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A day in the life of Ros Birnie VCANZ

How long have you been a celebrant for?

I have been a celebrant for 13 years.

Why did you become a celebrant?

For as long as I remember I wanted to be a celebrant. The work appealed strongly to me and I felt that I had the personal qualities and the professional skills for the work.

What involvement do you have or had with CANZ at a branch or national level?

I currently attend the meetings of Death Café at Lincoln, and participate in local and online workshops whenever possible. I did not attend the recent conference for health reasons. I was much more involved in CANZ activities in previous years as my health permitted this.

What ceremonies do you perform?

I perform registry weddings for the most part, as well as the occasional personalised wedding ceremony for family members and the children of close friends. I prefer to only take funerals and memorial services for friends and their partners.

What do you enjoy about being a celebrant?

I absolutely love being a celebrant! I l love meeting people, establishing rapport with them, listening to their stories and endeavouring to meet their needs. It is such a privilege and very humbling to be involved with people at  these significant and emotional times in their lives.

What are some of the hardest parts of being a celebrant?

The hardest parts are around funeral ceremonies. I have lead farewells for so many dear and long standing friends and the emotional toll on me is huge.

What was the most memorable ceremony you have performed?

This was the writing and delivery of a ceremony for the scattering of my husband’s ashes. It took me hours to write and many to practise aloud so that I could deliver it on the day. I was so determined to do this for the family and as evidence of my love for him. I managed to get through it pretty well, thankfully.

What would be your typical day as celebrant? 

Every day starts for me around 6.30am with my dear wee tabby cat demanding her breakfast!! After my own I do Wordle on line and the Cryptic Crossword in the newspaper. These get my old brain ready for the day!

Most typical celebrant days presently involve a registry wedding. I will have already made the arrangements with the couple and prepared the ceremony specific to them, so it is then a case of dressing appropriately and making sure that I have everything at the ready. Most couples I marry in their own home, but I have married several in my home or garden.

Firstly I endeavour to put everyone at ease as they are often very nervous. I explain what I require and the procedure before conducting the ceremony. Then I assist them by helping take photos!     

Once home I scan the document and send it to BDM, file the papers, make a coffee and reflect on the day. Was there a place for improvement? Was I happy with how it went?

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?

Training in all aspects of the work is essential. Study for a Certificate or Diploma in Celebrant Studies. Go to every CANZ professional development and networking meeting as you can. You will gain knowledge, skills, collegial support and confidence. And read!  There are so many wonderful resources out there!

How do you like to relax?

I relax with books (at the moment on death and dying), listening to the music of Leonard Cohen, meditating, stroking my cat, listening to the talks of John O’Donohue (I sent for the whole set), nature macro photography, spending time with family and friends, eating out, and tending my large garden. It is my therapy.