Most of us know what wedding officiants do. They work with couples to design the perfect wedding ceremony and then conduct the proceedings. But did you know there are also funeral officiants—professionals who are trained to help plan and conduct funeral ceremonies? These experts are called Funeral Celebrants.
What does a Funeral Celebrant do?
Funeral Celebrants collaborate with the family to create a personalized ceremony that truly reflects the life of the person being memorialized. The celebrant gets to know the deceased by asking questions, listening to stories, and curating the information provided by the family. In designing the ceremony, they pay careful attention to the music, readings, poems, and rituals that are incorporated into the ceremony.
The Celebrant’s role during the ceremony is up to the family. In many cases, the Celebrant and family will divide the duties. For example, the Celebrant might give the eulogy and lead the songs while family members present readings and prayers.
How is a Funeral Director different from a Celebrant?
According to the National Funeral Director’s Association, the key duties of a funeral director include:
- Arranging for the removal of the deceased from the place of death
- Providing support to the bereaved during the initial stages of grief
- Preparing the body according to legal requirements and the wishes of the survivors
- Arranging and directing funeral ceremonies
- Securing information for legal documents, filing death certificates, and other legal papers
- Helping survivors when filing death benefits claims, as well as assisting them in adapting to their lives post-death
As you can see, that’s quite a broad portfolio of duties. That’s why the exact duties performed by a funeral director can vary depending on the funeral. This is especially true when it comes to acting as the funeral officiant. The funeral director may conduct the ceremony or work with a celebrant or officiant to perform the service.
The key role of a celebrant is to ensure that the funeral ceremony is personalized. Most are unaffiliated, that is to say, not directly employed by the funeral home. Their job is to focus on the funeral service or memorial ceremony. They are independent professionals who can conduct funerals at any location or within the funeral home. Unless they are also a funeral director, funeral celebrants do not handle body preparation or any of the specialized tasks that funeral directors are trained and certified to do.
Celebrants receive training and certification at organizations such as the Celebrant Foundation & Institute.
Can I use both a funeral director and a funeral celebrant?
Professional funeral celebrants are accustomed to working closely with funeral homes and are happy to do so. If you are using both, then generally, the funeral director will be responsible for transportation and care of the deceased and various organizational and administrative tasks while the celebrant takes care of the emotional and personal elements of the service. The choice between a funeral director and a funeral celebrant, or both, depends on your preferences, cultural or religious beliefs, and the specific needs of the funeral you are planning. It can also depend on regulations. When a burial is chosen, many states require that a funeral director be on hand throughout the process.
Traditional funerals where the casket is present almost always involve the services of a funeral director. If you are having the funeral at a place of worship, a clergy member will likely be involved. There are many options for where to hold memorial services because they can be held at any time following a burial or cremation. The services of a celebrant are an excellent choice for a memorial service to celebrate the life of the deceased.
What about religion?
Most celebrants are happy to design ceremonies that incorporate spiritual rituals. In fact, many clergy are also trained as celebrants.
A key reason that people like working with celebrants is that they focus on making the funeral ceremony extremely personal. If religion was important to the deceased, then, of course, it should be part of the ceremony. How active a celebrant is in conducting a funeral’s religious elements depends on your denomination. In many religions, only an ordained priest or minister can offer the rites.
So, back to the original question: Do you need both a funeral director and a funeral celebrant?
Fortunately, today, we have many options when it comes to handling funeral ceremonies. There is an important role for both the funeral director and a Professional celebrant. If your ceremony includes a funeral where the body is present, you will need the services of a funeral director. If you are having a memorial service rather than a funeral (the body is not present), then a Celebrant will be able to handle all the details.
>>Read: Using Funeral Celebrants
Sources: NFDA Careers Page (https://nfda.org/careers)