LOUISA Starr's latest funeral service is one she will remember for years to come.

The deceased was a Star Wars fan and his family wanted that reflected in the service - the date of the funeral could not have been more apt: May the fourth.

Louisa said: "The family loved the script as it started 'A long time ago in a galaxy far far away...' and I kept it like a Star Wars story all the way through."

Louisa knew she had done her job well when, afterwards, the deceased's mum wrote to her to say: "Thank you so much for the very wonderful and moving service you performed yesterday in tribute to my son. It was beautiful. He would have loved it."

It isn't the first unusual ceremony Louisa has presided over. As one of York's few independent celebrants, her job is to be a master of ceremony at events such as weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies, where the script is entirely created by the participants.

Freed from the constraints of tradition, people can dress how they like, choose music and songs that are special to them and stage it all in a venue of their choice - which is often outdoors. "Most of the weddings I have done have been in fields, or marquees and tents, barns, very much the festival-style of wedding," says Louisa. "I go all over the place, from festivals, to hills and vales."

If it sounds a tad disrespectful, Louisa is quick to offer this defence: "It's about making it as personal as can be. Each ceremony is unique. There is no standard script: I start from scratch each time and each ceremony is very specific to each couple."

For one wedding, the bride and groom were movie buffs, so chose a film theme.

"I wrote the script as if I was a narrator and I dressed up in a bowler hat and jacket. The couple gave out popcorn to guests. They wore vintage clothes and acted out scenes from movies such as Jaws, The Blues Brothers and Pulp Fiction and people had to guess what they were. It was a really good fun day."

Louisa, aged 38, does not have the authority to conduct the legal side of ceremonies - that needs to be done first (most clients tie the knot at the register office, and funerals are arranged through local funeral directors).

Her job is to bring the personal touch to these important, life-changing events. Personal doesn't always mean playful. Louisa is an independent celebrant as opposed to a humanist one, which means clients can have prayers and hymns should they choose. In weddings, many couples like to include ancient rituals such as hand fasting, jumping the broom, or the use of candles, roses and sand, which can add a more thoughtful note.

Louisa said: "Traditional symbolic rituals enhance the bond created at ceremonial events and often provide a more deep and meaningful essence for everybody involved. My experience of hand fasting and jumping the broom at my own wedding made the event memorable and special."

Louisa married her husband Lee on a freezing December 21, 2007 at York Register Office. Guests then joined them on an open-top bus tour of York, with Louisa as the guide. Later, they headed down to the riverside by the Millennium Bridge for a hand-fasting ceremony by candlelight. "It was the winter solstice, it was dry, but cold, but I was alright as I was wearing a cloak!" recalls Louisa.

Although her wedding displayed the sort of individuality she offers now to other couples, it wasn't until two years ago that she decided to set up business as a celebrant.

The idea took hold after her best friend asked her to be the MC at her wedding. "Afterwards, lots of people said I should do it as a job. Then I found out you could actually do it as job!"

She trained with the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants UK, and launched her business, Starr Gazing Ceremonies, 15 months ago, giving up a career in theatre operational management in the process.

She fits in her new role alongside being mum to Ernie, aged three, and regular gigs with the duo White Starr, in which she sings alongside musician Kieran White.

Louisa also offers to sing at ceremonies. It's nice, she says, if there is a special song that has meaning to the people involved. Often, guests or mourners will join in. "Last year, we had everybody on their feet at Byland Abbey to the Wannadies' You And Me."

As a celebrant, Louisa does not need to conduct ceremonies in licensed premises, so there is a wider choice of venues and locations. This year, she has been granted permission to host a wedding in the grounds of St Mary's Abbey, York. "It will be a gothic hand-fasting ceremony. Hand fasting has pagan roots - it's where the expression, tying the knot comes from. Pagans used to do it and if a couple were betrothed, they would have a hand fasting and if they were still together a year and a day later, they would be married. It's now a symbolic ceremony, where couples choose the colour of ribbons they want and are tied together. They can choose a colour that represents something to them or a specific value. We bind their hands and they make specific vows, which we can tailor to each couple."

Louisa's services are popular - she has 17 weddings booked for this year, charging a £300 fee.

Funerals are usually arranged via a funeral director; if families are looking for something more unusual or personal, they can request Louisa's services.

There is a particular pride in conducting one of these ceremonies, she says. "When people come out and say to me: 'that was them down to a T', that is the best compliment I could ever get. It means I have done my job properly."

Find out more at starrgazingceremonies.co.uk