The Celebrant Collective Celebrant Retreat – Malaga, Spain, 2018

By Natasha Johnson

December 3, 2018

Celebrant Collective retreat, celebrant development, Celebrant retreat, celebrant training

When I first started to put plans together for the Celebrants Collective in early February 2017, one of the things that went straight to the top of my list, alongside creating an educational membership platform, was the idea to have a retreat for Celebrants. There was no umming or ahing or wavering about it, it was something I knew that I had to absolutely make happen. I was so excited by the idea of it that I wanted it to happen there and then, but in fact had to wait another 20 months to see it materialise. But it was so worth the wait.

For me personally, like never before, these last few years have seen such a wonderful rise in connections with other Celebrants from all over the world. The starting up of the Celebrants Collective facebook group and then the membership platform, has introduced me to so many amazing human beings and Celebrants. However, I knew there would come a time where I would want to exchange these virtual connections for some real, in-person ones and I’m so glad that I had the foresight to start the ball-rolling.

And so we came together, 13 Celebrants from the UK, Spain and Ibiza, The Netherlands and the USA, for two days of education, connection and inspiration at the stunning Alhaurín Golf Hotel in Alhaurin el Grande, Malaga. As well as having the pleasure of being joined by all of the attendees, it was fantastic to have onboard Terri Shanks, the founder of the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants and Marie Burns Holzer, Marriage Minister extraordinaire and Wedding Business Coach, as two of the three retreat speakers and workshop leaders.

Day one started off with me giving a wonderful warm welcome to everyone and introducing my idea and context for the retreat. I really honed in on what it means to retreat and drew on my own experiences of having been on previous yoga retreats and how they influenced me so much for this retreat. I wanted to try to recapture those life-affirming, rewarding experiences with our own Celebrants’ retreat, minus the downward facing dogs and headstands!

After my welcome, Terri led a fantastic opening talk, which saw all of us taking part in an amazing group sand ritual (how often do we Celebrants get to take part in a ritual for ourselves!?). It was one of the most profound experiences I have ever had in a professional development context. To be able to pour our energy, gratitude and intentions into a small bottle, along with the sand, was such a powerful thing to do. After each of us had collected up our sand and intentions into a bottle, we then poured the sand back into a collective bowl and after each workshop and talk we added more sand to the bowl to keep adding to our intentions and goals. And on the last day of the retreat, we collected up our blended sands, full of love, intention, energy and goodness and we each got to take our bottles away with us a permanent reminder of what we achieved over the two days, not to mention the bonds that were formed.

Terri also very interestingly took us on a journey of Celebrancy, looking at the origins of ceremony and ritual and bringing us up to the present with where we are now in terms of Celebrancy as a profession. It was fascinating, joining up all of the dots and seeing how everything connects.

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After our talks and workshops we made sure to eat our hearts out with the superb cuisine on offer by the hotel. We ate as much as we talked! If that’s something we did a lot of it was eating, talking and socialising. All so good for the Celebrant soul!

I enjoyed leading my workshop on how to attract our potential couples right from the outset, which was inspired by one of my favourite films, ‘Jerry Maguire,’ and the line, ‘you had me at hello.’

We also enjoyed a really productive hive mind session where each attendee had the chance to ask a question and for our colleagues to offer advice, tips, demonstrations – whatever was needed to provide answers, advice and solutions. And from that sprung some wonderful hand-fasting demonstrations, which I know we all found invaluable and which were brightly infused with ribbons and cords courtesy of Lorraine Hull and her wonderful collection.

Terri also led another fascinating workshop which encouraged us all to think beyond, births, deaths and marriages and to broaden they ways that we can serve our communities. It was hugely inspiring. By the time that day one of the retreat had come to an end, we had thoroughly earned our delicious tapas buffet to finish off the evening.

Day two started with the same energy and enthusiasm. Celebrants Collective Content Editor, Claire Bradford kick-started the day for us with a summary of what we’d done so far, with a look ahead to the rest of the day, again helping us set our intentions and aims for the day. Marie Burns Holzer led us through an LGBTQ inclusivity workshop which touched on so many important areas of running a wedding business, which both outwardly and inwardly promotes inclusivity of everyone, and every type of couple.

I also led another workshop on my favourite topic – blogging for business and fielded questions from attendees about how to improve their own blogs, which was very rewarding. This flowed really nicely into an open mic session with myself, Terri and Marie, where attendees were invited to ask ask anything they liked – and they did!

We finished off the educative side of the retreat with a truly impassioned and forward-thinking keynote speech by Marie Burn Holzer on the future of Celebrancy. Drawing on where we are now, and how we move forward, the room listened to Marie in complete silence (rare for Celebrants, right?). The profundity of her words had us fully engaged for the whole duration and it was such an enlightening and uplifting way to end the retreat. The perfect set-up for our paella party that followed.

Although I had had a really clear idea of what I wanted to achieve for the retreat, and I was quite positive I knew how I wanted to feel during it, nothing really prepared me for how I would actually felt during the retreat. The intimacy, the love, the generosity, the kindness, the support and the bonds formed, really were very special and so much more than I had imagined. As we stood together to close the retreat, we joined in a circle and collected up our sand and our promises. We carried out an impromptu ‘passing of the heartbeat,’ (thanks Lorraine for prompting and Sophie Colligan got a shout out for having previously shared the idea of this ritual in our Facebook group!). As we gathered around and said our thanks and goodbyes, we tried to withhold the tears that flowed. We tried!

What a magical two days, with a group of awesome human beings. Celebrants really do rock.

If you’d like to join us for our next retreat, make sure you’re on our mailing list or in our Facebook group to stay up-to-date!

Celebrants Collective Celebrant Retreat 2019


Special thanks to Simon Duggan Photography for capturing our retreat and his fantastic attention to detail. And to my super wedding colleagues and friends, Michael Soffe and Lauren Dibben of Andalucia Weddings, whose help in the planning, budgeting and setting up stages of the retreat was INVALUABLE! Thank you!

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About the author 

Natasha Johnson

Natasha is the founder and co-director of awesomeness at the Celebrants Collective, with her business wife, Claire Bradford. When she's not overseeing celebrant development and supporting the hell out of their members, she can be found drinking fabulous Spanish wine, dancing to Beyoncé and hanging out on her veg patch, sometimes all at the same time. She lives in Malaga, Spain with her two favourite humans, three dogs, eight chickens and two giant African snails. (Don't ask!)

  • It was wonderful spending quality time with like-minded Celebrants, learning from, and sharing with, each other. I feel as if I have made lifelong connections that will strengthen further. I am full of gratitude for the opportunity to take time out to reflect and grow – thank you Natasha for making it happen xxx

  • You really captured the inspirational, creative & bonding spirit of the retreat Natasha… as celebrants, we always try to add a little magic to ‘our’ weddings. Bring passioned colleagues together and special sparks fly all around!

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