The Roleof a Celebrant

What is a Celebrant?

A civil celebrant is a qualified person who officiates formal ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals, memorials or baby namings.

Funeral ceremonies led by a celebrant focus on the wishes, values and beliefs of the person who has died and their families, rather than the beliefs or faith of the person leading the service. As such, these ceremonies tend to be non-religious, although they may have some religious or spiritual elements.

Most civil funeral celebrants are professionally trained and are members of recognised organisations.  Many have had other careers and bring extensive knowledge, life experiences and skills gained elsewhere to their celebrancy role.

What Does a Funeral Celebrant Do?

A funeral celebrant can help with planning and organising a funeral, memorial service or celebration of life. They can provide guidance and advice around all elements of the ceremony and will officiate, or lead, the service on the day.

Help with creating a meaningful funeral service

A good celebrant will spend time with the family, getting to know a bit about the life and character of the person who has died.  They will help to clarify the family’s wishes and will explain all of the possible elements of the service, including costs. The focus will be on creating a service that meets the needs and wishes of the bereaved and that reflects the personality of the deceased.

Emphasis may be on more of a ‘celebration of life’ and generally allows far greater flexibility in style and content than a traditional, religious funeral service.

Crafting a script for the funeral service and a writing the eulogy

As well as producing a script for the service and pulling together all the different elements, the celebrant can, if you wish, write and deliver the eulogy. Many are expert storytellers and writers, who know how to put together a heartfelt tribute and to deliver it sensitively and sincerely.

Each celebrant has their own unique set of skills and strengths, so discuss the extent of their input with them beforehand to make sure that they can deliver a eulogy that feels right for the person you are remembering.

Leading the Service on the Day

A celebrant will lead the service on the day. The extent of the celebrant’s involvement will be up to the person or people organising the funeral. The celebrant will be happy to gently steer proceedings from behind the scenes, or take a more visible role, delivering the eulogy and introducing the different elements of the ceremony.

Why Choose a Funeral Celebrant?

There are a number of reasons why people choose a funeral celebrant to officiate at a service:

  • A tailored and unique ceremony – funeral celebrants have the flexibility to create a service that fully reflects the personality and character of the person who has died.
  • Embracing beliefs and traditions – most funeral celebrants are not confined to a particular faith and will be happy to integrate various beliefs, traditions or spiritual practices into a civil funeral service.
  • Focus on celebration – if the family wishes, a funeral celebrant will steer the focus towards fond memories and positive experiences, celebrating the life as well as mourning the death.
  • Greater family involvement – planning a funeral can be overwhelming. Enlisting a funeral celebrant empowers families to take a more hands-on role in shaping their tribute.

Different Types of Funeral Celebrant

The style and service offered will vary from celebrant to celebrant, so it is worth looking at a few profiles before making your choice and speaking to any that you feel are right for you. Or get a recommendation from family, friends or others involved in preparations and planning.

There are celebrants who specialise in different types of service, such as those for a baby or a child, or for someone from the LGBTQ+ community.

Non-religious and Semi-religious Civil Funeral Celebrants

Not every funeral needs to be religious, even if you have strong feelings about faith.  Celebrants aren’t connected to a specific religion, so although the service can, if you wish, have some religious or spiritual elements, there is more flexibility around the style and content of the funeral.

They can guide you in your choices and make suggestions for the way you’d like to commemorate someone’s life. It might be through readings, music, symbolic gestures, silent reflection or celebrant-led speeches. Emphasis may be on more of a ‘celebration of life’, with elements that reflect this, whether it’s the location, type of music, informality of the occasion or range of people present. 

There are no rules, and most celebrants are extremely flexible and will want to help you to create a service that enables you to say goodbye in a way that’s right for you. It’s up to you and your family to choose the type of funeral that feels appropriate.  The guidance of an experienced funeral celebrant can help you to make this decision. For many people, using a celebrant is an ideal choice and allows them to create a more tailored ceremony.

Humanist celebrants

Humanists offer their services as celebrants and are non-religious and non-spiritual. There’s no ‘faith’ element to their services at all. Songs or music may be included, but hymns and prayers wouldn’t be appropriate.

A Humanist service is all about helping you to remember the person who died, focusing entirely on the person’s life and what they meant to other people. Friends and family can share anecdotes and memories, and readings and eulogies underscore the profound influence that the person had on their lives.

If your family hasn’t been at all religious, or you’re bridging the gap between many different faiths among your friends and family, then a humanist-led service might be a good choice.

Where to Hold a Celebrant-led Funeral

Traditionally, civil ceremonies were conducted in the chapel of a crematorium, and many still are. However, these days there are many more options and a civil funeral service can take place at any venue that is happy to offer you their location.

This might be at a natural or woodland burial site, a burial mound or at a crematorium. Or talk to hotels, restaurants, village halls, community centres, and even organisations that open listed buildings.  The service could be held at home, in a private garden or any other place that holds special meaning.  Where you hold the service will depend on whether you would like it to be a part of a burial or cremation, or whether it is separate to that.

Your celebrant will be able to tell you about suitable locations in your area and whiteballoon has lots of ideas and Inspiration for funeral locations, with links to many of them in the Funeral Locations Providers.

Information They Might Need From You

At this stage, it may also be worth thinking about information that the person leading the ceremony might need. They will want to accurately capture the essence and uniqueness of your loved one, so have a think about the following:

  • their personality and character
  • their values and the way they lived their life
  • any funny quirks or amusing stories
  • what they were passionate about or favourite hobbies
  • anywhere they lived and loved 
  • favourite songs or poems
  • where they were at school or college
  • any notable achievements or challenges overcome
  • family members and close friends

How to Find a Funeral Celebrant

Each celebrant brings their own unique style, personal experience and ideas to their work. It is important to find a funeral celebrant that feels right for you. If you can, talk to more than one before you make your decisions. Here are some of the ways you can find suitable candidates:

For more information, you may also like to read ‘Funeral Celebrants – a helpful guide‘ on our Blog.

How whiteballoon can help

We have created a number of tools to help you to prepare for your meeting.

Checklists for What To Do When Someone Dies and Planning a Funeral can be printed out to remind you of the things to consider and questions to ask.

A personalised Ideas Folder can be created in which to save any items on whiteballoon that resonate with you (from music and flowers to poems and prayers). These can be ‘hearted’ and saved to your folder to share with family and friends, or taken to the meeting with your Funeral Director as a reminder of your thoughts and wishes.

Our Inspiration and Providers sections make it easy to connect to the people who can help you to create what you are looking for.

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