People often ask me if they can include something humorous in a ceremony. “What will people think?” they ask.
Of course, the answer depends on what expectations and intentions they may have. What effect are they looking for?
Initially, my response is “yes”. “Certainly”, if it’s a wedding and “with care”, if it’s a funeral.
The traditional response
How traditional do you want your ceremony to be? If that’s your chosen path, then don’t expect much hilarity from the full Church service.
I officiated at one (secular but traditional) high society wedding, where the family were very keen that all appearances were correct and that guests would have no grounds to find fault with any part of the service.
Actually, I wondered whether it would mean more to the guests to witness a moving, sincere ceremony, rather than a fabulous spectacle. And if it entertained a bit, thanks to a touch of humour, all the better!
An alternative approach
At my “usual” weddings, however, (often, part-religious or secular), there is scope for personalising the ceremony. Normally, I advocate including some “serious” elements but also a few lighter moments. The ring blessing and vows, say, could be earnest – but the vows might include some humorous promises (based on personal idiosyncrasies of one of the couple).
I like to put in the couple’s story, where possible. This frequently offers scope for humour.
Humour in funerals
As I have implied, humour is more likely to be expected – and accepted – at a celebratory event.
However, although funerals should offer the opportunity to grieve, I believe they should also be a celebration of life and therefore should not exclude well-placed and tasteful humour.
Ad-libbing requires great care. A funeral will almost never be the place to be controversial or crude.
The best place for humour is in the eulogy or personal tribute. If the deceased had a special saying, favourite joke or some unique characteristic, reference to that will be appreciated by most who knew them. I loved the lady, who would go ballistic whenever Philip Schofield appeared on TV. When I referred to this, everybody – especially, the family – recognised, appreciated and enjoyed it!
If that’s appropriate for the deceased, why not have it?!
There’s nothing – in theory – to stop you having a whale of a time at a funeral. Sometimes, everyone is encouraged to wear a particular football shirt, say, to mark the deceased’s passion. The tone of such a service is likely to be quite light!
I hope I’ve made it clear that the tone you desire for weddings or funerals is ultimately down to you. Discuss it with your celebrant, and you can have the ceremony that suits and keeps a smile on everybody’s face.