Funeral on “Coronation Street”

I know I don’t blog on Thursdays. I know I don’t watch “Coronation Street”. But sometimes rules have to be broken. Even by me.

I saw the part of last night’s “Corrie” episode when Roy is visited by a (humanist) funeral celebrant. She didn’t know – and couldn’t – what emotions Roy was actually experiencing. As a result, his behaviour seemed incomprehensible, and she could make little progress with planning the service.


As you will know, I am an Independent Celebrant (not humanist, although I often create and perform non-religious ceremonies). When it comes to funerals, I too make home visits. I too have no idea of the state of mind of the people that I am visiting.

This is common to all types of celebrants. Even the parish priest, who may know the family already, can’t be certain of the reception he or she will encounter. As an independent celebrant, I will be meeting the family for the first time (with no preconceptions).

The type of death may dictate the emotions that are triggered, but there is simply no hard-and-fast certainty. The family that mourns the sudden death of a toddler will surely be in shock; they will not understand why or how it happened; they will probably be angry; they may blame themselves or God – the list goes on.

What about a teenage suicide? What about an elderly, cantankerous relative? A motor accident victim? Or a beloved life-partner? They will all evoke different emotions. Some people will master themselves better than others. Roy didn’t mean to be rude, but uncontrollable feelings were in play.

Home visits

When I pay a home visit, I aim to be friendly and professional. I don’t pre-judge; I try to respond to each individual. It is important to listen. At some point, I may ask a question like “How can I help you?”, although, in certain cases like Roy’s, that may not have any real relevance.

What I do is to listen sympathetically and engage with the mourner. I understand that they may be confused and, very often, unfamiliar with funeral procedure. I give them plain information and allow them to make choices. The choices will be quite wide-ranging (the degree of religiosity, readings, music, entry, participants, ritual), so I explain these carefully. They usually want me to deliver a eulogy, so I need to ask appropriate questions about the deceased.

It all takes time, but this is a crucial stage.

When I go, I always leave my contact details. I try and work on the draft service within 24 hours and e-mail it to the family for them to amend, as necessary, and eventually approve. By the time I meet them again on the day, we will have a meaningful service for me to conduct, every word of which has been agreed by the family. I hope I will be no longer be a stranger to them,  but somebody they like and feel they can depend on.

It’s a very rewarding task, but, as Hayley’s celebrant would realise, it can also be very challenging.

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made life-cycle civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.

Hayley’s funeral

My spies tell me that the current talk over the “Coronation Street” sewing machines is about humanist funerals. Almost none of the characters know what is meant by this. Someone is able to explain that, essentially it will be a funeral service without any religion in it.

Surely you have to have a religious funeral?

The script-writers are right.  Humanist funerals are an option. And, if it’s a true Humanist service, there can be no religious references whatsoever.

So, if you want a religious service, you go to your Church, Synagogue, Temple, Mosque etc. If you want no religion at all, you approach the Humanists. That’s clear enough, but might there also be people wanting something in between?

Is a compromise possible?

People often want something that includes references to God, even if it’s not the God of the conventional religions. Maybe they want a dash of religion (to placate a member of the family, to be ‘safe’ or because the deceased had some affection for one particular religion – or possibly, the deceased was part of a mixed marriage.). There can be many reasons for wanting a compromise service.


Fortunately, although not really in the public consciousness (until Friday?!), there are independent celebrants out there, whose main aim is to work with the client (next-of-kin usually) to create a service that absolutely reflects the wishes of the client (usually, respecting what the deceased would have wanted). In order to build a suitable service, celebrants will borrow from various traditions, suggest poems, readings, songs, hymns, rituals and participation by family or friends – whatever will make the ceremony meaningful and memorable.

The independent celebrant will strive to ensure that not only will there be an opportunity to grieve, but the life of the deceased will be celebrated.

Is this legal?

Just as you can choose the where, when and how, if you are celebrating a birth, as long as it is legally registered; just as you can marry where, when and how you choose, so long as the marriage is legally registered; so you can have the funeral that you choose, as long as the death is legally registered (and you dispose of the body according to regulations).

Why shouldn’t the funeral be just as you want it to be?

A little bird tells me that the “Corrie” funeral will be shown on Friday. I shall be interested to see how it is done, and, of course, whether I  could have written and conducted  it better!

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made life-cycle civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.

Death on Coronation Street

I confess that I rely on my good lady to keep me up-to-date with the latest issues in the TV Soaps. Apparently, death on Coronation Street is the current subject.

I understand that Hayley has limited time to live, and one of the issues she is looking at is her funeral. A humanist celebrant has been called in and appeared at the end of last week.

I don’t know whether the celebrant will return, but for many people that appearance will probably be the first time that they even became aware of the existence of funeral celebrants.

As a civil funeral celebrant myself, I am delighted that word may now spread, not just for potential increase in my business, but also because a lot of people would want my services, if they only knew they existed.


What people know

If anybody has heard of a celebrant at all, they will know that a civil celebrant offers choice. It doesn’t have to be a full religious service. For those who want something else, the celebrant can be the answer.

A humanist may only offer a totally non-religious service, but an independent civil celebrant can offer that too – or a ceremony that includes spiritual content or even a touch of religion –whatever the family wants. The whole point is that the ceremony can be tailor-made, down to the smallest details.

What people don’t know

You can choose your own funeral in your lifetime!

If you wish to exercise some control over what happens after you die, there is nothing to stop you getting in a celebrant (as Hayley did) just before death or, indeed, while you are in the rudest of health. You can discuss your plans with the celebrant, who can write the service (with or without eulogy) that you choose (including music, readings, readers, rituals, etc.) for you to approve. That way, you ensure you get exactly what you want.

Then you inform your next-of-kin know about what you have planned.

Those left behind after your death will not have the extra stress of organizing the service. They will be grateful and your wishes will be respected.

In fact, next-of-kin may take the initiative and arrange for a celebrant to meet the relative concerned (along with themselves) and start discussions off.


To have a frank, informed, relaxed conversation about a funeral over a cuppa or, simply to ask a few initial questions, please contact Michael now on 0208 866 4326.

More information can be found at