Published: Tuesday, Apr. 27th, 2021
by Jessica Levey
“You can’t have an Irish funeral without a couple of Irish blessings,” Reverend Scarlett explains, “and a few shots of Jameson.”
She’s describing the last memorial she officiated, a laughter-filled celebration of a one-of-a-kind character and beloved coworker.
He was the kind of guy who was always ready with a one-liner, she explains. The guy who’d get people laughing and talking about their rowdy weekends on the warehouse floor on Mondays, before playfully telling them to ‘get back to work’ with a grin. He was a joker, a friend, a guy who loved a good time.
“And he always wanted a big Saint Patrick’s Day party,” she says, chuckling. “So we gave him one.”
She’d started the memorial by touching on the ‘tender’ side of things, but it wasn’t long before she shifted the tone. After making sure that everyone who wanted a drink had one, she started telling stories, reminding the crowd of those workfloor antics, those one-liners and quotes, and all the good memories he’d given them. Then she turned things over to the crowd, coaxing them to share whatever came to mind.
“Don’t wait,” she told them, “If something triggers a memory, stop me right there, and holler it out.”
And so they did -- for the next ten minutes, the crowd shouted out one-liners and stories, one after another, laughing together as they honored a friend.
Image via Instagram @reverendscarlett
Reverend Scarlett’s known for this sort of nontraditional memorial celebration throughout central Illinois and Indiana. When she’s hired for a funeral, she says, it’s usually for a fellow free spirit. Or the ‘Salt of the Earth,’ as she calls them, because they’re the kind of people who “add a touch of flavor to life.”
You know the type -- those fun-loving folks who don’t fit the usual mold, who live their lives on their own terms, and who maybe aren’t all that religious or into traditional types of ceremony. (They’re usually the same kind of people who choose nontraditional or offbeat weddings…)
And as she points out, these folks deserve to be remembered that way, too, authentically, with a ritual that reflects who they were and how they lived. That’s why she calls her services a Celebration of Life -- memorials that celebrate the way the deceased lived, not how they died.
Rev. Scarlett prepares for each memorial by conducting one-on-one interviews with the friends and families of the person she’s memorializing. She gathers details about what they were like, their sense of humor, the kinds of activities they enjoyed, what their values were, and then does her own research by searching out any other meaningful details online.
Using these stories to guide the tone and feel of her service, she prepares a loose script that reflects the life and spirit of the person being remembered. This is done in a way that’s very similar to personalizing the opening speech of a wedding script, or deciding how to tell a couple’s love story.
During the service, she touches on the solemn or tender areas that need to be acknowledged to help people grieve, and then lifts the mood with a handful of joyful memories and anecdotes. She always ends a service by focusing on the positive things that person was known for and the good memories they created for others.
Photo via Instagram @reverendscarlett
Rev. Scarlett says that leading memorial services comes naturally to her, even though she started her officiant career by conducting commitment ceremonies for members of the LGBTQ+ community (long before same-sex marriage became legal in all states), and still works as a full time wedding officiant.
That’s because like so many of AMM’s ministers, Rev. Scarlett’s past experiences prepared her perfectly for her current role in the community, in ways she never expected at the time.
Over the course of the past two decades, she’s been an advocate and educator in LGBTQ+ spaces, worked as a volunteer firefighter, as an EMT, and as a private ambulance driver, providing companionship for hospice patients as they traveled back and forth for frequent medical care during the weeks leading up to their passing. As an end-of-life caregiver for several family members, she also came to understand that joyfully remembering those who have passed away is a powerful part of grief work.
Now, Rev. Scarlett combines that lifetime of unusual skills and experience in an unexpected way, creating authentic memorials for people who lived as their most authentic selves -- the free spirits, the ‘wild children,’ the Salt of the Earth.
We spend a lot of time talking about wedding ceremonies here on the American Weddings blog. This makes sense... Wedding ceremonies (and wedding officiants) are awesome! And they’re our primary focus and passion.
But AMM Ministers don’t just marry people. When they choose to, their roles can extend much further, supporting their communities in important ways, and celebrating not just new beginnings, but endings, too. This deserves to be highlighted!
Ordination through American Marriage Ministries gives our ministers all of the same rights and protections held by ministers ordained through traditional brick-and-mortar churches. As an AMM Minister (or Reverend, Pastor, or Officiant, whatever title you choose), your right to conduct religious ceremonies of all forms is protected by the religious non-establishment clause of the first amendment. While many of our ministers only conduct wedding ceremonies, others also conduct baptisms, funerals, baby blessings, and other meaningful rites.
Learn more about what it means to be an AMM Minister by visiting our FAQ page.
‘Wild Child Reverend’ Scarlett Mullikin is a full-time professional wedding officiant based in Kankakee County, Illinois.
She runs Natural Element Ceremonies, an inclusive wedding officiant business serving North-Central Illinois and Indiana. She began performing commitment ceremonies for members of the LGBTQ+ and Polyamory communities in 2004, and was ordained through AMM in 2019.
Since 2000, Scarlett has volunteered within the LGBTQ+ and ECNM (Ethical and Consensual Non-Monogamy) communities as an advocate, educator, and life and relationship coach. She continues to do charitable work as a member of the Red Knights MC (a firefighters affiliated motorcycle club) and the Mad Viking Beard Club, and walks a personal, nature-based path of Eclectic Pagan spirituality.
She describes herself as a big-hearted Biker Chick & Mama Bear for LGBTQ+ kids.
Follow her wedding adventures on Instagram.
Photo via Reverend Scarlett Mullikin
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