Funerals? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?!

Jun 27, 2023
Civil celebrant officiating at a civil ceremony

Considerable work and preparation goes into ensuring that a life-cycle ceremony goes smoothly and is memorable for the right reasons! However, even with the best-laid plans and the most accomplished professionals in place, things go pear-shaped occasionally. This tends to be the exception, rather than the rule, but these tales bear telling!

Not an error on anyone’s part, but just a sad episode. When I paid  a family visit to put together a funeral, the solitary son was apologetic. “My mother was really secretive. I don’t know much about her.” To the extent that when he went through her papers, he discovered that one school day when he was 11, his parents had secretly got married! That was the first he knew of it. And the father abandoned his family quite soon afterwards.

One funeral limousine turned up at the wrong address, waking the residents, who must have had  quite a surprise!

I haven’t done it myself yet, but I’ve attended a funeral where the officiant used entirely the wrong name when referring to the deceased! Not to be recommended.

I did get caught out quite early in my career. We had ordered a particular hymn. In those days, the chapel attendant waited for his cue and played the music from a remote booth. (He could see and hear me, but I couldn’t see him). I therefore always gave a copy of the “script” to the attendant as well as introducing the music that was to be played.

On this occasion, I announced the hymn, but nothing happened. Same again. Nothing. I simply had to move on with the service without the hymn.

It turns out that the attendant, experienced as he was, had simply forgotten about the hymn and gone outside for a bit! Understandably, the family weren’t best pleased!

On another occasion, I was invited to discuss the Order of Service with a charming family consisting of a brother and two sisters. Usually, after the family meeting, I would send a draft by email to the relevant parties and await their comments. We would tend to have about a week to get this sorted.

I duly sent out the emails to each of them. I must have copied the brother’s address wrongly, because that bounced. I therefore wrote again to one of the sisters, and asked her to forward the draft to him. She agreed.

The day before the funeral the brother rang me. Where was the draft? I told him that his sister had forwarded it to him. “She has nothing to do with me. There’s no way she’d have forwarded it!”

Families, families …

People say that I appear very calm and collected when officiating. Maybe, but I prefer not to think about what could happen …!