From Hobby To Career: Part 5 – The Celebrant

 

Another week of January is DONE! I have a mixed relationship with January. You know when you have an ‘on-again-off-again’ relationship with someone and one minute you’re in love and the next you’re in hate and then you’re in love again? That’s how I feel about January. Sure I LOVE the new start vibe to it and the way I bowl into it saying shit like ‘THIS IS MY YEAR, IT’S *MY* YEAR, I CAN JUST FEEL IT’ but then again I HATE the no-money-ever and even-my-kidneys-are-cold-how-is-it-so-cold-my-nose-is-cold-my-brain-feels-cold-IS-MY-HEART-COLD? weather.  

So in an effort to crank up the NEW YEAR NEW ME motivation on focus on the positives, I decided to do a From Hobby to Career blog series – essentially a series of Q&As with people who have successfully turned their hobbies into their careers. It felt like a wonderful idea because I am a) exceptionally nosy and b) thirsty for success and the secrets of how to achieve it. 

So far I have spoken to an artist, a blogger, a photographer and a PT! Next up, a curve ball, a Wedding Celebrant. Now, I LOVE WEDDINGS. Who doesn’t? One of my besties got married last year and I would happily relive the day over and over and over again for many years. So, let’s hear from the lovely Holly on how she took on this unusual but wonderful role. 

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So, first things first, what’s this hobby that you have and how/when did it start?Is it weird to calling ‘going to weddings’ a hobby? I didn’t attend my first wedding until I was 25 but from then I really adored them – especially the ceremony and that big, warm display of love and affection. Probably more appropriate is to say that I have always loved writing and being curious about people’s lives. Being a celebrant combines all three – I get to meet amazing people, be quite nosy about their relationships, and write and conduct personal ceremonies that make the big day really special. My favourite bit is helping my couples choose readings and incorporating the special elements that make their wedding unique to them.

Oh my god this sounds like the actual dream job. So, when was it – or what was it – that made you decide you wanted to make it a source of income?

The first wedding I conducted was for one of my best friends. She and her husband desperately wanted to get married on the mountain in France where they had fallen in love. Marriage law being the wonky thing that it is, this wasn’t legally possible so they had their wedding at home in Scotland but decided they still wanted a snowy ceremony and asked if I’d perform it. Obviously I was like HELL YES!!! About 25 of us flew out for a week on the slopes and then we hired a balcony of a mountainside restaurant overlooking Mont Blanc one morning. The groom and his best men wore kilts and snowboard boots, the bride changed into her dress in a cleaning cupboard, bluebird skies, it was the most magical day ever.
Fast forward 9 months and I kept thinking about how much fun it was, and how much of a privilege it had been to create something really personal for them. I already had a full-time job that was sometimes quite stressful so I decided to set up as a side business and marry even more awesome people.

What an amazing thing to do!! How did you go about doing it?

I started by researching the role of a celebrant. In England and Wales you can only legally marry in a church or licenced venue with a registrar (such as a registry office, town hall, hotel, etc.) This can be really limiting for couples who dream of having their wedding somewhere a bit different so that’s where I come in – my couples do their legal paperwork separately and then their wedding day can be wherever they like. I’ve conducted ceremonies in breweries, art galleries, libraries, old barns, restaurants, members clubs, historic houses, theatres, family gardens, on boats, festival sites, and beaches. There are no limits really. Lots of my couples live overseas, so they legally marry where they live and then come over to London for a big party with me!
I then trained with the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants who are an amazing network of celebrants all over the country. Then I set up my website www.celebrantlondon.com and the bookings followed soon after.
It was really important to me to treat my business as more than just a hobby – it’s the biggest day of someone’s life! I was quite strict from the very beginning to set up clear processes for how I would conduct my business, manage my schedule, emails, admin, expenses etc. I think that really helped because I’m always on top of the work and my clients know exactly what to expect from me and when.
I’ve since trained as a funeral celebrant and hope to expand my business into that area too, it’s really privileged work being able to celebrate someone’s life.

Wow! What setbacks did you face (if any?!) and what did you do to overcome them?

Any setbacks have been entirely in my own head to be honest. Murky thoughts of “what if I ruin a wedding?”, “I’m probably too young to be doing this”, “Why would anyone hire me?” That type of nonsense. I try to focus on the positives – I’ve never ruined a wedding, and my couples tell me that they love having someone young and fresh marry them. I’m always a little bit nervous before I stand up and conduct each ceremony but I think that’s a good thing, it means I’m giving it my all.

It’s crazy how often we are our own worst enemies! Do you feel you have made a success of it?

Definitely! In my first year I did 1 ceremony (my friends!), in my second I did 8, and in my third year I booked my target of 20 weddings. I’m in my 4th year of business now and already have some brilliant weddings to look forward to this year.

Any regrets?

There are weeks where it’s full on, I still have a full-time job as a digital producer at a charity and in the summer I have weddings every weekend but I don’t have a single regret. The people I’ve met have brought so much joy to my life and it’s been amazing to make additional income from something I love so much. What’s more, some of my couples now have kiddos and are booking me for baby naming ceremonies too – how amazing is that?

Now, can you give me some words of motivational wisdom please!

If you want to start your own business I recommend either starting small in your spare time, or save up a buffer beforehand. It might take a while to match the salary you’re used to. Working for yourself means managing money properly too – the worst bit is definitely paying my tax bill every January!

Running the show means YOU are the business so be your genuine self. Anyone could write a ceremony but ultimately people book me because of my personality – I’m not afraid to bring humour and lightness to their day.
It’s vital to create a positive relationship with clients so they feel they can say if they aren’t happy with something. I’m really open to feedback and edits on my ceremony scripts, it’s their day after all and I want everything to be perfect for them.
And lastly don’t feel you have to say yes to everything or you’ll burn out. I’ve turned down work because I could see that I would be overloading myself or because I really needed a weekend away with my boyfriend. You can’t put your work first if you are running on empty.
Those are more practical than motivational I guess, but I’ve found they’re the best ways to keep the work fun!
Thank you so much for your time Holly ❤ You can connect with Holly on her facebook page, located here  https://www.facebook.com/HollySmithCelebrantLondon/
Thanks for reading guys! To see more of me, follow me on Twitter @susieblues or on Instagram @susiebluesyy 
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One thought on “From Hobby To Career: Part 5 – The Celebrant

  1. Ahhhh, this is wonderful.

    Living in Scotland, marriage laws are far more flexible than they would be in England, for example – so we had a humanist ceremony in a local brewery. It covered the legalities as well as being a really personal thing that reflected our values. But that process isn’t right for everybody, so having somebody like Holly around sounds just perfect.

    Lis / last year’s girl x

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