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What is a funeral celebrant and what do they do?

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Better Place Forests creates and maintains conservation memorial forests for people who choose cremation and don’t want their ashes to end up in a traditional cemetery.

Choosing how to honor your loved one at the end of their life is a personal and emotional decision. There are many options for the type of service you can host, where it can be held, and who will lead the service. While researching and planning, you might wonder what a funeral celebrant is and what role they can play in a funeral or memorial service. 

In this guide, we’ve provided some information on celebrants including what their duties are so you can learn more and decide if one might be the right choice for your service. 

What is a funeral celebrant?

A funeral celebrant is someone who hosts and officiates a memorial service or funeral. A celebrant coordinates a funeral or memorial with a family to ensure the deceased’s wishes are fulfilled and their life is honored properly. A celebrant can be any qualified person who enjoys assisting others in celebrating important life milestones. They can preside over religious, non-religious, spiritual, or secular services, so they are appropriate for any special occasion. 

What do celebrants do?

Funeral celebrants help with many aspects of planning and executing a memorial service. Celebrants first meet with the family to learn about the deceased and their memorial or celebration wishes. They then take this information and plan an event that honors the family and their loved one. Celebrants also often collaborate with the family to write eulogies or speeches to ensure the words capture their loved one’s spirit. 

On the day of the memorial service or funeral, they officiate the service and provide support to the family on an emotional day. They may say prayers, recite poems, or deliver a personalized tribute to the deceased. 

Read more: 10 popular options for scattering ashes

Why choose a celebrant for a funeral?

Some people think that a funeral service lead by a funeral director or clergy member must adhere to traditional or religious guidelines. While this is not always the case, some people might choose to have a civil funeral celebrant officiate their funeral or memorial that is non-religious or unique in nature, such as a celebration of life or an ash-spreading ceremony. 

Because a civil funeral celebrant isn’t tied to a specific religion or tradition, they don’t have to follow the traditional order of worship. They have the flexibility to design a memorial that can help mourners feel connected to the deceased and celebrate their memory in a special, personal way. 

Reasons to choose a celebrant for a funeral include:

  • You want help from an experienced person to plan a non-religious memorial
  • You’d like to collaborate with someone who can think outside of traditional end-of-life norms
  • You want a personalized and unique event that captures the spirit of the deceased
  • You’d someone to oversee the event, ensuring it goes smoothly and everything is well-timed
  • You need someone who can provide guidance to those delivering eulogies or you want someone who can do most of the speaking so you don’t have to

Read more: Memorial service ideas for family and loved ones 

How to hire a funeral celebrant

When searching for a funeral celebrant, you can ask for referrals from a crematorium, funeral home, or friends who have used celebrants. In addition, a simple online search can also connect you to celebrants in your area. 

When interviewing potential celebrants, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Be clear about the type of ceremony you want (religious, non-religious, celebration of life, funeral, etc.) and what kind of guidance you’ll need. It’s important that you feel like your celebrant understands your wishes and needs and can accommodate them. 
  • Share your feelings about your loved one and what they were like so the celebrant can get a better understanding of the deceased in order to offer suggestions on how to personalize the memorial. 
  • Find a celebrant who is a good listener, shows empathy, and has strong public speaking skills. 
  • Ask about their process before the ceremony and the day of so you know what support they plan to provide. 
  • Talk about their experience and ask about some of their favorite memorials — this may inspire ideas for the event you’re planning. 

Read more: Memorial service vs. celebration of life

How much do funeral celebrants get paid?

There is no standard pay for funeral celebrants. Each celebrant will have their own rates and fees, usually either charging a flat rate or by the hour. When interviewing celebrants, be sure to ask about their costs. 

Do celebrants need to be certified?

Funeral celebrants may be certified by an organization, but there is no standard training programs or formal oversight.

Are a celebrant, officiant, and funeral director the same?

While many of their duties may overlap, there are some differences between a celebrant and a funeral director. A celebrant can officiate at other life events besides funerals, such as weddings, retirements, or other events, whereas funeral directors specialize in funerals. 

As for the difference between a celebrant vs. an officiant, the use of these terms is often regional, with officiant being more commonly used in the U.S. However, because “officiant” is a term used for anyone who officiates a service, this can include religious leaders as well as non-religious celebrants. If you interview someone who calls themselves an officiant, you’ll want to ask if they handle non-traditional memorials and are comfortable planning a personalized ceremony. In addition, if you are seeking a non-religious ceremony, make sure to clarify that they are able to lead this type of service for you. 

Deciding to hire a funeral celebrant may seem overwhelming, but if you keep the wishes and spirit of your loved one in mind, you’re sure to find someone who can help you honor their life in a beautiful and memorable way. 

Read more: 8 ways to honor a loved one

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