Based in Lincolnshire in the UK, Celebrants Collective certified wedding and funeral celebrant Debbie Elder has really made a name for herself within her local funeral community. Having only certified in November 2020, she has now led a number of funeral services locally to her and is really enjoying this new and thoroughly fulfilling change of career. Go Debbie!
What did you do before becoming a celebrant or in addition to being a celebrant now?
I was a nurse for 17 years, mainly on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and then I had 16 years working for Weight Watchers. I applied for voluntary redundancy in July 2020, with COVID and changes in the business, I felt that I was ready for a change. I now run my own Scentsy business along side being a celebrant.
What experiences or past skills do you think helped you with being a celebrant?
I’ve had such varying careers over the years, nursing gave me so many experiences and taught me such a lot about life and death, I feel comfortable with both. I worked with the Child Bereavement Trust many years ago and a gained a deeper understanding of families at difficult times. I certainly don’t have any problems with public speaking - I love the sound of my own voice, whether it’s stood at the front of a gathering, on Zoom or one to one!
What made you want to train to become a celebrant?
We got married in 1998 and I didn’t know about the role of the celebrant. We had a registrar to do our service in a lovely old barn but on reflection it was very scripted and controlled. I would have loved to have been able to include other things which I know about now. I had also attended a few funerals and listened to the great service that was delivered and thought, 'I can do that job,' but I never had the time or money to be able to train but it was always on my list.
What did your friends and family think of your decision to become a celebrant?
After the initial explanation of the role they have all be very supportive and enthusiastic about my decision. I have already conducted two funerals for friends. It is so lovely to be able to do something personal for them and to know that I’ve done a good job has been so rewarding for me.
Why did you choose to train with the Celebrants Collective?
I did my homework. I had a book and wrote down every academy in it. I then had the same set of questions, time, cost, friendliness, length and availability of the course and so much more. I chose the Celebrants Collective as when I first logged onto their website it just felt warm and friendly. I had training experience so I had an idea of what I was looking for and Natasha and Claire just ticked all of my boxes
Did you have any worries about being a celebrant which the course has helped you resolve?
I quickly realised that my lack of attention at school was coming back to bite me . I was worried about creative writing and poetry. Yes, I can stand up and talk fine but to read something that I’d written from scratch was another thing. I’m still learning and it’s getting easier but Natasha and Claire are still there now with the weekly tutorials, encouraging us to think outside of the box. I like to be snuggled inside my own box but I’m getting better!
What was your most favorite part of the course and why?
My favourite part of the course was the final assignment. To others it was the worst but I loved standing up reading what I’d written, we had lots of support and practise and I loved it.
How has your training with the Celebrants Collective help you to become a confident celebrant?
It was the little added bits that I loved picking up, as Claire has such a great funeral knowledge base, she shared the little things with us, like how the national music system works. When I went into the local crematorium for a look around I knew what it was called and how to check it. It’s the little things that made a difference to me, this gave me the confidence to work on the bigger things.
What’s been your biggest takeaway so far about training to be a celebrant?
That there is no right or wrong way, that as far as funerals go it’s up to the family to choose what they want and for me to make that happen.
What kind of celebrant do you think you’re shaping up to be?
Up to now I’ve only done funerals. I try to inject some smiles into the service and find the ‘fun’ in funerals. I love to celebrate life and remind people about the life and adventures that their loved one has had. I had a lovely compliment last week when a gentleman can up to me at the end of a service and he said “l want to book you for mine.”
How have you been making a name for yourself since as a celebrant trainee?
It’s been hard with lockdown. I’ve been unable to visit Funeral Directors and they are busy. I’ve emailed all of my local ones with a rundown of who I am and my background. Word of mouth definitely is working for me and building relationships with Funeral Directors when at a service and asking for feedback from them, so far they’ve been very helpful. I don’t have a website yet but I post on my social media pages regularly and try to do a mix of weddings and funeral posts, I’m sharing poems too.
What would be your advice to someone looking to train to be a wedding or funeral celebrant?
JUST DO IT! if you feel that it’s a role that you can do then go for it. You can work on presentation skills, you can work on literature but you can’t work on personality. If you are a people’s person, you can empathise with others and if you believe in yourself then Natasha, Claire and your peers will support you all of the way. I’ve definitely got a new set of celebrant friends all around the country, and France and we all support each other.
We love Debbie and are so proud of how far she's come in such a short space of time. Last time we checked in with Debbie she was writing her sixth funeral! So pleased for her.