Holding a Celebrant Led Funeral
There are many options for people to choose from when they’re organising a funeral, and just one of them is to consider a Celebrant led service. To help people decide if this is right for them, I thought it might be useful to detail what happens at a funeral that is led by a Celebrant.
Just to note, what I’m going to describe is a typical funeral at a crematorium. There will of course be differences between venues, and between burials and cremations, but this is the most usual version of events and should generally give you a feel for what happen
Prior to the Service
If a Celebrant is required, then most people will contact their Funeral Director to help them find one. It’s vital that the Celebrant is chosen to match the requirements of the customer, taking into account their beliefs and religion, whether they’re looking for a celebration of life ceremony, my speciality, and sometimes people even want a particular gender. I was once chosen as the person who died requested that a ‘blonde female’ conducts the service.
The most important factor is that the service is right for the customer.
When a Celebrant has been selected, the next step is for them to meet with the client. Prior to Covid-19, this would always be face to face, but now it tends to be online, like a Zoom call, or over the phone.
The family will usually be involved in this meeting, and possibly friends. I have a quite a long list of questions that I ask that will give me a wealth of information about the person who has died. I always ask for funny stories and special family memories, and I’m then able to draft the wording for a very personal service. I’ll send this to the client and they will get the chance to add or amend and finally approve it before the day. It may include poems and music as well as the tribute or eulogy, or as I sometimes call it “Family Memories”. I also provide guidance and support with the Order of Service if they request one
Most of the cremations I conduct are usually timed at 30 minutes, which allows for a 20-25 minute ceremony.I’ll arrive early to greet any guests and mourners. The Funeral Director staff, usually the pall bearers, normally arrive before the hearse with the order of service and any photos the family have requested. The Funeral Director and main family then arrive shortly after with the hears
I will always speak to the Funeral Director to go through any last minute details, as well as greeting the family and getting to know everyone who will be speaking. I try to make it easy on the day for everyone, and let them know that I am there to provide support and comfort.
A Celebrant ceremony is personal or person centred, and is in every way a celebration of the person’s life. It’s not about the ritual and religion, although this can be included if you wish.
Celebrant ceremonies are usually warm, and sometimes humorous. The person who has died ‘comes alive’ again through the stories told, and it tends to be a true representation of who they were.
The ceremony will usually be conducted like this:
- I start with a welcome and introduction and I tell the congregation what will happen during the service, like a road map of what to expect. I find this sets the scene
- I usually mention that this is a celebration of the person’s life and we will try to focus on happy memories
- I then speak about the person, including what they have achieved and who they were, describing their personality through the stories I have been told or sent
- Reflection – there is quite often a piece of music after the eulogy which gives family and friends time to think about their loved one, in a quiet and peaceful way
- I sometimes read a poem and then we move onto the Farewell and committal. This can include some religious words, but this is often not the case when the family has chosen myself
- At this point, if the family has requested that the curtains close, they will do
- I end the ceremony by saying a few words before pressing the exit music. On the nod of my head, the Funeral Director will enter the chapel and walk down to me. We both bow to the coffin and I walk towards the exit door while he or she escorts the family out of the chapel
I generally wait outside the door to say goodbye and speak to any guests that would like to talk. The Funeral Director will then bring the flowers from the coffin out to the family and will make the crematorium ready for the next service to arrive. I sometimes join the family and friends on the flower terrace before I say goodbye.
The service itself is now over for myself and the Funeral Director. All that’s left is for me to follow up with the family in the days after the service, thanking them for choosing me.
Whilst all of this describes the most usual version of the event based on a cremation, other services can be different. Burials would have the committal and closing words at the graveside, with the funeral party usually moving there from the chapel or other building after the eulogy/Family Memories.
But however it happens, a Celebrant ceremony is always focused on the person who has passed away.
I hope this account of the day and the way in which it is conducted may help those who are yet to make a decision on whether to employ a Celebrant to lead their own or a family member’s service.
If you have any further questions or you require any more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me