A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that one of my remits is funeral celebrant. “Why would you want to do that?” is the most common reaction. Then they tend to ask “What is that, anyway?”
I’ll try to answer both those questions now, in reverse order.
What does a funeral celebrant do?
It may surprise you to learn that funeral and wedding celebrants have much in common. In both cases, after initial contact is made, there is likely to be a face-to-face visit.
When I am with clients (wedding or funeral), this first meeting is vital so that we can get to know each other and see if we feel we can work together.
The clients need to feel they can trust me, that I can answer their questions and make appropriate suggestions, and have their interests at heart. Our goal is to build a service or ceremony that suits their needs and desires. I want them to like me and to feel confident in my all-round professionalism.
I ask a lot of questions too. Partly, this is to determine the sort of service or ceremony I am to write and conduct and also the sort of readings, music, ‘choreography’, register, language and style desired. Should it be informal or formal, religious, part-religious or non-religious?
Questions also enable me to build up a picture of the person or persons the ceremony is focusing upon for any address I may make on the day.
Once taken on, I write a draft of the service, which can be amended by the client (possibly, several times). The idea is to ensure that it is memorable and unique.
Why would anyone want to be a funeral celebrant?
Obviously, dealing with bereaved people can be difficult. Each client is different, and I have to tailor my visit accordingly. Often, clients are confused and apprehensive, but I can quickly put their mind at rest by answering their questions and explaining the options they have. They have an opportunity to speak about the deceased, which they often enjoy.
Our meeting can be rewarding on both sides, and, hopefully, by the time I have left, we can be sure that we can work together to write a service that will honour the deceased, permit grieving, but also be a celebration of a life. It should also fit in with the beliefs of the deceased and, if possible, the family.
Choosing the readings and writing an eulogy are tasks that are challenging, but often very rewarding. Usually, the client is happy with the service I submit to them (there will be a few minor changes, of course), and every detail – who is reading what, who comes in with the coffin, what music is played when, etc. – is agreed beforehand.
Before the service, I introduce myself to as many of the mourners as possible (having checked with the authorities that all is set up). I take pride in my presentation skills, so conducting the funeral service is not as scary for me as people imagine! I take nothing for granted,though!
After the service, I often have clients and mourners come up and say that they actually ‘enjoyed’ the service and felt it did the bereaved justice, and that he/she would have wanted it like that.
So, you see, there’s a lot about this work to love.
Michael can help plan your funeral service in your lifetime.
Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made life-cycle ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.