Emily Rawlinson is an award-winning Independent Celebrant. She lives in Marlborough with her husband Gus, and their cat Holly.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Seaford in Sussex, by the sea. After University I started a career in Social Care working with vulnerable adults. Over ten years I worked my way up to managing several care homes, but by that time had become disillusioned with the job. When I started, it was all about the people, but over time as government cuts started to bite, the focus was on money, which I felt was untenable.
I was rather stressed, and decided I needed a complete change – I decided to train to teach English as a foreign language, and after I qualified a job came up in China, and off I went. I was based in Huizhou in Guangdong Province – a bustling city. I had a fantastic time there teaching children between 4 and 16. It was an interesting experience being “different” as a Westerner with blue eyes and a “big nose”! Being stared at a lot took a some getting used to.
I came back to the UK in 2014 for my sister’s wedding, and sadly my father died suddenly soon after. This changed things and I decided to stay at home permanently as I wanted to be near my family. An eventful year in many ways, I also met Gus in 2014. Soon after I embarked upon my career as a Celebrant.
What inspired you to become a Celebrant?
My sister wanted to get married on a farm, which didn’t have a licence for weddings (unsurprisingly). She decided to get married legally in a low key way, and then have a wedding on the farm. She asked me to conduct the celebration (she said she wanted to be sure I came home from China!). I did some research on how to go about it, and really enjoyed the experience of the day. My research showed that people did this as a job, so I decided to train as an Independent Celebrant. I soon became a member of the Association of Independent Celebrants, which is lovely as it means I can keep up with what is happening in the industry, and meet others who do the same job as I do.
What does an Independent Celebrant do?
Essentially, I officiate at ceremonies that celebrate special times in people’s lives, both happy and sad. So weddings, civil partnerships, naming ceremonies and funerals, I have even conducted a ceremony to welcome an adopted child into a family.
The ceremonies are not legal – so any legal requirements for weddings or civil partnerships need to be done separately. (I always advise my couples to treat this as a celebration too, as most people find it has more of an impact than just signing a piece of paper)
I work with couples and families to find out what they want, and what they want included as part of their ceremony. Often couples will use a celebrant because they want to get married in a particular place or time that wouldn’t be possible with a registrar. Also, they want a bespoke service that is unique to them and not subject to time constraints. Often people are not particularly religious, but if they want to include elements from their religion I am happy to accommodate that if I can. I have done handfasting ceremonies, wine ceremonies – I’m open to discussion.
What was your first ceremony?
It was a wedding – I was contacted by a couple whose planned celebrant had to pull out through illness and they were getting married the following week! Not only that, when I arrived for the initial meeting they didn’t turn up – their house had flooded, and they were dealing with raw sewage. It turned out well in the end – as it was such a short timescale I didn’t have time to get nervous. Luckily, things go much more smoothly normally!
Is there a typical person that would use a Celebrant?
I don’t think so, although in the Summer I do find myself around Tepees, in woodland or fields a lot! That said, this weekend I am conducting a wedding at Hedsor House, a grand venue in Buckinghamshire where everyone will be wearing Black Tie – so there’s a huge variety of people.
What sort of person do you think you need to be to be a Celebrant?
You need to be calm under pressure, able to exude serenity whatever is going on! It’s important to be solution focused, not problem focused. It’s absolutely essential to like people of all sorts, and care about making their ceremonies special.
It’s also important to be detached, without being uncaring. The last thing anybody needs is for their celebrant to be overly emotional – you’re there to ensure that the subject of the day is the focus, not you. This is especially true at funerals, but for all ceremonies I practice ahead of time, and ensure I know all the music etc so that I know what to expect and am ready for it.
Writing skills are vital too, as I need to be able to write a script for each ceremony particularly suited in style and content for that event. For weddings I often need to give tips to the happy couple for writing their vows, most people have never done anything like it before.
You recently won an award, tell us about that
For the last two years, Civil Ceremonies Ltd has run a Celebrant Convention to which all celebrants are invited. They run annual awards, and I entered Outstanding Celebrancy Practice for Family and Couples. This involved being nominated by the couples and families that I had worked with over the past year, which happily they were delighted to do. It was a huge honour to win, and completely unexpected as there were a lot of entrants.
Have you ever had to deal with any major problems?
Luckily, nothing too major. I’ve had forgotten bouquets, wardrobe malfunctions, punctuality problems, and once had to deal with a very noisy cement mixer delivering to a construction site nearby at precisely the wrong moment. (Sometimes you just have to wait a few minutes!)
Any unusual ceremonies?
I’ve married a couple at the top of a mountain in Spain. Keen paragliders, the plan was to paraglide down the mountain afterwards, but unfortunately the wind was in the wrong direction. That wedding was delayed because on the morning of the big day the mountain was shrouded in mist. Once it cleared the weather was absolutely beautiful and the location was amazing – despite no paragliding!
Another involved a couple who wanted to renew their vows on their tenth wedding anniversary. Nothing unusual in that, but they were admirers of the Addams Family and had decided to dress as Morticia and Gomez for the ceremony. They asked if I would enter into the spirt, so I conducted the ceremony dressed as Wednesday Addams. That was different, but very enjoyable.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I used to be very keen on paragliding (the couple on top of the mountain were friends of mine), but unfortunately after a nasty skiing accident at the beginning of this year where I broke my hip, I’ve been advised not to do that anymore. I still enjoy kite surfing though, which isn’t quite as risky. I also enjoy going to the gym, and go to the Fitness Studio in Marlborough.
I enjoy spending time with my sisters and nephews and nieces, who range in age from 18months to 11 years old.
When I get chance I enjoy a visit to Rejuvenesce in Marlborough, they do a lovely facial.
Do you like shopping locally?
I love Marlborough High St, it has a great range of shops, and is always bustling. I love a good browse in the charity shops, and often pick up a bargain.
Where do you like to eat out?
We love Number 7 on Kingsbury Street, and also enjoy eating at The Marlborough, near St Peter’s Church.
Do you enjoy reading?
I love reading, and often it can provide inspiration for my writing. Not so much the latest book I’ve read though, it was a psychological thriller – A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell. I’d recommend it as it had lots of twists and turns and kept me guessing.
What about music?
I confess to being a Robbie Williams fan – I’ve been to see him in concert a few times over the years with my older sister. It’s interesting how the audience has changed over the years. I also love Michael Bublé, particularly at Christmas.
What do you like to watch?
At this time of year you can’t beat a good box set on Netflix or iPlayer. Recently we’ve watched the American comedy The Good Place, and have enjoyed dramas like Killing Eve and The Bodyguard.
Plans for Christmas?
I love Christmas – I always get the biggest tree possible, and love lots of lights and candles. Last year we did Christmas here with my family so was lovely and social. I love giving presents, and making a traditional Christmas cake (even though not that many of my family eat Christmas cake!) I love the joy of the occasion, can’t wait for this year.
If you would like to find out more about what Emily does you can contact her on Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 07507 136280 or visit her website