I will start this off by saying that many people, including myself, find the word ceremony a bit intimidating.
I am an event planner who specializes in celebration of life events. Many of my events take place in secular settings such as a private home, a hotel ballroom, or a community centre, to name a few. I work with many clients who connect with a multitude of faith and beliefs, and I do whatever I can to ensure they have the best experience possible.
Enter: Be Ceremonial
Be Ceremonial is a portal into ideas and options. It’s a place to go when you have no idea where to start but would like to include a special element or two to make the Celebration of Life more personal and meaningful. Be Ceremonial is full of accessible, creative, and non-denominational rituals that can be applied to any group, regardless of beliefs.
I find this tool incredibly powerful as an event planner; I can create a link and share it with my clients, inviting them to read through the rituals at their convenience. They can take their time understanding the rituals that are presented to them and choose the ones they connect with most. In a few cases, we have used it in tandem with a celebrant or ceremonialist, including Megan at Seeking Ceremony. The family gets to select which options speak to them and then the ceremonialist can use these to inform the ceremony creation. I have the ultimate privilege of watching a beautiful story unfold, collaboratively developed with the family.
In 2021, New Narrative was hired to create a celebration of life event for a phenomenal woman, R. Together with Megan, and with the initial guidance of Be Ceremonial, we designed a day that brought together a community to reflect on our R’s life and her death. We brought in Megan and began to craft the ceremony with the help of the App. Megan and I presented the app to the family, with a brief tutorial on how to use it, and asked them to pick out a few rituals they felt drawn to.
R died with the support of MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) several months before her September celebration of life. During the initial phase of planning, R’s family was adamant about sharing the story of how she lived, how she died, and all of the ripple effects her life had on this world.
At New Narrative, one of our core values is choice: our process is never prescriptive, rather we want families and planning groups to know the options that are available to them. This is how we use the app for our clients: we set them up with a ceremony link, review how to navigate the app or website, and then let them explore on their own. In some cases, they have gone on to choose other rituals for other important life events as well.
The ceremony we created was curated especially for R. We decided to include the Story Altar ritual from the the app, gathering her favourite ceramic pieces, pottery tools, art supplies, and photos. These were all placed on a special table at the front of the room, meant to ground our ceremony and provide a focal point for the day.
We added fresh flowers, her singing bowls, and lots of photos and keepsakes. The table was meant for displaying her special items, and became a popular spot for guests to visit during the reception
At the beginning of the ceremony, Megan lit a candle and the gentle hum of the singing bowl signalled to guests that we were ready to begin. After a few opening words, Megan led the group in a dedicated moment of silence. Guests were encouraged to think of this as a short meditation, closing their eyes and thinking about R and her impact on their lives.
After a few more tributes, a beautiful slideshow, and a final ring of the singing bowls, Megan extinguished the candle and introduced another ritual influenced by the App: a community art ritual.
R was an artist and a painter. We decided to pay tribute to her by taking a canvas from her art studio (primed by her before she died), placing some paint pens and markers on a small table beside the canvas, and encouraging guests to add a message of love, a hand drawn picture, or a special memory. All of the attendees were able to contribute to this one of a kind art piece, including her four grandchildren, who took up a special area in the corner.
We later learned that R’s husband took that painting and hung it up in his office in a prominent area. He told us that it is one of the most meaningful things he has now because it holds the love and memories that he and his community hold for his wife, R.
I am so glad we had the influence of Be Ceremonial. It was a invaluable tool because it gave the family a place to start and a plan to follow to create something special and meaningful.
Time and time again, I am blown away with the endless ceremonial options and the simplicity of a structured plan that any family or group can follow. One of the most underrated features of the service is the ingredient list, where the app takes all of your ritual ideas and creates a list of items that you’ll need to run your ceremony ~ from start to finish.
It’s similar to a meal planning ~ you have a broad understanding of what you want to eat, then they help you choose the specific dishes, leave you with a grocery list, and develop your plan alongside you.
Be Ceremonial has certainly affected the way I plan events and how I relate to my clients. It is a very easy entry into the world of ceremony and the language is incredibly accessible, even for the most skeptical of clients. I know that when a community starts to think about a celebration of life as a Ceremony, the experience is elevated and you can clearly tell how hard both Megan and Johan have worked in crafting a seamless and meaningful tool that have touched so many families and the people who are supporting them.