Frequently Asked Questions about Once and the creation of ceremonies

Will you plan our whole day for us? As Secular Celebrants and Celebratory Artists we will work with you on any ceremony involved in your celebrations. We are not wedding or party planners but can use some of our time with you to facilitate choices and plans you are making for activities around your ceremony and the shape of the day.

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Are you Pagans or Humanists? No, Once is a secular organisation, this means our work is non-religious and that we do not adhere to any denomination or faith. In ceremonies we are happy to use imagery or texts based in any faiths that you feel a connection to, or none. As individual Celebrants we will be clear with you about what we are happy to read for you.

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Can we talk about our beliefs? Of course. We are a secular organisation with a strong philosophy about the world and the way we function in it. We feel it is very important that a ceremony reflects the beliefs of those the ceremony is for and see our role as facilitating our clients to find ways to express their beliefs.

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Is what you do legal? Under current legislation bespoke secular wedding ceremonies are not legally binding but are in no way illegal! To register a marriage in the eyes of the law (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) there are strict controls on what can be said or done, for example it is not currently possible to be legally married out of doors and there are limitations on time, place and content of ceremonies. A Once wedding ceremony can take place anywhere and be entirely planned to suit those getting married, it can be as traditional or as unusual as suits the couple. Most couples regard their bespoke ceremony as that which binds them together. However it cannot currently form a marriage contract in the legal sense. Many couples therefore chose to have their bespoke wedding ceremony and then quietly go to a Registry office a few days later, using the simplest format to register their marriage and obtain a civil marriage certificate as a secondary event, much like you register a birth or a death outside from the baby naming or funeral.

For all other ceremonies Once might be involved in there are no legal requirements. Anyone can conduct a funeral for example, and although local authority registrars now often offer baby naming ceremonies as part of their service, these ceremonies carry no legal weight.

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Are you funeral directors? We are not funeral directors but can work alongside a funeral director who is taking care of practical arrangements to organise a funeral ceremony for you.

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What qualifications do you have to do this? We have all trained with Sue Gill and Gilly Adams who have worked creating secular ceremonies and running rites of passage courses for over thirty years. Once have assisted Sue and Gilly in their work as Celebrants and co-edited the second edition of The Dead Good Guide to Funerals. We have chosen not to be trained as Interfaith Ministers or Civil Registrars to allow us the freedom to create completely bespoke ceremonies for our clients. Our years of training and work as participatory artists, theatre makers and writers lends itself to the creation and facilitation of ceremony, giving us the necessary tools to support all kinds of people and congregations creatively and sensitively at many different life milestones. Once are members of a wider community of Celebrants, keeping abreast of developments in the creation of ceremonies and legislation. For your peace of mind we each hold recent CRB checks and the company holds public liability insurance.

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