On Friday last I took part in a talk about online Zoom funerals organized by Louise Winter of Poetic Endings, a progressive and forward thinking independent London funeral director. It was led by Christina Andreola and Amber Carvaly. They are a team based in western Canada and the USA. Christina’s background is in event management and Amber is a funeral consultant.
They went through the nuts and bolts of how to set up and conduct an online ceremony using Zoom. Lots of useful information for anyone new to this, though most of it I was already familiar with.
What interested me though was the business model and the pricing. Of course, they are operating in a different setting. Online ceremonies are much more commonly used and accepted in north America. The west coast is prosperous even by US standards and in any case, the very nature of a web ceremony means that it isn’t restricted by geography.
But I was surprised that they don’t provide celebrancy – the writing of a eulogy, the “conducting” of the ceremony. They create a space and an event that families can use (possibly bringing in a celebrant themselves or conducting things themselves). This is not to say that they don’t provide a lot. They have professional Zoom accounts and modern equipment – no working from a tired old laptop on the kitchen table! They put together the audiovisuals (and ensure that they have the appropriate music licences to use music online….). They manage the event.
So, pricing? From a Scottish perspective the prices are eye-watering. Way over £1000.
But this raises lots of questions for celebrants here I think. I suspect that even when we are through the worst of the pandemic, we will continue to be asked to conduct ceremony online. It makes sense for families that are scattered across the world – and who are used to connecting in this way. So we need to make sure we DO have the right equipment, reliable internet, valid LOML …. and we need to make sure that we take account of all the extra time that is required to transform a mediocre Zoom experience into a proper professional service.
And there are lots of savings on cost that can be made – no limos, no flowers (though there are ways to make a really beautiful floral show online…). The online ceremony itself can be organized in different ways – it doesn’t have to be an expensive option. Sometimes all that is needed from a celebrant is a bit of help to generate ideas.
So I am rethinking the ways I charge for my work and am moving to an hourly rate. My work on online funerals and memorials is the trigger to all of this but I hope to extend this in time to all my work. I’ll be writing more about this on the website soon.
Michael Hannah, Scotland, 4 February 2021