It’s about a year since I trained as a celebrant. So I thought it would be good to catch up with Neil and Annie who ran the course.

I’ve been working professionally as a celebrant for eight months. Meanwhile, Neil and Annie are now married – so a busy year for us all!

We got together for a coffee while Neil and Annie were in Dundee visiting family. Neil was one of the first people in Scotland to practise as a civil celebrant. Not religious, not humanist, but able to incorporate whatever elements a family might request. So, as something of a pioneer, he has watched the movement develop and grow.

I asked him what changes he had observed over this time.

Firstly, he sees more attention being placed on families and their needs. The family can be more involved in planning the funeral service.

And this is a profession in its own right. Unlike a priest or a minister who will have many duties to perform, celebrants can usually spend more time with families and more time writing and preparing their eulogies and services. Because that’s what we do.

Celebrants are trained not just to listen, but to practise “active listening”, specifically in the context of a bereaved and grieving family gathering.

What’s more, Neil feels that standards of delivery, enunciation, “performance” have risen. And all of this means better funerals, which is not just better for the grieving family but for the wider society.

People are maybe reacting to the rather clinical and inevitably hurried service so common in crematoriums and looking for something a bit more personal that still reflects the solemnity of the moment. (We talked about the fascinating Grayson Perry TV series on Rites of Passage.)

And the future? Well, Neil and Annie believe that these trends will only continue and opportunities for celebrants will grow. Interesting times for the development of the Scottish funeral!

Many thanks to Annie and Neil for your time and all your support over the last year!

Meeting Neil Dorward, Pioneer Civil Celebrant

2 thoughts on “Meeting Neil Dorward, Pioneer Civil Celebrant

  • November 1, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks Michael, its all about serving families, putting their needs first, not making the funeral about me (the celebrant) – but how the family want their loved one to be remembered. It is a wonderful job that reminds us of the importance of compassion, humility, gratitude and ‘getting the funeral right’. We are invited into a sacred space of humanity and are asked to accept people where they are on their bereavement journey and taking them where they are meant to be. You have all the qualities to be a wonderful celebrant and Annie and I know you will serve your families with grace, honour and dignity.

    • November 1, 2019 at 6:49 pm

      Thank you both. Mx


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