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  • clairejtownsend

What is a celebrant & what role do they play in a funeral?

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

I, like you, have probably attended numerous funerals. Each one in its essence is different. Each person is different, each family is different and essentially each deceased persons wishes are different. There is no given right or wrong for what a funeral service is or how it is conducted. Of course the legalities remain the same no matter what funeral provider you use but choosing the right Funeral Director and officiant can be a very personal thing. It is not a one size fits all service. From my own experiences I can honestly say I have sat through some terrible services. Ones where the "fit" of the family and the matched officiant are not right. When I decided to train to become a celebrant I was determined to be someone who listens to the wishes of the loved ones and make those wishes my priority. When I am commissioned to officiate a funeral and I go out to visit the next of kin my most valuable piece of equipment that I take along are my ears. It is my job to listen, gather accurate information and then orchestrate this to make a service worthy of the person whom we are saying goodbye to.

So, what is a celebrant I hear you ask? Well quite simply we are all things to all people. We are able to conduct a funeral service wherever you choose, whenever you choose and however you choose. If your loved one wants a more simple affair perhaps in a green burial environment a celebrant is able to help put you in touch with the professionals for this. Maybe your loved one wanted a simplistic, no frills cremation but then wishes their ashes to be laid to rest in a woodland site with a simple internment. Perhaps the family have a special place they liked to visit and have sought permission to scatter ashes there...That's fine too. I will go wherever you would like me too.

Maybe they would like to be cremated or buried but not have a religious service as they were not practising a faith. A celebrant is non denominational and can help you to have a service based around their interests, favourite poems and songs. Being non denominational means we can serve people from all backgrounds with all different beliefs. I pride myself on being able to assist each and every family fairly without prejudice or opinion. To me we are all equal no matter how diverse. That's what makes us all special!!

I have conducted services dressed in bright, vibrant colours because that is what the family want or what their loved one wanted. I have assisted families to have very light, humorous services where memories are recalled with fun and frivolity. Equally so, I have worn traditional black and kept the services very sombre or traditional. The basis of all services is YOU! What do YOU want it to be? How do YOU wish to say goodbye? What did your loved one want? All too often I find people say "We will have the Lord's Prayer" or "Maybe we will sing a hymn..." and my question is always the same "Is that what you want?". This is often met with the same answer..."Not really but its what you do isn't it?". In simple terms...No! If that is not who you are or what you are about then why have it? There is no right or wrong. Instead of a religious prayer I could help you to choose a more personal blessing, a fitting poem, a song chosen for its lyrics or symbolism.

Think of me more as a story teller...Everyone's story has a beginning, a middle and an end. We are all individuals who have lived very different lives. A send-off on their final journey should reflect this. The legalities are all dealt with by a funeral director...families choose a company with whom they are comfortable and the fundamentals are set in place. By this I mean you choose when, where and how you get to your service. The funeral arranger will speak to you about budget and help you to select the coffin or casket, vehicles, chapels or burial sites etc. Essentially they are the people who care for your loved one from the time they pass away up until their final journey. They will organise the burial or cremation and assist the family right up until the moment the service begins. Everything after that is then up to me... From the moment we set foot into the chapel, cemetery, hall or place we choose to gather this is my time together with you as a family. We can do whatever you wish the final goodbye to be. Maybe you would like to have a simple cremation in advance and then on the day of your choice just choose to do a memorial service along with the ashes. Possibly you may wish to have a big service with many in attendance in a hall and then go to a chapel for a family committal service and private goodbye.

Some people like to feel they have control over a service and organise it before they pass. They wish to have it conducted exactly how they want. This is fine too. Many people now go to a funeral director and pay for a funeral plan. In the same way it is possible to have a living eulogy written. This is then kept safe until the time comes and we can carry out the wishes of the deceased without the next of kin being burdened.

If you think I could be the celebrant to help you and you feel I resonate with you then it is possible to advise the Funeral Director that you would like to instruct me. Of course all Funeral Directors have their favourite ministers and celebrants but it is important to remember it it YOUR choice and you can use whoever you want. Often people feel brow beaten into using the Funeral homes choice which isn't necessary or fair. I hope that I have answered your questions, laid your doubts to rest and in some way guided your mind to open new doors of opportunity. A new approach to saying goodbye! For more information please contact me by either email, telephone 07905828520 or via the contact links on this page. I am here to help...

Your wishes are my priority...working together in life, love and loss

(Credit:-Image taken by Stacey England Photography)

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