Margaret Chapman

While living in Malaysia, where my husband had been posted, I had a desire to become a Celebrant, something I had been interested in for some time.

I did some research and discovered that there was a Celebrant’s Training School in Auckland, so I decided that in order to be a competent Celebrant, I needed some guidance from those who had gone before me and had experience in the trade.

So in 2014, I travelled back from Kuala Lumpur on three occasions to complete my “Certificate in Celebrant Studies”, intending to begin my new career, however my husband was then sent to The Netherlands, so it wasn’t until we returned to New Zealand in 2016 that I officially began my career in Celebrancy.

It is never easy starting out, however at some time you will be given a chance, and always remember to make that chance count. Do your homework, a Celebrant will not be remembered for the good things they did, but you can guarantee they will be remembered for the mistakes they may make!

During this time I have been an active member of CANZ, attending a couple of Conferences, being on the Committee for the one held here in New Plymouth prior to Covid, and have attended numerous forums.

I absolutely love what I do, yes, somedays it can be difficult, but there is almost always a positive outcome and for this I am most grateful.

Being able to assist people in their time of need is extremely rewarding, whether it be a Bride and Groom, a family who are grieving, or just a person in the street, looking for advice.

No two persons are the same, so the advice I give is never the same, and neither are the ceremonies I give. I pride myself on creating something special for each occasion.

One of my most memorable ceremonies was for a couple who had been together for thirty years, however had never married. She was diagnosed with an incurable disease and after several hospital stays, they decided that they would like to be married. A member of the family contacted me and explained the situation, and of course I agreed to assist them. Unfortunately the lady spent some time in hospital but was reluctant to be married there. She wanted to married in the comfort of her own home even though she was deteriorating rapidly. 

Eventually the family contacted me and said they had decided to take her home and would I be available to marry her that weekend. However although she was then unable to speak, she was able to communicate by nodding her head, and at that stage was able to make a mark on the what would have been the Marriage Certificate. 

I contacted BDM to make sure that her capabilities were acceptable and they agreed that as long as she was aware what was happening, the marriage could take place. 

Unfortunately in the time from when the family contacted me she deteriorated even further, the family brought her home however she remained in her hospital bed, virtually in a coma, although she did appear to be aware of her family and surroundings.

After many conversations with BDM, I decided that morally I could not take a marriage ceremony, but I was happy to take a commitment ceremony. I explained this to the family and they agreed for this ceremony to take place.

This couple was of Māori descent but had not thought of including any part of their heritage in the ceremony. I worked with the family, knowing time was of the essence, and I managed to arrange for a family member to perform a Karakia to begin and once the ceremony was completed I asked the family to come together and form a circle around the couple to sing a Waiata, a most moving and fitting end to a beautiful ceremony. There were many tears, but the family were delighted with the outcome.

I came away feeling proud that I had managed to achieve something special for the family and that I had not asked for a fee.

The next morning I received a call to say the lady had passed peacefully away in the night.

Being a Celebrant certainly has many challenges and you need to make sure you have the support you need to overcome some of the hurdles you may face. Never be afraid to reach out to others for support.

I am lucky, I have a lovely family and great friends with whom I can be myself, shed tears and have many laughs.

I also enjoy attending keep fit classes, walking and reading all of which helps to clear my mind and soul.

Whatever the reason may be that inspires you to become a Celebrant, I am sure you will find it a rewarding and enjoyable career. However remember not to get caught up in the complexities, be your own person and create your own style!