What is a funeral celebrant & what do they do?
A funeral celebrant is a qualified person, usually from a non-clergy background, who officiates funeral services.
A funeral celebrant will typically help organise and conduct the funeral service, whilst also offering support to the bereaved family. Many celebrants aim for the funeral service to be a ‘celebration of life’ that honours the memory of your loved one.
There are two types of celebrants, so you will need to understand the difference to decide which is best for your loved one’s funeral:
Humanism is a philosophical belief that some people live by; humanists do not believe in God or an afterlife, although you do not have to be a ‘humanist’ to have a service officiated by a humanist funeral celebrant. A humanist funeral celebrant will lead a non-religious, non-spiritual service.
A tribute section is often central to a humanist service, as they believe it is best to make the ceremony a positive reflection of the departed. A humanist celebrant will work closely with the family of the deceased to create a service that is unique and personal, that can include music, readings and poems that reflect the life of the person, but won’t include prayers or hymns.
Civil funeral celebrants are not part of any religion or belief system can perform a service without or without religious content. A funeral lead by civil celebrant can be an occasion for mourning and sadness, a celebration of life, or both. The focus of the service is on what the deceased’s family want from the service.
Although many families do not consider themselves religious, they find comfort in familiar funeral prayers, hymns and religious readings. A civil celebrant will be happy to incorporate religious elements if you would like.
What does a funeral celebrant do?
Once a funeral celebrant has been engaged, they should contact you to arrange a face-to-face meeting (if this is not possible, then phone calls or video calls may be used). The celebrant may arrange to visit you at home, at a time that is convenient to you.
During this meeting, the celebrant will ask questions that will enable them to find out about your wishes for the service and to understand the wishes of the deceased. They may ask you questions about the life of your loved one, their character, their values, and what made them the person they were.
They will also discuss with you the readings, music and poems that you would like to include in the service. An experienced celebrant may be able to make suggestions for suitable readings, music and poems if you are struggling to decide.
The celebrant will take all the information gathered from the meeting and create a unique and personal service that represents the life of the deceased. They may produce a draft of the service for you to review and make any necessary amendments before the ceremony.
On the day of the funeral, the celebrant will meet you at your chosen venue and proceed to officiate the service.
Why choose a funeral celebrant
A funeral celebrant can help portray the life of the deceased within the context of their wishes and the wishes of their family, as well as conduct a timely event.
A funeral celebrant is someone who can:
- Talk you through the process of planning a funeral service, if you are unfamiliar with what to expect
- Lead a fitting ceremony at an emotional time for you and your family
- Be flexible and sensible about the form that a funeral can take
- Contribute from experience to create the most suitable and respectful send off for your loved one
How to find a funeral celebrant
Your funeral director may be able to provide recommendations for funeral celebrants in your area, or alternatively, you can find a funeral celebrant online:
The Humanists UK website enables you to search for all Humanists UK accredited funeral celebrants in your local area. Simply enter your postcode and you’ll be provided with a list of people you can contact.
We’d recommend you draw up a shortlist and contact a few before making your decision. There’s a host of celebrants with different styles and offerings, so it’s a very personal choice. A good officiant will be happy to work closely with you to help you create a ceremony that is right for you and your loved one.
When it comes to contacting funeral celebrants, it would help if you were prepared with a few questions to ask them, to determine if they are the right person to lead your loved one’s funeral service.
Many civil funeral celebrants belong to the Institute of Civil Funerals (IoCF). A list of them and their contact details can be found on the IoCF website. All members of the IoCF abide by a code of conduct, are committed to continuing professional development and have their work monitored by the Institute.
Some of the best funeral celebrants don’t belong to an organisation. Many funeral celebrants work independently and can be found using celebrant directory sites. One site you may use is funeralcelebrants.org.uk, where independent celebrants can sign up and list their services.
Questions to ask a funeral celebrant
Some of the below suggestions may help you decide which funeral celebrant is most suitable:
- Where can we meet to discuss the service? Or can you visit me at my home?
- What experience and qualifications do you have?
- Do you provide support with eulogies?
- What process do you follow on the day of the funeral?
- Can you provide testimonials or references from past clients?
How much does a funeral celebrant cost?
Funeral celebrants tend to charge between £150-£280. Before engaging their services, you should ask what is included in the price and if there are any extra charges.
Can I conduct a funeral myself?
Funeral services have no legal status, so anyone, including friends and family members of the deceased can lead a funeral service if they wish.
Leading a loved one’s funeral service can be a very meaningful gesture, and you don’t need any official training to do so. It is of course an enormous responsibility, so you should be sure that whoever you ask is comfortable doing so. If a friend or family member is going to lead the service, it is important for you to spend some time together to discuss the order of service to ensure the ceremony runs as smoothly as possible.
It is totally understandable that a family member or close friend leading the service may get upset. In some cases, they may feel that they can’t continue the service, so it’s a good idea to have someone else in place (such as another family member or friend) who can continue the service until the family member feels composed enough to speak again.