A Ceremony That Reflects You

Celebrants not only perform ceremonies--they help couples create distinctly personal weddings.

When Patrick Burns, who was raised Catholic in New Jersey, and his fiancée Roya, a Jewish woman born in Iran, were planning their wedding, they knew they wanted a special kind of ceremony, one that would incorporate both their traditions. So they turned to a new kind of service-a personalized wedding ceremony created for them by a professional celebrant.

"The beliefs of the celebrant don't matter, it's the beliefs of the couple that are primary," says Charlotte Eulette, executive director of Celebrants USA Foundation, based in Montclair, New Jersey. "The couple choose the words, the music, the style, and the venue. Their values and ideals are expressed in the ceremony." The celebrant acts as resource, advisor, and facilitator, orchestrating the ceremony but keeping the focus on the bride and groom. Celebrants are particularly well-suited to couples who are unaffiliated with a house of worship, who may be interfaith or secular, but still want a meaningful service that reflects their values.

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"We interview the couple and give them a questionnaire to fill out, asking such things as what are you bringing to this partnership, what brings you joy, what does it mean for you to have your friends and family here today-then we write their story," says Eulette. "When we reflect this back during the ceremony, there isn't a dry eye in the house." Couples are not used to so much freedom, she observes. "So many times people ask, Can we do this? We say you can do whatever you want-but we give them a framework."

"If we had gone to a judge, rabbi, or a priest, I don't think they would have gotten as involved as Remy, our celebrant, and Charlotte in putting the whole the whole script together," says Patrick Burns.

Celebrants USA, which opened in 2001, is a chapter of the International Federation of Celebrants founded in Australia more than 20 years ago. Celebrants are trained to officiate at all life-cycle ceremonies, including funerals, naming ceremonies, and coming of age rituals.

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Wendy Schuman
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