by Elaine Voci, Phd, Certified Lifecycle Celebrant
It’s August. It’s summer. And I have a screened porch. How do these three things relate to my world as a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant? Let me count the ways…
1. Parties held on a screened porch immediately command my attention and my creative party-planning interests and skills. They go together like strawberries and cream. The porch offers a casual and comfortable place in which people can break bread together, bug and mosquito-free. The setting naturally lends itself to carefree dining. It beckons us to come out of the house, find a place to sit and let the munching begin.
2. Summer meals can be stretched out easily into phases: appetizers; grilled foods; cool and refreshing desserts. Each phase can be enjoyed leisurely since we are now in the days of extended light where the sun sets later in the sky and you can freely move about without turning on a light to see your surroundings. A nice long dining experience, uninterrupted, dreamy and languid, like the summer itself.
3. Porch parties imply a degree of fellowship, relaxed conversations, and neighborliness that can’t be matched by more formal events. Like “come as you are” parties, porch parties invite people who don’t always have time to visit with one another to come and get better acquainted. The Celebrant in me provides get acquainted activities to help make that easier – colorful hand-drawn name tags for each person; pitch-in dishes labeled by the name of the dish and the chef who prepared it; and introductions of people to one another by sharing an interesting tidbit of their history. I may say, “Helen, this is Troy; he lives around the corner and works at Fairview Hospital doing some fascinating research. Troy, this is Helen and she bakes wonderful cookies like the ones on the table inside that she brought tonight.” 4. Celebrants oversee the process of how people come together; I make sure that we have an opportunity in the beginning to raise our glasses for some toasts. I encourage this process by leading the first toast and then inviting others to contribute their own. I make sure everyone has a glass filled with their beverage of choice, and I gather us together and announce that our party is about to get underway officially with a celebratory toast. I may say, “Here’s to the best neighbors in the world who make me feel grateful every day for living here,” and everyone cheers and raises a glass with a smile as we sip. This always leads to someone else giving a toast and it can go on for a while. When we are done, I invite them to start eating with the phrase, “Let the appetizers begin!!”
5. As the party winds down and reaches its natural conclusion, I gather us together before we part to offer a few words of thanks. I may state, “Thank you for coming over tonight. It’s been a wonderful evening to share with you. I have loved seeing your smiling faces, laughing together, and having fellowship with you, including all the stories you offered. I feel full – and not just with food, but with affection and warmth for being part of this special neighborhood.” That heartfelt and earnest commentary always generates more comments. This gives us closure to the event, and a warm feeling to carry home with us as we depart from each other’s company.
That’s what Celebrants do – they turn ordinary times into special ones. I have given themed parties including a “Hotdog Bonanza” and a “Pie Party” and a “Brats, Burgers and Blues party” (blues referring to blueberries featured in pies, coffee cake and muffins). You are limited only by your imagination! After a porch party, neighbors feel closer to one another; they feel like they have gotten to know one another, and they will look out for each other in future days. They will wave to each other when driving, and they’ll stop to chat more often now that they have met. They’ll feel a part of a cohesive and friendly community that brings a sense of belonging. It’s a wonderful way to share life’s journey.