Q&A with Christina Otterstrom-Cedar, Life Cycle Celebrant

You are a marriage commissioner, but you are also so much more. Can you share some of your services?
As a life cycle celebrant, I offer ceremonies for all aspects of life – starting with before a baby is born with bless-a-way ceremony to prepare a woman for birth, Welcoming ceremonies to celebrate a child’s entrance into the world, Naming ceremonies for any stage of life from babies to the octogenarians, Coming-of-Age ceremonies for young teens, Weddings/Hand-Fastings, Home Blessing/Cleansing, Cutting Ties/Divorce, Empowerment/Healing ceremonies, Funerals, and ongoing seasonal and monthly solar and lunar ceremonies for individuals, small groups and  communities. I also offer wild woman and Nordic mystery workshops that hold many challenging self-awareness ceremonies woven into the activities offered for the more adventurous soul.

Do you get interest from people of all ages and from all walks of life?
Part of what I love about being a celebrant is being able to meet a wide range of people, discovering what is important to them and providing an outlet for their dreams to materialize. Because I offer ceremonies which cater to all stages of life, I serve people of all ages. Different people are drawn to different types of ceremonies. People who are mainstream or traditional stick to weddings and funerals when seeking my services.

How did you get in this business?
I have been creating and facilitating community ceremonies for almost 40 years now. My mother and father introduced me to the power of simple ceremonies as a young child. I grew to understand the importance of using ceremony to mark transformative/transitional events to focus intentions and provide clarity. I was happy to keep my services to family and friends, but then five of my friends approached me separately and said they wanted to get legally married and wanted me to officiate. So, I expanded my life experience by taking a celebrant course to learn about different world ceremonies and facilitation methodology and applied to become a marriage commissioner. In essence, my desire to be there for my friends gave me the impetus to expand my services. I have never advertised because one wedding per weekend is all I want to officiate during the summer. I have achieved this simply through word of mouth.

Would you call this a career or a calling?
It is a calling, which has morphed into a song with many different melodies and rhythms that I enjoy and share. I feel honoured to be of service.

How do you prepare for each ceremony, and do your preparations depend on the type of ceremony?
My preparations definitely depend on the type of ceremony I am facilitating, with the intentions of participants foremost in my mind. For some ceremonies just having a strong intention and focus is enough, and I proceed intuitively. For more formal ceremonies, such as weddings and handfastings, I offer a free consultation meeting. I meet with the betrothed couple to get an idea of how they interact and the essence of their relationship. It also gives them an opportunity to see if I am the right fit for them before we proceed. I offer them three choices of ceremonies. One is the standard government service. The next is a selection of written words they can choose from to help them create their semi-personalized ceremony. For the third option, I give them a questionnaire that helps me to weave their own words into a personalized love story. These weddings can be very complex and creative. I remember one where the groom arrived by canoe to duel with his future father-in-law for his lover’s hand in marriage. They can also be short and sweet with only two other people in attendance. People who know me as a nature-loving free spirit are often surprised when they attend a very traditional wedding that I have customized for someone. I tell them my goal in creating ceremonies is to step aside and let the couple’s love for each other shine forth. It is their ceremony, not mine; hence, it reflects them. I always give the couple full editing privileges to adapt their ceremony as desired until it is exactly what they have envisioned.

Celebrations of life and memorials usually begin with a phone conversation then a family gathering, if possible. This gives me the opportunity to hear stories about the loved one and listen to their personal requests. The format of the ceremony, once again, depends on the needs and desires of family members and friends. I have been a celebrant for outside celebrations of life with over a thousand people in attendance. And, on the other side of the spectrum, I have led private ceremonies with only one person in attendance. It is very important for me that the celebration of life ceremonies I create reflect and honour the departed but also allow family and friends an opportunity to transition into a different reality, one without their loved one’s physical presence. Similar to weddings, family or significant friends are given full editing privileges to ensure their vision is honoured and needs are met.

What do you get the most requests for?
When I began and had young children of my own it was definitely bless-a-way and naming ceremonies. After I became a marriage commissioner it shifted to weddings and handfastings, expressing a couple’s love story. Older now, I still do bless-a-ways and weddings, but I have been doing more celebrations of life lately and find great purpose and honour in facilitating the sharing of an individual’s life story.

You offer pet ceremonies. Are pets especially tuned into what you offer?
Definitely. Animals are very receptive to the energy of ceremony. They also assist us in opening up to the parts of ourselves we have repressed or ignored. In a way, the word “pet” seems too limited because the animals involved – whether they be dogs, cats, goats or horses – are more like guides than pets. The power of connection extends beyond one species.

You also make art creations. Where do you draw from for these?
Whether it be visual art, or a performing art such as singing, dancing and drumming my inspiration usually comes when I am walking outside in the open air. Bare foot is the best – unless, of course, it is 40 below. In that case my dance may be quite energetic but very short.

What is the strangest request you have ever had?
I do not think of requests as strange. There are many reasons for the unusual. In my celebrant training, our group was asked what we would do if someone wanted to burn an expensive wedding gown. The other students suggested different options such as selling the gown or donating it. I was just concerned about how to make the fire big enough so that all the dress was totally burnt up. It didn’t seem like a strange request to me. It was just a request I had to honour if I chose to be their celebrant. The client’s journey and desire is paramount for me. If I can hear the unspoken intent not much seems strange.

What ceremony stood out as the one you would love to use as an example of what you do?
There have been so many memorable moments, but most are personal and confidential and not mine to share. One I can share though is from Matta Fest, a community celebration of spring I have facilitated every first Sunday of May for the past 20 years. It was held down at Dunvegan park and enjoyed by many from all walks of life. The memory is from about four or five years ago. All morning cold rain spit down on us, drenching our canopies and clothes as we scurried about finishing the last-minute details. I looked out at over 100 waterlogged people and realized it was 11 o’clock, the time for our opening ceremony. I took off my rubber boots and rain gear to stand in my bare feet on the soaked, spongey grass. I gathered our circle together with a drum, welcomed everyone and mentioned how important it was to accept all of Mother Nature’s moods, not just her sunny smiles. Tears were the river of life, and if Mama felt like crying buckets of rain, we could show our love to her by accepting her tears with gratitude. I then began to lead the song “We all come from Love and unto love we shall return, like a ray of light returning to the sun, like a stream flowing back to the ocean.”

Everyone joined in as one. As if on cue the rain stopped as we raised our arms to the sky and finished the first round of singing. At the end of the second round the clouds broke open to reveal a blue sky. On the third and final round of singing the sun beamed down. The grass steamed, creating a low mist. We all stood in awe, basking in the warmth of the sun. The tone of the day was set with gratitude. To me, that was a shared magical moment I shall never forget. It confirmed the power of ceremony to align intentions and create everyday miracles.