Written by Loretta Jaunzarins, Pastor & Life-Cycle Celebrant
While affiliation with a religious organization has dropped dramatically over the past decades, studies show that most people still want meaning and ritual in life from the birth of a baby, to marriage or divorce, to the end of life. I’ve noticed this over my twenty years of being a pastor in a Protestant Christian denomination. People want Christian rites and rituals at the end of life and at their funerals, but they also want to celebrate their life in new and different ways. I have also been asked to perform marriages and Celebration of Life events outside of the four walls of the church building for people who consider themselves to be ‘spiritual, but not religious’.
This shift has resulted in the budding of Life Cycle Celebrants (LCC) who meet the needs of people in the “spiritual, but not religious” category, but anyone, for that matter. As I mentioned above, there are those who consider themselves an adherent of a specific religion, yet, want something different from what their religious organization will offer them. An LCC can meet that need.
The two most common ceremonies that the LCC performs are marriages and end of life. Those who can officiate at a marriage must be licensed in the jurisdiction in which the marriage is taking place. This can limit your choice of LCC, but you can still engage an LCC to help you create your marriage ceremony. I have performed marriages for couples of all ages and gender orientations.
One that often comes to mind is a ceremony from ten years ago for a couple in their 50’s getting married for the second time. They chose the Riverbend Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was a small ceremony and their guests gathered at the bottom of the grand staircase. They walked down the staircase together, hand in hand. She wore a lovely yellow two-piece knee-length dress/jacket and he wore a grey suit with a yellow tie and yellow rose boutonniere. Her flowers were yellow and white tulips and ranunculus. What a beautiful entrance. We gathered at the foot of the stairs surrounded by family and friends. I worked with the couple to create every aspect of their ceremony. When the signing was done we celebrated with a champagne toast. It was a joy to be part of the planning of this simple, yet elegant, ceremony.
End of Life/Funerals
Given that an end-of-life ceremony is outside the realm of the law, unlike a marriage ceremony, the executor or family of the deceased can create and host any kind of ceremony they would like. This is why, when you read the obituaries, you’ll find a wide range of plans from a huge funeral or other events (outside of the pandemic, that is) to nothing at all at the request of the deceased. While more and more people are thinking about how they want to celebrate their lives when they pass, I still sit down with the family of the deceased and start from scratch. I love to hear stories of the deceased which heightens my relationship with them. We talk about location, time, flowers, guests, reception, those practical aspects of the service/event. But then we need to talk about the wishes of the deceased, their worldview, spirituality and religious beliefs. When you have these deep conversations the funeral or celebration begins to come alive quite quickly and you know it will be just exactly what they would have wanted!
When you meet with the LCC, whether with the individual/family whose death is near or with loved ones afterward, they will help answer questions regarding burial options as well as ceremony options. The LCC will work with you to facilitate your ideas. Sometimes, the province or state in which you live does not allow for certain options. The Province of Ontario has increased option choices, especially with burial. You can be buried in a traditional cemetery, but you can also be buried ‘naturally’ at certain locations throughout the province. This is something you should explore and make plans for long before your demise.
Most LCCs take on-line or in-person courses and training to create and perform a great variety of ceremonies for all stages of life and for any religious or faith tradition. Expect to see more engagement of LCCs even though they are a relatively new service to the community. They bring fresh ideas for celebrations across the life-cycle.
Natural Burial Association
Certified Celebrants Association of Canada