“Living” Funerals

A lot of us are moving from standard, religious ceremonies towards personalised ones. This applies to funerals as much as to celebrations.

So you can have a unique funeral service that is very different to what we may be used to.

But did you know that you can have a choice in what will happen in the funeral and what can be included in the service when it’s your turn to ‘pop your clogs’?

Most of us tend not to think about our own death (and the British are very good at avoiding the theme). If we do at all, how many of us inform our next-of-kin what we do or do not want at our funeral?

I get it that people put it off – “we won’t die for years, after all”. And “my family will be able to sort out what happens”.

That’s fine, if you don’t really care about your funeral service. After all, you probably won’t be able to see what happens, anyway. Although we can’t be sure …

The controller

But what if you do care? You could well have strong feelings about certain issues. You may want to stipulate how much religion (if any) will be included in your funeral. You may have favourite poems, readings or music to put in. You may want to prepare a eulogy. (It can always be updated, if you live a long time, but at least the frame will be there as a guide.) You may want to involve family or friends. You might want a ritual (eg roses on the coffin).

Enabling this

If you want to go down that path, you would be advised to work with a civil celebrant. They know what is possible at a funeral, and can advise from wide experience. They are wordsmiths, and can put together the order of service, including the eulogy.

I am certainly happy to pop over to a possible client and discuss their needs and wants, write up a draft (like I normally do), and submit it for approval. (I can also conduct the service on the day, if required, by arrangement.)

The client is welcome to have family members or friends present at the discussion.


The down side of a “living” funeral is that the client is not be able to insist that his or her choices will be respected. There is no legal way of enforcing the stipulations.

The wishes can be put into a will (although there is the risk that the will is not read in time).

The best solution, then, is to ensure that the relevant family members are on board and in the loop. If they know about the choices and are in accord, then the odds are that they will show respect when it comes to it.

The greatest advantage, probably, of a “living funeral”, is that when the time comes, there should be no conflict or extra stress for the next-of-kin. They have enough to contend with (not least, paperwork and grief – their own and that of others) without having to worry about doing the right thing for the deceased.

Just think about it. If the order of service has already been decided and drawn up, what a huge weight off the next-of-kin’s mind that will be!

For a chat how this can work best, please feel free to contact Michael.

Wedding freedoms

Wedding freedoms

One of the many things that attracted me to the role of civil celebrant was the fact that I could offer wedding freedoms.

I could educate people that they had a choice. After all, we’re talking about what should be the biggest day of their lives.

The old way

Up until 2009, I assumed that marriage meant you either attended a full religious service, as in a church, or the register office (fully secular).

Of course, lifestyles have changed and society has become more accepting. For example, same-sex weddings have become quite commonplace. One of the favourite ceremonies I have conducted, as it happens, was same-sex.

Nonetheless, as I constantly realise from personal experience, many people are unaware that wedding freedoms exist.

Sure, the old choices are still feasible for those who want them.

The new

However, you may be a devoted couple who may not share spiritual beliefs. Happily, you can now have a romantic ceremony that includes what really matters to you. All of us have the freedom to commit to each other, surrounded by family and friends, in venues of our choice.  We can invite our chosen civil celebrant to design and conduct beautiful, meaningful ceremonies.

Michelle & Mujo 2

Photo: Philippa Gedge

I seem to be asked to help create a lot of part-religious ceremonies. Among them, I have led a full (well, 95%!) Jewish wedding, a wedding blessing for a Muslim and a Jewess, a Christian marrying a Jew (with a priest covering the Christian parts!) and a half-Jew marrying a pagan.

In this way, as long as the legal bits are dealt with by the registrars first, the exact degree of religiosity, of formality and tone are up to the couple.  They can thus put their seal on the proceedings and make it an absolutely unique occasion.

The tailor-made service and the personalised style and special venue all contribute to a unforgettable, wonderful occasion – a far cry, for some, from the extremes of a full religious service or the register office.

I’m glad to say that we’ve come a long way from the rigidity of the past. Then you were offered only a standard 10 minute register office ceremony or a fixed, religious ceremony that was not unique to you and may have included words you were not comfortable with.

Those still work for people. But certainly not for everyone.

I believe that wedding freedoms surely make perfect sense, don’t they?

If you agree, please help me spread the word!

Spirits not dampened at Wedding Fair!

Spirits not dampened at Wedding Fair!

As readers here will know, I was looking forward with anticipation (and a little trepidation, in truth) to exhibiting at my first ever Wedding Fair last Sunday.

The Venue

A lovely venue stood ready at Henry’s Café-Bar, West India Docks. Canapes and sparkling wine were in evidence. A talented violinist played. Stall-holders displayed fabulous wedding-cakes (yes, I did manage to scrounge some samples!), stretch-limos, John Lewis wedding books, glorious wedding wear, photography, post-dinner entertainments, flowers; there was a resplendent toastmaster – forgive me, if I’ve forgotten any others.

So everything was in place for a fabulously successful fair.

The Weather

Unfortunately, this was London. And it rained. In fact, the rain poured down almost all the time we were there, and you had to be really determined or foolhardy to be out in it. As a result, visitor numbers were down considerably.

My assessment

Those that came seemed to enjoy themselves, and clearly got a lot out of their visit. I am not really sure how effective my ‘patter’ was, but I enjoyed talking to people as they came through. Time will tell.

Obviously, though, there could be no question whose stand was the best …!

civil celebrant at wedding fair

Virtually nobody had heard of “independent celebrant”, which means that, although I may be in a niche area, there is not much awareness of what I do out there, so taking advantage of it will not be challenging.

At least, those I talked to seem now to understand that they can have a personalised ceremony (which I would conduct on the day), and several seemed to be quite excited by the idea. So perhaps it was not such a bad thing for me to have braved the elements after all!

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