Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What is the Celebrant Foundation & Institute?
The Celebrant Foundation & Institute is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to training and certifying Life-Cycle Celebrants and to promoting the use of personalized ceremony to mark the moments and milestones in the lives of individuals, families, communities and organizations. Celebrants are an international organization that began in Australia in the early 1970s. Presently there are more than 3000 Celebrants worldwide and one million ceremonies have been presided over by Celebrants for their honorees in the last thirty years.

What is a Celebrant?
Celebrants are professional life-cycle ceremony officiants who believe in the power and effectiveness of ceremony and ritual to serve basic needs of society and the individual. They collaborate with their clients to create and perform personalized ceremonies that reflect the client's beliefs, philosophy of life, and personality; not the Celebrant's.

Celebrants officiate at all types of life-cycle ceremonies and rituals: for babies and adoptions, coming of age, marriages, commitment ceremonies, funerals and memorials. Celebrants also develop ceremonies to enrich daily life, and mark community, corporate and civic events. The opportunities to use ceremony to create connections among neighbors and families, and for healing and celebration, are as varied as are our Celebrants.

"I am a ritual maker and celebrant who designs, organizes and celebrates contemporary 'rites.'" ~ Mary Hancock, Celebrant New Zealand

How is a Celebrant Ceremony Unique?

Each ceremony is personal, reflecting who the honoree is or honorees are either as individuals or as a couple or family. A Celebrant certified by the Celebrant Foundation & Institute will take the time to understand the honoree's beliefs, values, and what makes their ceremony unique.

In a Celebrant ceremony the honoree is empowered. Nothing is imposed on them. Instead, in a collaborative process, the Celebrant will guide the honoree in choosing rituals, readings, symbols and music to fulfill their ideals and vision for their Ceremony. No two Celebrant ceremonies are the same.

Celebrants are ceremony specialists who have a solid background in the history of ritual, ceremony and the traditions of many cultures, beliefs and religions. They are experts in composing ceremonies, managing rehearsals and performing Life-Cycle ceremonies. They are experienced in the art of ceremonial public speaking.

Celebrant Services for their Honoree Client(s) Include:

  • Meet at a no-obligation interview to discuss their vision of the ceremony
  • Listen, and take notes as they learn their personal story
  • Consult until the ceremony is just right
  • Provide a beautiful keepsake copy of their ceremony

"We wanted to thank you so much for all of the time you spent designing the perfect wedding ceremony for us. When we first started planning, we had no idea that we would end up with a personalized, beautiful ceremony." ~ Connie & Chris

What do Celebrants believe?
The beliefs of the Celebrant are immaterial in this process. Celebrants believe that appropriate ceremonies are an important way of bringing happiness and mental balance to individuals, and connection and beauty within society. They believe in people. They believe in adding to the sum total of human happiness wherever they can assist in doing so. Celebrants are trained to focus on the values and priorities of the honoree(s). The ceremony is a total reflection and an extension of the honorees at the ceremony.

Who should choose a Celebrant?
Anyone and everyone! Whether you are secular, religious, spiritual, nondenominational, part of an interfaith or multicultural couple, or if you simply wish to express yourself in a manner of your own choosing, a Celebrant can help you create a ceremony that respects all that is meaningful to you.

“EVERYONE commented on how personal and different our ceremony was. It was so amazing and perfect." ~ Pat Dave

Why use ceremony to mark life's milestones?
Life is a journey for us all. It is a growing process. We all go through many physical stages in our lives: infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and maturity. We go through personal, sentimental and emotional stages as well: we might find a partner, build a career or have children; we live through illnesses and the loss of family and friends. There is a deep human need to find some sort of stability in this ever-changing state. Since ancient times, humans have created ceremony to mark these rites of passage and create a space and place to express our humanness in all its simple glory.

Below are quotes about the importance of ceremony and ritual from respected authorities in the field:

"Ceremony assists people to adjust to change (a marriage ceremony does this for families), to recognize achievement (a classic example is a graduation ceremony), to relate, to express love, and/or to establish a relationship. Ceremonies are the human way we have to signpost a deal such as a business merger, to trigger off a healthy grief process (such as in divorce or funeral ceremonies), to welcome another human being into the family. So ceremonies have these excellent effects - they can be used further to announce intentions, to express loyalty and to reinforce a sense of identity." - Dally Messenger III, President of the International Federation of Civil Celebrants

"We need rituals at many times, whether for healing or transformation, celebration or mourning. To learn to create our own is to empower ourselves, and this can enrich our lives immeasurably." - Juliet Batten, Author

"A culture that forgets its rites of passage eventually loses its capacity to celebrate joy and unity." - Michael Meade, Author, Men's Movement Ritualist

"The tribal ceremonies of birth, initiation, marriage, burial, installation, and so forth, serve to translate the individual's life-crises and life-deeds into classic, impersonal forms. . . The whole society becomes visible to itself as an imperishable living unit. Generations of individuals pass, like anonymous cells from a living body, but the sustaining, timeless form remains. By an enlargement of vision to embrace this super-individual, each discovers himself enhanced, enriched, supported and magnified."
- Joseph Campbell, historian, sociologist, and author.

What are 'Rites of Passage'?
The French anthropologist and folklorist Arnold van Gennep, best known for his studies of the rites of passage of various cultures, and whose major work was "Rites of Passage" (1909), is credited with coining the phrase, rites of passage. Van Gennep emphasized the structural analogies among various rites by demonstrating that all are characterized by three phases: separation, transition and reincorporation. Van Gennep saw the rites as means by which individuals are eased, without social disruption, through the difficulties of transition from one social role to another. The person or (persons) on whom the rites center is first symbolically severed from his old status, then undergoes adjustment to the new status during the period of transition, and is finally reincorporated in society in his new social status. Many of the important and common rites of passage are connected with the biological stages of life: birth, puberty, maturity, marriage, reproduction, and death; other rites celebrate changes that are wholly cultural. These rites of passage serve to bridge critical stages in the life process and to help the individual confront certain uncontrollable aspects of the world he inhabits. By providing a predictable, communal context for individual experience, rites of passage act to alleviate the inevitable anxiety that accompanies change.

What does symbolism mean to ourselves, to our inner life, to our sense of identity?
"Words in ceremonies are symbols, which, by our own decision, mold us into what we are. Symbols of all kinds evoke very deep emotions in human beings. Symbols in ceremony can evoke powerful and deep emotions, tapping the subconscious, affecting behaviors, directing life styles, and daily decisions." Ann Witheford, politician and constitutional reformer.

Perhaps this subject peaks your interest and you might like to join us and study to become a Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant in your community. We invite you to visit the “Institute” page on our site for details.


The Celebrant Foundation & Institute’s Directors


Gaile Sarma, Co-Founder CEO
Charlotte Eulette, Co-Founder Director
Cynthia Reed, Director of Academics

Celebrant Foundation & Institute
93 Valley Road, Suite 2
Montclair, New Jersey 07042

Phone: 973.746.1792
Fax: 973.746.1775

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