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Becoming an Entheos Celebrant and Solemniser

The first celebrant wedding I ever witnessed was back in 2017 in the beautiful Kippure Estate in Wicklow. I was mesmerized by how personal and relaxed the celebrant made the ceremony. It felt so real and romantic. The couple’s personalities shone through each ritual and we all left the wedding floating on air. That wedding ignited a spark in me. I wanted to provide that service, that warmth, that afterglow for couples myself.

And so began my celebrant journey. I initially trained with the IIOC online during lockdown. A course I thoroughly enjoyed as a starting point. I performed some symbolic weddings and I just knew this was the path for me. At this point I started looking into becoming a solemniser, a celebrant who can legally marry a couple. I researched many organisations, joined some of them and then left again. Something just didn’t quite fit. I began to think it was me. Why couldn’t I click with these groups? I had a very clear picture of who I wanted to be as a celebrant and the service I wanted to provide for families which didn’t include an exclusive view of any particular faith, lifestyle or belief system. I wanted to affiliate myself with a solemnising body who reflected what I believed to be important in my own life. So I left the solemnising search behind me on my pile of pipe dreams and went about my daily business.

That was until I found Entheos, earlier this year. One night, in front of the telly I decided to search celebrant training Ireland and there it was in all its glory. Entheos was founded by Karen Dempsey, aka, The Bald Priestess. A family celebrant and all round activist. ‘Entheos’ is the Greek root of the word ‘enthusiasm’ and means ‘inspired by the divine within’. A fitting name if ever for an organisation which encourages and celebrates diversity, understanding and acceptance. The bedrocks of my own belief system. Entheos Ireland was founded to serve people who have been ostracised, marginalised or otherwise left behind by traditional faith paths on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, nationality, parental/family status or any other reason. This ethos was screaming at me to read on. The Entheos website answered every doubt I had in my mind that this association was my best fit. I spoke to Karen on the phone and amid our discussion on education, pollinators and our national language, Gaeilge, we decided that Entheos was the community for me.

Under the guidance of Karen our training facilitates a safe space for myself and my colleagues to explore our own emotions and discuss the emotional perspective of each family we may come across throughout our celebrant journey. We tackle our own issues and invite open conversation about how a family’s faith, spirituality or aversion to either will mould and define their ceremony and its rituals. We are encouraged to accept everyone for who they are and are offered ways in which to provide the space for honest conversation. This is a training like nothing I have ever done before. It is neither prescriptive nor reductive, it has no written notes or templates, there are no rules or regulations other than a one hundred percent commitment to thank each and every member for their contribution to the training day and to learn as much as we can from eachother’s varied life experiences.

I started my celebrant journey as an individual but the bond I have with my fellow Entheos celebrants has helped me walk tall in the world. I have found a community of like-minded celebrants who I love meeting with to share stories and ideas. We are inclusive and open-minded, we are willing to go to great lengths to get you the ceremony and rituals you want with as much accessibility as possible for everyone present.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities Entheos Ireland has created for me. I can legally marry couples, I can help put loved ones to rest, I can welcome new family members and celebrate their milestones as they grow. And I can do all of this knowing that I have the support of a socially conscious community, who believe whole-heartedly that goodness lives within the individual.

Entheos has helped me believe in myself and my worth as a celebrant. The training I have received under Karen Dempsey has helped me to trust my inner voice and make brave decisions not only as a celebrant but in all aspects of my life. I will carry this community in my heart through every ceremony I lead. I will strive to leave every family and their guests with the afterglow I felt from my first brush with celebrancy back in Kippure Estate in 2017. And I will do all of this while representing myself in my truest form.

Choosing a Celebrant

Congratulations you are engaged! You have high-fived, shook hands and clinked glasses of exultation with your nearest and dearest. You’ve booked the venue of your dreams…..But now what? There are so many options for your ceremony you just don’t know which one is right for you and your partner. Well let’s start with the basics.

Symbolic wedding celebrations

Symbolic wedding celebrations are non-legally binding ceremonies where a couple can choose rituals and symbols to show their unity in marriage. Couples who choose to have a symbolic wedding celebration do not sign the legal marriage certificate on the day of their celebration. These celebrations are chosen for many reasons. A couple may have fallen in love with a celebrant who is not a solemniser (a celebrant with the official capacity to officiate a legal wedding) and so they choose to sign the legal paperwork with a HSE Registrar and have their wedding celebration in front of all their guests with the celebrant of their dreams. A couple may be coming from abroad to marry in Ireland and they choose to register their marriage legally in their country of residence instead. A couple’s dream venue may be the side of a cliff, the bank of a river or their very own back garden. None of which may meet the criteria for an acceptable venue for a legal marriage ceremony. Couples also choose symbolic weddings when they have had a legally binding wedding with a small number of guests but would like to perform some rituals such as handfasting or ring and vow exchanges to kick off their big wedding celebration day. A symbolic wedding celebration isn’t tied to any legalities and so this can allow couples more freedom in venue and officiant. Without the legal marriage certificate as part of the celebration there is also more time to add more rituals, readings, songs or whatever the couple’s hearts desire.

Legal wedding ceremonies

Legal wedding ceremonies are carried out by Registered Solemnisers in registered venues around the country. A legal wedding ceremony, depending on the choice of Solemniser, can look and feel very much like a symbolic ceremony with the all important addition of the marriage certificate. The solemniser, the couple and two witnesses sign the marriage certificate during the ceremony which is then sent back to the HSE by the couple to legally register their marriage. Legal wedding ceremonies are right for those who don’t want to split the rituals of their ceremony from the legal side of marriage. A legal wedding ceremony can be just as beautiful as a symbolic wedding celebration if you pick the celebrant/solemniser that’s right for you.

Choosing the celebrant or solemniser that is right for you

As you will be working closely with this person to plan your wedding you must make sure that they are the right fit for you and your partner. Do they put you at ease when speaking with them? Do you like their voice? Do they seem interested in your way of thinking? Are they helpful with ritual ideas and are they open to your suggestions for what would make your wedding truly unique to you both? Do they live close by so you can meet up with them face to face prior to the wedding day? Is that something that’s important to you?

Where to start

You can search for celebrants and solemnisers in many ways but here are some helpful sites where you can start the hunt for your perfect wedding officiant. Make sure to check out their Instagram or Facebook accounts. Watch videos they have posted and read their websites to get a feel for their personality. Make contact with those who jump out at you and book a discovery call. Good luck!!


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