What is a funeral celebrant?
A funeral celebrant is a qualified person, usually from a non-clergy background, who officiates funeral services. Funeral celebrants typically help organise and conduct funerals, supporting the bereaved family every step of the way with the aim of celebrating the life of the person who has died.
Celebrants tend to be independent and will usually be engaged by the funeral director on behalf of the family. A celebrant should be able to offer a non-religious funeral as well as services with prayers and spiritual themes. Many people choose a celebrant to conduct their loved one’s funeral as the service can be custom made to best reflect the wishes of the family and the life of the deceased.
What does a funeral celebrant do?
A funeral celebrant will typically:
- Support you from the first meeting to the end of the service
- Ensure that the wishes of the family are carried out
- Guide you through the day of the service, during a difficult and emotional time
- Prepare the eulogy together with the family so it is a genuine reflection of the deceased
- Ensure that the service is time sensitive and is not rushed.
Organising the funeral
Once a funeral celebrant has been engaged, they should contact you to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Where a meeting is not possible, then phone calls, Skype or other media can be used. The celebrant may offer to meet you at your home address at a convenient time during the day, but if it is more convenient, a meeting at the funeral director’s offices can usually be arranged.
At this meeting, the celebrant should create a comfortable atmosphere, in open conversation, to find out about your wishes and aim to understand the wishes of the deceased. They will listen carefully to your wishes and how much participation the family or friends of the deceased would like to have in the service.
The celebrant may ask you questions about the life of your loved one, their character, their values, and what made them the person they were. To help tell their story, you could share memories that would illustrate the different aspects and interests of their life and your lives together.
A celebration of life can include readings, music and funeral poems to help express emotions that are otherwise difficult to formulate. An experienced celebrant can help make suggestions of suitable readings, poems and music, but of course the choice always remains with the family.
Creating an order of service
From this discussion, a funeral order of service can then be created. If service sheets are being printed, the order of service can be confirmed to the funeral director or to the person who will be designing and printing the service sheets.
As most celebrant services are conducted at crematorium chapels, you should check whether they have audio facilities for your chosen music. If individual music recordings are to be played or the service is conducted elsewhere, separate provision is likely to be needed.
Officiating the service
The celebrant will take all of this information away with them and create an individual service which represents the life and times of the deceased. They may produce a draft of the service for you to review and make any necessary amendments or additions before the ceremony.
On the day of the funeral, the celebrant will meet you at your chosen venue at the appointed time and proceed to officiate the service to celebrate the life of your loved one.
Why should you choose a funeral celebrant?
At a time when emotions are heightened due to the loss of a loved one and when words don’t seem enough to express the feelings inside, it can be helpful to turn to someone who can naturally empathise with you and who has a maturity of understanding.
A funeral celebrant can help portray the life and times of an individual within the context of their wishes and the wishes of the family, as well as conduct a timely event.
A celebrant is someone who can:
- Lead a fitting ceremony, at an emotional time and in unfamiliar circumstances
- Be flexible and sensitive about the form that a funeral can take
- Listen and empathise with you
- Contribute from experience to create the most suitable, dignified and respectful send off
- Create a suitable atmosphere at this formal occasion, to celebrate a person’s life.
How to find a funeral celebrant
Ask your local Funeral Director as they will have had experience of and gathered feedback from a number of local funeral celebrants. They will have worked with celebrants as well as ministers and humanists, and are best positioned to advise on the most appropriate person to conduct your loved one’s funeral.
It can be helpful to review any testimonials that the funeral director or celebrant can provide, as this will reflect the experiences of others.
Questions to ask a funeral celebrant
If your chosen funeral director has recommended a funeral celebrant, you can arrange an initial conversation over the phone or face-to-face.
Here are some questions which you may wish to ask a funeral celebrant:
- Where can we meet to discuss the service?
- What experience do you have?
- What process do you follow on the day of the funeral?
- Do you provide support with eulogies?
- Are there are any extra charges?
- Can you provide testimonials or references?
Find your local funeral celebrant
If you would like a funeral celebrant to conduct your loved one's funeral, your local Dignity Funeral Director will be able to recommend funeral celebrants near you.
Search for your local Funeral Director
Written by Jonathan Richardson, Love Lane Celebrants
Jonathan Richardson is an experienced and professional funeral celebrant. Love Lane Celebrants help families create ceremonies that are inspirational and personal, celebrating the life of a loved one.
For more information, visit Love Lane Celebrants.