About Me, Jess May, Brighton Funeral Celebrant

About Me

Welcome to my About Me page! I'm Jess May, your very own Brighton Funeral Celebrant

Here is a little bit about me, Jess May, Brighton Funeral Celebrant and Brighton Funeral Queen! I haven’t always been ‘that woman with ‘the hair.’ I used to be ‘that lovely lady who goes to Church’. The truth is that I’m neither.

PROFESSIONAL STUFF

Jess May sitting with her arms and legs crossed with rainbow coloured hair facing the camera and surrounded by religious artefacts in various colours.

Welcome, I’m Jess and I’m so glad you found me. I am a double-award winning Civil Funeral Celebrant, passionately Queer-Affirming and fully accredited by The Fellowship of Professional Celebrants in 2013.

I have a First Class Degree in Theology and Contemporary Spirituality from The University of Birmingham and for over a decade I have been creating vibrant ceremonies for a diverse range of people. Check out my Google Profile to read my 79 five star reviews!

My portfolio includes all kinds of magnificent individuals. From highly regarded public figures including an internationally acclaimed MP Theresa Stewart, a High Court Judge to ‘the last coal man in the Midlands’. I also created a ceremony for a biker from The Devil’s Own (UK branch of the Hell’s Angels) alongside renowned artists and plenty of local legends. I have also created funerals for fascinating people whose stories would otherwise never have been told.

My rich and varied professional life includes working in Interfaith Relations for the Bishop of Birmingham, Project Management for a successful community campaign to win lottery funding from the BBC’s Restoration programme. Wonderful work with a much lauded Neurodiverse theatre company SPECTRA as a Creative Enabler, British Sign Language interpreting, Hospice Care and 11 years working in the largest Arts Centre in Europe.

I spent 10 years trying to become a Priest before becoming a Celebrant.  Read on to find out how that happened!

WHEN THIS BEGAN, MY SISTER WAS DYING. MY CAREER IS HER LEGACY

This is my late sisterJan when she was young. My career is her legacy. When she was 62 she was dying and she wanted her daughter to have a wedding.

Her daughter was not religious, my sister was both Christian and traditional.

Because she didn’t want to disappoint her Mum in her final months of life, my niece asked me to be her Celebrant. I went to train and that is how it all began.

 

A black and white photo of a white woman looking pensive.

MY NIECE ASKED ME TO BE HER CELEBRANT

A row of people at a ceremony watching a wedding. They are wedding guests. There are six of them and one is wearing a hat which is grey. They are all emotional.
  • My sister Jan is wearing the hat.
  • This is my first ever ceremony, ten years ago.
  • By this time I had also been trying to become a Vicar for a decade.
  • I believed that God had ‘called’ me personally to serve the Church.
  • My niece chose me for the job because I had experience of doing ceremonies in Church.

MY VERY FIRST CEREMONY

My first ceremony took place in The Algarve overlooking the sea.

My entire family were there and we all knew that it was the last big occasion my sister would ever attend.

It was the most beautiful ceremony and I realised that being a Celebrant was my life’s purpose because it brought all of us so much joy.

No one can ever take away the memory of this magical day.

Jess May conducting a ceremony in the Algarve. A bride and groom are seated facing her. she is wearing a green dress. The bride has a floral coronet and the groom wears a kilt. they are outside in a woodland.

EPILEPSY AND AN ALCOHOLIC FAMILY

Jess May with a black coat and brown frizzy permed hair. A young white girl smiling with an uncomplicated gaze.

For most of my life I was a very vulnerable person who felt a devastating sense of inadequacy despite living a privileged life with lots of love.

I come from a family plagued by addiction.

I was dangerously, chronically unwell as a child with migraine and epilepsy. I nearly died a couple of times.

My relationship with my Dad left an ‘applause vacuum’. I was desperate for approval and wanted a ‘role’ as a disguise.

I’m a creative, curious, compassionate lover of people who listens, writes and laughs a lot. That makes me and any other Celebrant great at the job but it is not the truth about why I do it.

 

 

APPLAUSE

A woman with dark short hair, she is about 30 and has a red feather rose on her shawl. She looks ordinary.

The embarrassing truth is that originally I was a Celebrant for the applause. I needed the affirmation and have actually spent the majority of my life seeking it.

To this day, whenever I hear someone being applauded for an award or achievement, I cry.

Even on Bake Off dessert week!

During lockdown when we applauded the NHS, I was an emotional wreck.

The reason why I continued to be a Celebrant is that I love and understand the need for applause. 

Things change and now I want to raise the roof for your person instead!

THINGS CHANGE!

A year after my first ceremony my sister and my Dad died within a week of each other. This photo of my sister, me and her daughters is always out in our house.

The trauma of multiple bereavement changed my relationship with applause and approval seeking because it allowed me to find out who I was. It also taught me to ask for help.

In the Church, the funeral service includes the words ‘well done my good and faithful servant’ from The Gospel according to Matthew. I really wanted to be that good and faithful servant. Now that I know that I am not, I’m a much better Celebrant. In the end, I left the Church and stopped trying to be good.

 

4 women. two are wearing sunglasses. all are white. one is wearing a red coat. all are smiling

DECIDING TO SHINE

Jess May wearing a cream coat with fur cuffs with rails of clothes. She is wearing diamante glasses and the  photo frame has Deciding To Shine written on it.

By the time I reached my mid-40s my Grandparents, my Mum, my Dad and my sister had all died. I was instrumental in creating my Mum, Dad’s and Sister’s funerals.

When they died I was forced to find out who i really was.

Although I loved them all, there were things I couldn’t say whilst they were still alive.

It is never too late. I wrote a letter to my Dad and placed it in his grave under the beech tree we planted for. him and my Mum.

I went for counselling and discovered my true self.

I stopped wearing grey, I left Church, I got divorced, I fell in love with Mrinal who was the first person to see me in colour. I discovered who i really was and emerged blinking into the sun.

I learned that being myself was worthy of applause.

I didn’t need applause from anyone or anywhere else after that but I really do want it for your person.

 

LIFE GIVING WORK

Helping your human to shine is my happy place. My joy is in working away to find out who your person was and when they were in their element.

Gathering your people together, sculpting a shared meaningful understanding of their life and your shared life, trying to create a ceremony that is fully ‘them’. That’s my HIGH, if I’m addicted to anything it’s that!

I can help you to celebrate YOUR CRAZY DIAMOND. The good the bad, the ugly and especially the downright bizarre.

I don’t create ceremonies because I think I know more than you about life or death.

I no longer think I’m ‘good’ or ‘nice’, ‘special’, ‘holy’, ‘self-less’ or ‘important’.

I have finally worked out that I’m none of those things, I’m something better than that; I am Human just like you and your person.

To find out more about my work and approach visit my blog page here: BLOG

 

Jess may at a ceremony holding a folder. she has brighton pink and orange hair.

THE FUN STUFF

two pieces of chocolate cake and two lattes in nice cups

There are some fools out there who believe that I’m ‘cool’! If you are still one of them, then you haven’t been paying attention or speaking with my friends! Standard middle-class, middle-aged pursuits I’m afraid! I don’t even drink and my most exciting discovery in Brighton is The Vegan Croissant. While you were all out there getting stoned I was reading the Bible! I was literally never cool and I mean NEVER. If you’re looking for ‘outdoor pursuits’, ‘three peaks challenges’ or any other kind of adrenalin seeking antics, move on. My favourite thing is probably laughing (and ‘dressing up’ OBVS). If you don’t believe me, read this!

 

  • Chic over-priced coffee shops with cakes I should try harder to resist.
  • Cooking sanctimonious plant-based feasts.
  • Pilates and running like a sloth.
  • People-watching and judging.
  • Going to Art exhibitions and festivals and pretending I know what’s going on
  • Beach walks (read ‘stroll’)
  • Sporadic crisis journalling
  • Cat lady/obsessive ALWAYS
  • Hugger when invited
  • Chatting and over-sharing
  • Workaholic
  • Drawn to cities and buildings, bored by the countryside 
  • Podcast listener and maker, ask me my faves at your peril.
  • Coffin Club Brighton collaborator
  • Independent cinema and embarrassing ‘warm-milk’ TV that I should really give up.
  • Aspiring to be a person that calls myself a ‘READER’

VALUES, MISSION, VISION

VALUES 

EMOTIONAL HONESTY

COMPASSION

CREATIVITY

CURIOSITY

COURAGE

COMMUNICATION

MISSION 

HELPING PEOPLE TO SHINE

IN LIFE AND IN DEATH

 

VISION 

REAL CEREMONIES FOR UNREAL TIMES

 

A woman seated on the beach with an orange journal and a turquoise jacket.

LOVE FROM FRIENDS

lots of quotes from people who love Jess. They all say that she makes them feel like the most special person in the world

Compliments are gifts and I receive them with gratitude. But ask anyone who loves me and they’ll tell you they love me for my shadow side.

I have many faults, including a savage sense of humour given to me by my Dad.

I’m  also a terrible person really. For example:

If I see a person go to a supermarket in dressing gown and slippers I’m appalled.

If you serve me rocket or raw pepper on my food I’m outraged because it is always uninvited and innappropriate. The same goes for passion fruit.

I judge people who watch Love Island or drink coke even when they’re my friends.

I struggle to embrace new linguistic developments. I’m fed up with every menu having something ‘smashed’ or ‘pulled on it and no one asked my permission. Also why is everyone constantly ‘smashing things out of parks’ and ‘nailing things’ these days?

I’m the queen of the faux-pas and most of my friends have dined out on them for years.

I’m rubbish at ‘meditation’ and ‘manifesting’, both of which I find deliver mixed results.. I mean the list goes on and on….but I also don’t know when to stop talking…..

 

 

“I can help you to bring back the good memories, bring them back in the room one last time, help you to move away from painful visions of last moments.”

Jess May

Brighton Funeral Queen, Crazy Diamonds Funerals

a black and white photo of a white woman and a white man in the background. The woman has a fedora and maracas and is wearing a floral dress. she is carefree and laughting

Thanks

To my Mum who gave me all she had.

To my Dad who was not a natural parent but made an excellent comedian.

To my sister who taught me the power of decent lipstick and nail polish