Celebrant sisterhood – in the sunshine!

Just a week ago, celebrants from the UK, Spain, Holland and the US finally came together, after a whole year of excited anticipation, for the first Celebrants Collective Retreat in Malaga, Spain.

The very wonderful Natasha Johnson, creatrix of The Celebrants’ Collective, wanted the retreat to be just that – a stepping back, an opportunity to figure out where to go next and a chance to refill our cups after a busy wedding season. The tagline of the retreat was ‘education, connection, inspiration’ and boy, did it deliver on all of those in spades!

Situated at the beautiful, airy Alhuarìn Golf Hotel, nestled amongst the Andalucian hills and touched by some warm Spanish sunshine (much welcomed after some rather drab grey days in the UK), the scene was set. The sangria in the welcome drinks started things off with a bang the night before the retreat started, as celebrants arrived and were delighted to finally meet each other ‘in 3D’ as opposed to being online.

Guest speaker Terri Shanks, founder of the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants, started the retreat the next morning with a sand ceremony. We were all invited to go up and fill a little bottle with different colours of sand, which we then spent a while holding, whilst reflecting on what we were bringing to the retreat and what we wanted to get out of it. Then, one by one, we added our sand to a larger bowl and shared our thoughts. After each session over the two days, another bottle of sand was added to the bowl.

And what a packed two days those were! There were sessions on everything from blogging to inclusivity via the history and future of celebrancy; ‘hive mind’ sessions covering admin, outfits, website copy and handfasting techniques; group work creating ceremony outlines for intriguing scenarios; absorbing keynote presentations from Terri and the force of nature that is Marie Burns Holzer, an impromptu photo shoot as Simon the photographer offered to do some headshots and, above all, lots and lots and lots and LOTS of chatter. Celebrants, it would seem, never ever shut up (and I thought it was just me!!)

Sandwiched between the inspiration-heavy sessions, there was so much connection from the moment we arrived downstairs for (3 course!) breakfast to the moment we finally admitted defeat and went to bed (for some hardcore celebrants, this was at 4am one night…) and this full-on buzzing was fuelled by some seriously yummy food and a plentiful supply of wine.

The final session of the two days saw us going back to that bowl of sand we’d been adding to throughout the retreat and taking it in turns to scoop out a little bottle of the contents. By now, the colours had mixed and shifted and the sand visually represented the mix of talks, laughter, gossip, inspiration and friendship we had all gained. We all said a little about what we would be taking away with us. It got teary! A couple of people said that they would take their bottle with them as they travelled around or to each ceremony they did. Someone joked that we should forever be called ‘The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sands’, and you know, I think we will be.

As I sit sipping from my new Celebrants Collective mug (a present from the retreat, which has a satisfyingly huge handle…), it’s not just my tea that warms me up but the memory of that Spanish sunshine and the friendships that were forged beneath it. I think it’s safe to say we all came away with a large to-do list but a bucketful of inspiration and motivation.

Sisterhood of the Travelling Sands, we shared so much in those few days. Thank you for everything that you gave me. Apart from the cold germs – those, I wish you’d kept to yourselves…