This is an occasional series on the different things a funeral celebrant does or can do. You’re probably familiar with a celebrant being the person who conducts a funeral service. They write and deliver a eulogy… read a poem perhaps… deliver words of committal. But the role can vary and I’ve tried to explore in this page how flexible it can be. For example, one thing that I often find is that someone in the family wants to write a eulogy but thinks they need a bit of help with putting it together – and doesn’t feel able to deliver it themselves. Or sometimes a friend may want to read a poem or a short tribute but is uncertain if they will manage on the day. Grief and emotion can be unpredictable. In this case the celebrant is there as a “safety net”, able to take over if required.
Yesterday I had a good example of another way that a celebrant can contribute to a ceremony. I had a call from someone asking if I could give them some ideas for an interment of ashes she wanted to hold for her late father. She lives in western Canada so there wasn’t even the slightest question of me conducting the service. What’s more, I knew this would be a very private occasion and having a stranger conduct things wouldn’t be right in this case. At the same time, though, there might be 40-50 people attending, so even if it’s informal it still needs to be done well and people need to know what’s happening.
So my caller was basically asking for some of my time – a consultation, in this case by zoom. And without going into the detail of what we discussed, I talked about three things:
- Firstly, I shared ideas about how I’ve conducted this type of event – and how I’ve seen others do it.
- Secondly, I’m able to ask questions that may help trigger the organizers to have ideas of their own. (Or to ask for input from other family members.)
- Thirdly, I can share some possible pitfalls and concerns to help the organizer prepare.
So if you are planning a ceremony and feel you need a bit of input – but don’t think you need a celebrant to conduct the whole event, consider asking for a consultation of this type. In my case I will always have an initial free “no-strings” conversation and I will explain what I can do and how long it might take so that you have complete transparency on costs.
Michael Hannah, Broughty Ferry, August 2022