From Service To Ceremonies: meet the Army veteran turned self-employed Celebrant - X-Forces Enterprise
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From Service To Ceremonies: meet the Army veteran turned self-employed Celebrant

Gill Charlton, a military spouse and a veteran, served 24 years in the British Army but swapped service for ceremonies to forge a new career as a Celebrant.

Gill’s time in the military saw her serve in the Royal Signals, the Intelligence Corps, and the Adjutants General Corps as part of the Army Welfare Service. She is neurodivergent and a survivor of both cancer and PTSD, but far from dwelling on the past she is always on the lookout for opportunities to use her experience to support others through the power of storytelling. In her capacity as a Celebrant, the telling of other people’s stories is crucial as she marks the major milestones of life.

For those not familiar with the term, Celebrants perform wedding/civil partnership celebration ceremonies, vow renewal ceremonies, naming ceremonies, and celebration of life ceremonies. Quite the career change from the Army!

Gill explains: “I trained to be a celebrant as part of my military resettlement, completing two diploma courses part-funded by my Enhanced Learning Credits. Celebrancy was an area that I was interested in but I initially planned to secure a full-time management role once I left the Army and work as a Celebrant occasionally. During my last year of service, I was fortunate to have an excellent careers advisor from the Career Transition Partnership and to be offered free mentoring from the Invictus Games Foundation. Working closely both I was able to re-focus my career goals which led to me choosing to set up my own business as a Celebrant.”

In the last decade of her military career, Gill worked in a therapeutic and social care role, supporting vulnerable members of the military community, and recognised that the skills she developed provided an incredible foundation upon which to start building her own business. We’re thrilled to say that X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) played a role in Gill’s self-employment journey through our Start Up Skills course and Business Continuity Masterclass, both supported by Army Benevolent Fund.

“I was lucky to have access to training opportunities delivered by XFE,” Gill enthuses. “These provided me with an insight into the fundamentals of small business ownership and connected me with other veterans on similar journeys. This in turn gave me the confidence to go forward with my decision.

“Running my own business gives me flexibility to manage my time around existing family and personal commitments, which is really important to me, particularly with the additional challenges of being a service spouse.”

 

As a professionally trained, independent Celebrant, Gill creates and delivers bespoke, personalised ceremonies. As she’s not tied to any religion or formal legal requirements, the ceremonies can be as traditional or unique as her clients wish. Unlike traditional ceremonies Gill’s are free from any time, location, or content restraints, allowing her to offer a flexible, inclusive service that meets the needs of her couples and families. It sounds like an incredibly fulfilling vocation, but Gill has had her fair share of hurdles along the way:

“The biggest obstacle I have faced is that I have spent most of my adult life in the Army and have had no exposure to the private sector or business ownership at all. Knowing ‘where to start’ was a huge obstacle and I’m unsure whether I would have done it at all without the support I have received along the way from XFE and other organisations. After two decades of military service, I started my business whilst going through a process of transition that included managing the loss of my identity as a soldier. However, I am my own product now and I have really enjoyed building my brand around my own fun-loving, outgoing, and quirky personality.”

In closing, we asked Gill if she had any words of wisdom to share with members of the Armed Forces community considering entrepreneurship. She offered the following bon mots:

“Asking for help and advice where needed is a strength, not a weakness. Also, seek out networking and training opportunities to gain access to peer-to-peer support and identify ways to be held accountable for the decisions you make to prevent drift and mitigate the risk of silo thinking, both of which can negatively impact a business.”

Learn more about Gill’s business:

Website: www.gillcharlton.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GillCharltonCelebrant

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/gill-charlton-celebrant

Instagram: www.instagram.com/gill_charlton_celebrant

 

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