FOCUS catches up with born and bred local, Peter Howe, as he talks about his passion for being a Celebrant and more …
How long have you lived in the area? Tell us about your family …
I was born in Armidale and have lived here all of my life. Being a local and having nurtured many friendships and acquired many valuable colleagues during my working life, serving the community in my role is a daily honour and privilege. My parents were local and raised nine children. Mum was an active member of the Church, St Vincent de Paul and Legacy. Dad spent many hours tending both the hospital and Teacher’s College vast gardens. The depth of their community involvement was a great inspiration, and I am ever grateful for the example they set to be actively involved. I have two older sons. My wife, Joy, and I have two daughters.
When and why did you become a Celebrant?
After over 30 years in the retail sector, with the primary focus on providing customer service, I made a career change and started work as the Accounts Manager with Piddingtons. Soon after, an opportunity arose to fulfil the role of Principal Celebrant with the Company. That is where it all began.
Many people then asked why I didn’t celebrate weddings – something I hadn’t thought about. After enough persuasion, I decided to do the Marriage Celebrant Course, and that’s how my totally celebrancy began.
What type of ceremonies do you do?
I celebrate weddings, officiate at funerals, commitment services, renewing of vows and naming ceremonies. Having also completed my Certificates in Grief Counselling in 2014, I am able to assist those who have suffered the loss of a loved one and may be struggling.
Your family are also involved in some of these functions; tell us more?
My daughter, Bridgette, manages the music and PA System. She ensures that once the couple have chosen the music, it is downloaded and available for immediate use. She accompanies me to all wedding practices and the actual ceremony and controls the PA system, making sure the microphone is at the right volume and the music is played at the correct time. This is vital and timing is crucial, as it sets the mood and affects the whole ceremony. Bridgette is very professional and pedantic. Sometimes it feels like I am working for her! Monique attends Macquarie University, Sydney, but eagerly assists in all aspects of ceremonies when home.
Joy ensures all of our equipment is clean, highly presentable and is my chief editor. She has an artistic flair and great eye for detail. Everything from the paperwork to the signing table is just right. We use relevant props such as doves, a feather quill pen, a framed romantic quote and beautifully adorned chair covers to add to the bride and groom’s special day. Joy also prepares the special keepsake folder of the ceremony and covers desktop publishing tasks.
How would you describe the feeling of being a part of these special ceremonies, and what do you love most about what you do?
It’s actually very humbling and very rewarding to become so close and be part of people’s lives. People remember the way you treat them and the way you make them feel, and always of how you deliver the service; they know you genuinely care and are concerned about what they want. With regard to funerals, I treat people as I would like to be treated – particularly during such a difficult time, when emotions are running high. I find it an honour to be chosen to help give a beautiful and memorable farewell to a loved one – to capture and highlight the important things they treasured in life to showcase their life in the short time span of a funeral service. How many times have we thought we knew someone so well, to learn an amazing fact about their life from a eulogy?
Weddings are such a special celebration; again, it is an honour to be the person “out the front”, assisting couples, being part of this special time in their lives. I have met many lovely people and witnessed this important event as two young lives start this unique journey together.
Tell us about some of your fondest moments over the years …
The best part is being able to help and relate to people. All the ceremonies I do are milestones in people’s lives – all memorable, some happy and joyous, some sad. Just being able to help people, even organising a funeral – I spend as much time talking to the family and make it a celebration and thanksgiving for the person’s life, thus making each ceremony personal. This comforts families and takes as much pressure off them as possible in their sadness; this they really appreciate.
As for weddings, it’s their special day and to see the couple from the first meeting to their day of marriage is very rewarding. All ceremonies are rewarding; a lot of satisfaction is gained from being part of these events. People are very appreciative, and I am constantly in awe at their responses.
Plans for the future?
As long as I am able, I will continue what I am doing, to reach and assist as many people as I am able. To travel further afield, maybe celebrate interstate – widen my circle.
To hone and update my Celebrancy skills to consolidate my expertise. To grow my business.
To continue to be part of people’s lives in an active way. To be able to give the answer to everyone who asks the questions: who am I serving? Who am I being good to? Who am I lifting up?