Falkirk taxi driver Duncan ‘one of the first official Celebrants’
The co-founder of the UK Celebrant and Public Speaking Academy is newly back from an “unforgettable” trip to “one of the world’s biggest wedding shows” in Las Vegas - with a long list of new contacts.
Meanwhile Falkirk taxi driver Duncan Fleming has become one of the very first people in Scotland to receive an officially recognised qualification as a Celebrant, and has a fascinating career to look forward to.
What’s it all about?
In a nutshell, Anne Widdop and co-founder Morag Webster have spent seven years developing a wide-ranging business - Fuze Ceremonies - which aims to give people the chance to avoid unregistered, unqualified amateurs when they book a celebrant for a wedding, funeral, or any of several other obvious red letter occasions.
Duncan, meanwhile, worked in the public sector for more than 20 years before starting his own business - then after attending various Humanist ceremonies decided this was the career path he was destined to follow.
“I love meeting new people and using their stories to create unique and meaningful ceremonies”, he says.
“I worked really hard to achieve this (celebrant’s) Diploma and already have several bookings - it’s been an amazing experience and I am so glad to have taken this step into a new career”.
Anne also has a strong Falkirk connections, as “an ex-IBM director and chair of the project which built the Kelpies”, and sees Falkirk as a classic heart-of-Scotland area where countless families may be interested in what her enterprise has to offer.
Her basic pitch is that while celebrants were a fringe option a few decades ago enthusiasm for the concept has now mushroomed to the point where non-religious officiators are in continual hot demand for important occasions - especially weddings and funerals.
However personal experience of a funeral where the “celebrant” failed to appear - a disaster for all concerned - convinced her there was a crying need for them to be fully-fledged professionals.
“It was my aunt’s funeral and the celebrant didn’t show up because they had mixed up the dates,” she said.
“There is no way you can put something like that right, particularly a funeral, and there can be no excuse.
“Nobody should have to go through that, and we were determined to launch the sort of service where people would know they were in safe hands - that their service would be thoroughly reliable and professional”.
She says independent “celebrants”, by contrast, can be both uninsured and without any back-up.
So the firm’s training academy was launched, and Duncan is one of its first fully qualified successes.
The training course and centre are SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) accredited, and the first candidates started in May this year.
“We are the only organisation in Scotland offering a recognised qualification and only one of two organisations globally offering a recognised and accredited training course”, said Anne.
Fuze Ceremonies now has 40 Celebrants, operating mainly in Scotland, and now there are steadily evolving plans to enter the North American market.
“We have dipped a toe in that pond and found that the demand is huge”, said Anne.
She says the enthusiasm at the Vegas show for what her company is offering was overwhelming, because of the general level of interest in things Scottish and, crucially, accredited.
Scottish celebrants could soon be carrying out Scottish-themed wedding ceremonies in both the USA and in Scotland, and imaginative yet competitive packages are being developed to answer what Anne predicts could be soaring demand.
The business even has an “Elope to Scotland” department which caters for people hooked on the romantic imagery of misty glens, lochans and ancient castles.
Anne says this week’s experience in Vegas has outlined the extent of what might be achieved on both sides of the Atlantic - and, with professionals like Duncan on board, reckons the day of the professional Celebrant has well and truly arrived.