Choosing your Celebrant in France

A great many people, family, friends and guests at weddings ask me how I became a celebrant.
The answer truly is that the job chose me. A kind of non- religious calling.

I’ve been in France since 1984!! So yes…… yonks.!
Apart from raising 3 children and 2 step children I’ve been composing and producing songs for language learning. My husband and I have travelled throughout France performing our unique show www.singalangue.com in primary schools for the past 15 years, so I’m used to performing in public and I have a good sense of ‘how to entertain an audience.’

I was born in colonial East Africa (Uganda and spent my childhood in Kenya). Moved to Cornwall UK to finish my schooling and then spent a few years in London studying.
Returned to Kenya for a couple of years and travelled a while, to get it out of my system and truly realise that I’m happiest in Europe.

My main interests are gardening, gentle sport, modern literature , meditation and discussing ideas. (very chatty)
I love TED talks, stand up comedy, debates on atheism, deism and philosophy ( Christopher Hitchens style) and good quality art of any kind.
I’m not interested in TV, politics and world affairs.
My husband is exactly the opposite.
He’s a newsolic ! ( so I stay relatively abreast through osmosis )

We live in a lovely village on the canal lateral called Meilhan sur Garonne where I was elected (somehow) “Conseillere Municipale” in 2008 .
I’ve been in charge of “Animations” in the village for the past 6 years .

This brings me to my present job as a wedding celebrant.

I was asked by a friend of mine who owns Chateau Rigaud St. Emilion to perform a bi-lingual ceremony for the first time about 7 years ago .
I had never considered this job before although my husband provides the music for 50 to 60 weddings a year!

She insisted I’d be perfect for the job because; I’m a councillor, used to public speaking and  performing, bi-lingual and most importantly, I’m “into all that spiritual stuff” as she put it.
I agreed , largely because she said she would pay me, and I absolutely loved it!
I felt like my whole life had prepared me for this.

Many people see it as a cheesy moment in peoples’ lives and weddings all seem to be filled with “hoo ha,” but I was so touched by the experience of performing the ceremony that I found myself truly moved!
It was a privileged moment I was sharing with a couple who were expressing their love for each other publicly and sincerely. I realised how unique this moment is in everyone’s lives. Does one ever have another opportunity to publicly  express, in such an unabashed way one’s love for our partner?
 Our world of smart tongued journalism,  trendy mockery , slick design and focus on the  world’s negative drama all leaves the subject of “Love” hidden in a private area we all seem to be embarrassed about. So making the most of this opportunity to say “I LOVE YOU” is rare and actually very powerful. Even the most successful,trendy couples get a huge applause from their bantering,cynical friends when they finally “kiss” at the end of the ceremony.

So I decided to do some anthropological research about rites of passage and humanist values. I became obsessed with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, just to mention a few leading humanists, and I  trained with a referenced humanist group of celebrants in France for a year, with whom I did 35 wedding ceremonies.
I then set up on my own with a website www.englishcelebrantinfrance.com

I’d like to just add that in France the only person who is legally permitted to perform a civil marriage is an elected member of a municipal council. Any form of religious ceremony ( even a Catholic one) is purely symbolic and what’s more, the civil marriage cannot even be linked to a religious ceremony.

I have now developed my own style which evolves with every wedding. Everyone makes an enormous effort to travel to France, to look beautiful,to be funny and creative and joyful!
What a great job!

I was asked about 4 years ago to organize a ceremony for a friend’s funeral and a few weeks later my family asked me to do the eulogy for my own father’s funeral.
I’ve since done a number of non-religious funeral ceremonies for which I draw a little strength and wisdom from my practice of meditation.
In a way I enjoy doing this job even more than the weddings. It is the same kind of work, strangely. It’s much harder to perform , of course and it’s very delicate speaking to bereaved members of someone’s family and friends , but it gives me a great sense of meaning and I’m always profoundly grateful for the experience.

That’s about it in a nutshell for the moment.

With Warm Regards
Sandie