A celebration for all occasions

A celebration for all occasions

By Jack Hayes

It isn’t often that the well-bandied phrase “everything happens for a reason” rings so true in describing a person’s life. Still, for Yarra’s Edge resident and newly registered celebrant, Petra Harmer-Shrowder, it is nearly impossible not to think of any other.

In 2017 Ms Harmer-Shrowder was preparing for what was to be a beautiful celebration for her dearest friend’s 50th birthday on Bedarra Island.

Little did she know the circumstances of that trip would alter her life in ways she would never imagine.

Ms Harmer-Shrowder’s friend confided in her that the festivities would not only include a significant birthday milestone, but the news of her engagement to her partner to surprise the 18 other attendees.

“Sadly, approximately 10 days out from when people would fly in from around the world her intended lost his fight as his body went into rejection of a lung transplant he had had eight years earlier,” Ms Harmer-Shrowder said. “He had to go into an induced coma, and sadly he passed away. My girlfriend was heartbroken and talked with me at length as she was uncer- tain what to do.”

“As she was not married to him, the cultural traditions that ensued were managed by his family, and she was unable to be included in them.”

Equipped with professional event manage- ment training, Ms Harmer-Shrowder took it upon herself to turn this sadness into a cele- bration of life by creating a barefoot memorial ceremony on the sands of the island.

Ms Harmer-Shrowder organised the entire ceremony from a biodegradable wreath of frangipanis to a photo reel and ceremonial booklet.

“Upon reflection, I realise that this was the start of my career as a celebrant, and I haven’t looked back,” she said.

Since those fateful days in 2017, Ms Harmer- Shrowder has been gaining further knowledge and recently she has become a Commonwealth registered marriage celebrant after studying at The Gordon TAFE in Geelong.

Her formal accreditation and training sought a way for Ms Harmer-Shrowder to launch her own business; PH Celebrants.

Although she admits starting a new business during the grips of a global pandemic has been incredibly challenging, Ms Harmer-Shrowder has nothing but optimism for her foray into the world of celebrancy.

“I want people to know I’m here and available, and to educate people as to what a celebrant is. I’ve realised a lot of people don’t understand what a celebrant is and what they do,” Ms Harmer-Shrowder said.

“We write a ceremony from A to Z and spend many hours with clients ascertaining what it is they want to achieve. From celebrating life, a recommitment to each other with a renewal of vowels, getting married or scattering of ashes, we are there for people whatever the circumstance.”

“I’m very open to celebrations of any kind and embrace all communities, whether it be LGBTQI+ or for cross-cultural partnerships; I think there is a lot to be brought into a ceremony, and it should be accessible for everyone.”

With the infectious optimism she exudes, it is easy to see how Ms Harmer-Shrowder has transitioned from a former public relations expert to newly-appointed celebrant.

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