Who can lead a funeral service?
If you’ve never organised a funeral before or are having a hard time dealing with the fact that a friend or loved one has passed away, the last thing you need to worry about is finding someone to speak at their funeral. Traditionally, the leading of funerals was left to the person in charge at the religious establishment where they grew up or spent their time, but as times have changed, just because someone is a religious leader doesn’t make them the best person to lead the funeral. Many people will not realise that anyone can lead a funeral service.
Depending on the person’s prior circumstances, wishes or beliefs, there are plenty of options for people who can lead, or even just speak some comforting words at their funeral. Here are a few ideas if you’re selected the Simplicity attended funeral but you're struggling to decide who should lead your loved one’s funeral ceremony.
A spiritual / religious leader
If the person was particularly religious, or held some sort of belief, then you can’t go wrong with the tried and tested religious leader to officiate over the ceremony. The big benefit here is that they’ll likely be highly experienced when it comes to leading funeral ceremonies, so you’ll get someone who knows what they’re doing and knows exactly what to say.
A religious leader doesn’t need to have known the person, but it certainly helps as the ceremony they’ll devise will have some context when they start speaking. However, it’s also normal for religious leaders to consult with relatives or friends to build a picture of the person’s life if they weren’t close to them when they were alive.
The only disadvantages of using a religious leader are the need to hold the ceremony somewhere they operate (some religious leaders will only lead funerals in their house of worship or local crematorium), the costs involved, and the chance that they didn’t know the person that well.
A civil celebrant
If the person who had passed away wasn’t religious or specified that they didn’t want a religious ceremony, then a civil celebrant may be a good option.
Civil celebrants officiate over ‘traditionally’ religious ceremonies like weddings and funerals, but speak from a non-religious perspective. Again, they’ll have plenty of experience and may be particularly good at public speaking, so it might make sense to have someone like this to hold the ceremony together, with people who knew the person delivering meaningful speeches or messages.
It’s worth remembering that a civil celebrant can add small elements of religion, such as passages or blessings, but won’t have any religious authority from a legal perspective. Many civil celebrants also charge for their services, so it’s worth comparing fees.
A professional funeral officiator
For non-religious funerals, it’s common for a registrar or similar to officiate over the funeral. The officiator will help with organising the running order of the ceremony (for example, the officiator will build out a schedule and make sure readings / music go smoothly). However, some people may feel it is a little impersonal for an officiator to lead the service if they didn’t know the person when they were alive.
Despite this, funeral officiators have a lot of experience when it comes to leading funerals and saying the right things. The key thing here is that you’ll be able to tailor and personalise the funeral to suit the requests of the person who has passed away, or to create a ceremony that reflects their personality, even if it’s a complete stranger officiating over proceedings. They’ll also be happy to let anyone else speak, giving everything a more personal touch.
If the idea of having someone there to simply manage the ceremony and leave most of the speaking to those who knew the deceased, then a Simplicity Cremations attended funeral may make more sense. With this type of funeral, one of our arrangers will be at the funeral to ensure everything runs smoothly, but anyone can manage the funeral itself, opening up the possibilities to:
When it comes to knowing someone incredibly well, 99/100 times a family member will have experienced the quirks, stories and anecdotes that make for a meaningful and personal funeral. This can extend to several family members in order to build out a ceremony that tells attendees about the person’s life from different perspectives, which will also help from a support perspective if someone you know is also delivering a speech or giving a reading.
It is totally understandable that a family member 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 who can take the reigns until the family member feels composed enough to speak again.
They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family, so in some cases it may make sense to have your loved one’s best friend in charge of the funeral! If your loved one spent a lot of time with a particular friend or was part of a group of friends, why not ask them to become involved? Remember that if there is more than one person who could be a good candidate, others can also get involved by giving a eulogy, reading, or just a funny story to help the audience remember and reflect on the life of the deceased.
Although the list of people who can speak at a person’s funeral isn’t exactly limited, it’s important to factor in how comfortable they will be speaking in front of a group of people, and how grief will affect them. Even if they’ve been composed throughout the process and willing to officiate or speak, the grief can often become too much when it actually comes to saying goodbye, so this is definitely one to watch out for not just for others, but also if you’re considering leading the funeral yourself.
If you’d prefer a funeral without a ceremony or service, it may make sense to go for an unattended funeral. Our team will manage the essential elements of the funeral, including transportation of your loved one to the crematorium on the day of the funeral, where a simple cremation will take place without a service beforehand and without any mourners present.