What’s the difference between a funeral celebrant and funeral director?

What's the difference between a funeral celebrant and funeral director?


When planning a funeral you might come across some terms which aren’t that familiar. Here we explain the roles of a funeral director, who makes the funeral arrangements, and a funeral celebrant, who you might choose to conduct the funeral service for you.

If you are arranging a funeral, there will be a number of professionals who will help and support you along the way. One of the first people you’re likely to come into contact with is a funeral director, who will manage all the arrangements on your behalf. You’ll usually meet the funeral director quite early on, and will have the opportunity to discuss all practical aspects of the service including the choice of coffin, the decision over whether to bury or cremate your loved one, the location of the service and wake, what flowers you’d prefer or whether you’re opting for charity donations instead.

You might find that the first mention of a funeral celebrant is when you begin discussing the funeral service itself. A funeral celebrant is someone qualified to officiate a funeral service, although they are typically independent and not necessarily from a religious background. Their role is to help you organise the funeral service itself, and they will take control over the way the service runs on the day, with the overall aim of celebrating the life of your loved one. The benefit of using a funeral celebrant is that they can help create a unique and personal event – whether that be a more spiritual ceremony, with prayers and hymns, a non-religious service which might include poems, readings and music or a combination of the two.

The role of a funeral celebrant

A funeral celebrant can become an important pillar of support during the funeral preparations and on the day itself and will work closely with you, your family and the funeral director to make sure your vision for the service is carried out.

Most funeral celebrants are keen to spend time with you and your family, to get to know you and get a good sense of the person your loved one was. They’re likely to ask you to share stories and important memories of your loved one, and find out more about their life, character and values. Once they’ve had the opportunity to talk to you and understand your preference for the service, they may suggest some ways in which it could be carried out and some appropriate readings for you to consider. Sometimes poems and readings can help put into words some of the complex emotions which surround saying goodbye to a loved one, and a celebrant’s knowledge and experience can be a useful guide, helping you decide what to choose.

It’s important to be honest about how much involvement you want to have. For example, you may want your celebrant to conduct the entire service, including the eulogy, or you and your family may prefer to be more involved, with one or more of you delivering the eulogy and some readings. Ultimately remember that the service can be completely tailored to what you and your family need and want for your loved one, and your celebrant will help you achieve this.

The service

Once you’ve made the decisions about the way in which you’d like the service conducted, the order of service can be drawn up. This may be something your celebrant and funeral director organise on your behalf, and you’ll then be asked to check and confirm you’re happy with the design and layout. Your celebrant may also produce a full draft of the service for you to review and adjust ahead of time. They will then be there on the day to guide you through the ceremony and ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Choosing a funeral celebrant

Traditionally the local vicar or member of the clergy would officiate a funeral. Funeral celebrants offer an alternative option and may be able to provide a more personal service as part of the funeral preparations, particularly if you prefer something which is non-religious, or less formal. Celebrants can help you create the right atmosphere for you, your family and friends, so that you can celebrate the life of your loved one.

If you are keen to use a funeral celebrant then your funeral director should be able to recommend local options for you to consider; they will have worked with a number of celebrants in the past and can suggest the most appropriate person. Don’t be afraid to ask about their experience and fees and review any testimonials they can share before you make your decision.

Planning a funeral which best reflects your loved one’s life is an important part of the grieving process and helps ensure that the service is a positive experience for you and your family.

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