Facebook link to this article to stand the chance to receive a nice big box of Rose Petal and Almond Shortbread & Parmesan, Rosemary & Lemon Shortbread.

The closing date for entries is 31 July 2015. 
The prize is not transferable to cash value.
The draw will be made by an independent person, not employed by Silverlode Celebrants. The draw is only available to those living in the United Kingdom.

Freshly Baked Rose Petal & Almond Shortbread

All packaged and ready