It’s the Little Things

Published: 14 December 2023

There are some mighty big things you need to be on top of when you’re a celebrant.

Should a celebrant retire when they’re past their peak?

Here are four, straight off! How you interact with your clients; your creativity so that you can fashion a brilliant ceremony; and your presentation skills.

I know what you’re thinking – but I’d divide presentation into your voice and your communication.😊So four it is! But there’s a whole lot of relatively minor things which, when added up, become quite significant – I think of them as increments.

In no particular order, here are some:

1/ Do you write as you speak? The majority of people write a ceremony in a formal way. It can look good on the page, but when it’s spoken out loud it’ll usually sound stilted and unnatural.

Dost thou write as thou speaks?

Try saying these two variations of a sentence. “Uncle Jack was not the kind of man to stand on ceremony. He would say ‘I will not wear a tie under any circumstances.’” And: “Uncle Jack wasn’t the kind of man to stand on ceremony. He’d say ‘I won’t wear a tie under any circumstances!’” To me, the second example is much more fitting for Uncle Jack.

Uncle Jack

I’m not saying you should elide words all the time, but it’s a good idea to make a conscious decision each time this situation arises. Read your ceremony out loud as you’re writing it, to see (hear) if it sounds natural.

2/ Speak to your audience/congregation as if they’re a collection of individuals rather than as one mass of people. We all like to feel special, and in my ideal celebrant world, I’d like each person in an audience to have the feeling “I know there are lots of us here, but I have the sense that the celebrant is speaking particularly to me.” I’m exaggerating here, but I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at.

I’m sure he’s speaking particularly to me.

You can do this by using singular language. The simplest example I can think would be instead of saying “Good morning, everybody,” just say “Good morning.” Another example might be rather than saying “I know a lot of you have travelled a long way to be here today,” you could say “You might have travelled a long way to be here today.” There’s almost nothing that can’t be rephrased so that a listener will feel consciously or unconsciously that they’re being spoken to as an individual.

You could describe those first two increments as philosophical

A philosopher – one of the Marx brothers (Karl)

Here are some increments related to sound. They’re most unlikely to turn up in one of your ceremonies, because you prepare for and write what you’re going to say. But they could quite easily happen in your client meetings. So:

3/ Do you have any vocal mannerisms, such as saying things like ’um’, ‘er’, ‘you know’, ‘obviously’, ‘to be honest’ (I hope you are!), and ‘to be fair’ every few seconds? The way to find out if you do is to record yourself in conversation with someone for a couple of minutes. (You’ll also be able to tell from that whether you find your voice is pleasant or not.)

This feller originated the annual You-Knowbel Prize for the celebrant who says ‘you know’ the most in client meetings

And then there are visual mannerisms. So:

5/ Do you sway when you’re presenting a ceremony? For some it’s side to side. I’m a forward-and-back man, myself.

6/ It helps a ceremony to feel more spontaneous if you think your way through it, rather than sounding like you’re reading it. Obviously, you almost certainly will be reading, but one of the techniques I teach to help a celebrant to communicate naturally is to occasionally search for a word, just as we do in conversation. If that’s done too often, it, too, becomes a mannerism – but if it’s used sparingly, it can be a great tool. The trouble is (and this applied to me until I spotted it), most of us look upwards when searching for just the right word. And the viewer sees the whites of our eyes every time we do it.

The eyes have it

If the whites are on show frequently, they can become an annoying mannerism all of their own! If you look to the side instead – problem solved!

7/ And then there are grimaces – another one of mine that I had to try and tame!

The Brothers Grimace

The best way to spot these visuals is to check yourself out with a video recording. There’ll be other ‘little’ things which you can no doubt think of. And talking of tech, there are online increments. They were particularly important during Covid times, and as there’s still quite a lot of client contact done that way, I’m giving that topic its own blog – coming soon.

I offer a free no-obligation chat (phone or Zoom) so you can see whether you’d benefit from working with me. Often, the answer is yes. I work on a session-by-session basis. Some people book just one, and take it from there. Others commit to between two and four sessions. I charge £70 for a one-hour session. (And as someone remarks in the testimonials, I’m generous with my time.) I send an email after each session with a summary of what we worked on. When you get to four sessions, you get a fifth one, free of charge.

This blog tells you why I’m highly qualified to be a celebrant voice, presentation and communication coach.


07469 957 199

For full one-on-one celebrant training, see Heart-led Celebrants – Heart-led Celebrants (