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Junior Leader Training -- White Stag Leadership Development

Planning Ceremonies

For maximum effectiveness, ceremonies must be planned and rehearsed. When planning a ceremony:

  • Keep it simple and short. Cut the long speeches. Ceremonies have more impact when they are kept to the point. Make them impressive, dignified, simple, sincere.
  • A ceremony is not the same as a religious service. It is inappropriate, given the many different beliefs present in participants, to make it religious. (Scouting does require a belief in God, which we should support through a Scout's Own service on Sundays.) A ceremony can encourage participants to believe in God and to have reverence and respect for life.
  • The location and setting ought to fit the mood that the planners want to achieve.
  • Music, especially songs, can significantly affect the mood. The music must be planned and appropriate to the occasion.
  • Each of the people helping to present the ceremony must know exactly what he is doing and when to do it. A rehearsal makes a huge difference.
  • Use variety in your ceremonies. Don't present the same kind of ceremony repeatedly. Keep ceremonies fresh by making them relevant in some way to the individuals for whom the ceremony is being presented.
  • Know the difference between sentiment and sentimentality.
  • Long faced solemnity is not always the desired mood for a ceremony. Humor may have a quiet dignity running through its lightness.
  • Ceremonies can be dramatic, inspiring, and colorful, and they should help participants feel more connected to other group members and a part of the group.
  • Every ceremony needs to have a plan and a goal. Organization is vital to the effectiveness and success of the ceremony.
  • A ceremony belongs to the group. It ought to be planned to suit the needs and the abilities of the participants.
  • Use ceremonies to promote a better understanding of the group aims, ideals and responsibilities.

Have a Clear Goal

List the characteristics of the group members who will attend. Write down the reasons for the ceremony and develop a clear goal. If the ceremony is to give participants a token of some kind, be conscious of what the token is supposed to mean and why it is being given. Communicate this clearly during the event.

Location, Location

Remember that the setting is one of the most important factors affecting the success of the ceremony. Choose a location that:

  • Limits the likelihood of disturbance by others
  • Permits all participants to view the proceedings
  • Fits the size of the group
  • Permits people to stand or sit as needed
  • If a fire is desired, is fire-safe.

People ought to be comfortable watching the ceremony. You can't keep their attention if they're worried about falling off the side of a hill.

Keep a Smooth Flow

The ceremony ought to flow easily, with a definite, although inconspicuous, structure. The ceremonial master of ceremonies needs to be well-organized. The event should be well-planned and rehearsed, and the agenda clear to everyone who is helping with the ceremony.

Allow ceremony participants and leaders to express their personal thoughts, if appropriate. Be careful, because this can take a considerable amount of time. Use ceremonies to enhance group experience and to add to the depth of thought and feeling. Develop a sense of group consciousness. Encourage development of meaningful values.

Practice, Practice

If possible, go to the actual site of the ceremony and practice there. If you're including a potentially difficult stunt, like remotely lighting a fire, try it out a few times until you are confident it works without fail. Get all of the ceremonial leaders or actors together and rehearse your movements. Time how long it takes to actually perform certain events, as this may alter your decisions about what you will do.

Nothing jars a ceremony and disturbs the mood you are trying to create than to have something go obviously wrong. Make sure you rehearse with all of the props and materials needed. The details are essential to the complete mood of the ceremony.

Have Everything on Hand

Print song sheets for all songs if they are not known or if there is not time to learn them. Give song sheets to the participants if they do not know the words; this helps them feel more involved in the ceremony. Create a check-list of materials as well as a written plan. Lastly, be flexible; each ceremony can be a unique and special time.