My Story

As a Celebrant, I am a story-teller, so let me tell you my story...

How I Met My Husband

I received my bachelor’s degree from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.  There I met one of the most incredible women I will ever know - Roz Wilder, my academic advisor and professor.  She was a lively, whimsical, intuitive, and inspiring 70-(or maybe 80-) something year old woman.  One of her classes was a course called The Art of Play, in which Roz led us through an exploration of the role that play has in our personal childhood and adult lives, as well as the universal role it plays in society in regard to freedom, connection, adventure, creativity, innovation and development.  We studied the symbolism of fairy tales, the use of puppets and  masks, and performances and rituals across cultures.  It was an intellectually stimulating curriculum, and, to be honest, it was also downright fun.  We dramatized stories, we shared laughter, we took part in collective drum circles, we… well, we played.  This class changed my life, in more ways than one.

A few weeks into the semester, Roz told me in a one-on-one meeting, “I see something special happening between you and Justin,” a fellow classmate I had met in The Art of Play.  While I hadn’t even consciously acknowledged it to myself yet at that point, the all-knowing Roz was was right. In many ways, this class and Roz herself opened us up to love, and so that “special something” between us grew, and Justin and I fell for each other.  I daydreamed of marrying him someday.  As we studied rituals and ceremonies in our course, I learned that Roz was a Celebrant and it sparked something inside me.  Naturally, Roz performing our wedding ceremony quickly made its way into my daydream too.  

It was ten years later when Justin and I did in fact get married, and sadly within that time Roz had passed away... but we were married by a Celebrant and we honored Roz and The Art of Play in our ceremony because that was such a special part of our story.

Some Things I Learned in School

NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study gives students the opportunity  to design their own major, or “concentration,” by piecing together classes, independent studies and experiential learning to create a personalized academic experience.  My concentration was in Art as Therapy and my culminating senior colloquium was entitled Creation and Transformation.  In addition to The Art of Play, some of the most poignant courses I took in college were Rites of Passage into Contemporary Art Practice, Creative Strategies for Life and Art, The Meaning of Home, The Anatomy of Love, Creative Arts in the Helping Professions, and Alchemy & Transformation of Self.  Common themes throughout these courses included the act of creation, the journey, rituals, transitions, transformation, healing, making meaning, celebration, psyche and spirit, symbolism, the collective unconscious, the individual and the community, and the human experience.  It’s a long list, I know, but I have to acknowledge them all because through my interdisciplinary studies, I found more than a college education - I found myself and I discovered what I believe to be life’s spirit.

Working Hard to Make a Difference

I later worked for 10 years for a world-renowned company focused on enriching the lives of families with young children. I played an integral role in the critical decisions and operations that led the company to success from initial conception, through the first six corporate-owned locations, to then a major global franchise brand.  As the Vice President of Franchise Operations, planning and leading international franchise conferences, overseeing curriculum development, designing the company’s franchise training program, and being a key presenter at speaking engagements were among my many notable responsibilities.  

During my time at this wonderful company, I honed and exercised many skills that I still bring into my life on a daily basis.  Yet one of the most powerful things I learned was perhaps one of the most fundamental: if I believe passionately in what I am doing and if I give my work all that I have in me, I can do great things and make a difference in other people’s lives.

My Backstory & Basic Beliefs

I was raised by parents of different ethnic backgrounds and religions who made the unconventional choice to raise me in one religion and my brother in the other.  Our family always did things a little differently.  Growing up, we celebrated everything and embraced both the commonalities and differences within our family in our own unique way.  

While now as an adult I don’t associate with any particular religion, I have some basic and simple beliefs that guide the way I live my life. I believe in the power of love, and in kindness toward and acceptance of all people.  I believe in the importance of following your heart and working hard to do good on this earth and have a positive influence on those around you.  I believe that everyone has their unique personal history that makes them who they are, and I also believe that we are all connected in some way.  I believe we have an obligation to pause from our busy lives to acknowledge transitions and celebrate the good and the beautiful - committing to a life partner, welcoming a new baby into the world, settling into a new home... for those are the things that make this life truly awesome.

Given my upbringing, “out of the box” is pretty normal to me, and for that I am grateful.  Not that I have anything against the box - in fact, I quite like the idea of tradition and connection to a community of people.  I just found it in a different way (see Some Things I Learned in School, above).  To me, the most important thing is to live authentically and honor ourselves, and also hold the capacity to allow others to do the same.  If we can each do that - if we can all celebrate the things that makes us who we are - then we also inevitably find connection and can celebrate that too.

How It All Came Together

Justin was raised by parents of different ethnicities and religions too (as it turns out, the same backgrounds and religions as my parents), and also does not associate with a particular religion himself.  We have a shared sense of spirituality and the same deep-seated values.  Throughout our relationship, we’ve held on to traditions that resonate with us from our own cultures, and also have borrowed from others.  We’ve even created our own ways of celebrating - our family’s favorite is our Thanksgiving Day Dance Party!

When we planned our wedding, there was never any question that we were going to be married by a Celebrant, but working with a Celebrant to create our ceremony was more profound and moving than I could have ever imagined.  It rekindled that spark that was first lit back in college when I initially learned from Roz about the Celebrant profession.  I had now experienced firsthand the power of a personalized, authentic and meaningful ceremony, and instantly I knew I wanted to “pay it forward” and give couples and families that same experience for their big moments.

“Wanted to” isn’t the right way to say it… I needed to become a Celebrant. I felt it in my core. I realized, this is everything that I am.  So I trained at the Celebrant Foundation and Institute located in Montclair, NJ and received a double certification in Weddings & Ceremonies for Couples and Ceremonies for Children & Families.  I left my previous job and dove into full-time Celebrancy, focusing on weddings, vow renewals, mother blessings, baby welcomings, and house warmings.  It is an absolute dream come true to help others’ dreams come true.

This work comes naturally to me.  That is not to say I don’t work hard at it; I know that I have been entrusted with some of the most important moments of people’s lives, and I truly take that to heart.  I recognize the responsibility that comes with this work, and it as an honor and privilege that I fully embrace.  As a Celebrant, I feel most myself. I give each and every ceremony all of me, and nothing less.  

Epilogue

I know, that was a predictable ending, you already knew I became a Celebrant... but isn’t it a lovely story?  Now let’s celebrate your story

 

 

Danielle Giannone

Certified Celebrant & Wedding Officiant