Funeral Celebrants and Officiants: Personalizing Ceremonies

Funeral Celebrants

When it comes to modern-day funerals and memorial services you have many options. In fact, you can design exactly the ceremony you or your loved one wants. The trouble is, the process of creating such an important celebration of someone’s life can be overwhelming–especially if you are planning the ceremony while you are grieving. To help, many people now turn to a funeral celebrant or funeral officiant.

Funeral celebrants (or funeral officiants) are professionals who work with families to design custom personalized funerals and memorial ceremonies. The celebrant’s role is to make sure that the ceremony reflects the deceased’s personality, culture, values, and wishes.

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The funeral celebrant profession is relatively new to the U.S. It took hold in Australia in the mid-70s where it grew from the practice of using secular professionals to officiate at weddings. Today we find funeral celebrants and officiants practicing worldwide.

Celebrants are experienced in personalizing ceremonies in accordance with the wishes of the families they work with. Even though we often associate funeral officiants with ceremonies that are secular, many are also trained in conducting spiritual and religious services. In fact, it is not uncommon to find funeral celebrants who are ordained ministers. We even find celebrants who are affiliated with traditional funeral homes. The main point is that a funeral celebrant or funeral officiant will work with you to create a ceremony that is highly personalized and reflects the wishes of the deceased and his or her family. 

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Why Should I Work With a Funeral Celebrant?

Families choose to work with a celebrant for any number of reasons. A key benefit is that having access to someone with a celebrant’s expertise can be a great comfort during a time of grief. These professionals have the training, knowledge, and skills to help you create a truly unique once-in-a-lifetime ceremony, and you can rest easy knowing that you’ll have the ceremony you want within the timeframe and budget you set.

Celebrants work in collaboration with you since you are the one who knows your loved one best. They know the questions to ask, the issues that may arise, and how to work with people who are grieving.

Do I Need a Funeral Celebrant and a Funeral Director?

Celebrants and funeral directors often work together on funeral arrangements and the elements of a service. If you are working with a funeral home and are interested in using a celebrant or officiant, consult with your funeral director. If they do not have someone on staff who is a trained celebrant, they may be able to refer you to someone who is.

When it comes to planning the ceremony, celebrants and funeral directors do many of the same things. However, these are two distinctly different professions.

  • Funeral directors have the technical training to handle the care and preparation of the deceased, including embalming. Celebrants are not trained to handle these aspects of a funeral.
  • Celebrants focus specifically on personalizing the funeral or memorial ceremonies. Their certification involves many hours of training to develop the skills to help families at a time of loss and to personalize services that reflect the lifestyle and individuality of the person being honored.
  • A funeral director may have celebrant training in addition to the training she or he received at a mortuary school.

Where Can I Find a Celebrant?

Our online funeral planner includes a directory of funeral celebrants. We also have a directory where you can search for a funeral celebrant/officiant. If you are working with a funeral director, he or she may have a funeral celebrant or funeral officiant on staff or may be able to refer you to someone they have previously worked with.

How Do I Choose a Funeral Celebrant?


Whether or not to have a religious ceremony is entirely up to you! Professional celebrants are expert in holding all types of ceremonies. Regardless of whether you would prefer a secular or non-secular service, you can find a celebrant who is trained to help design a ceremony that offers the perfect tribute.

Choosing a funeral celebrant or funeral officiant is much like choosing any other professional. Each has his or her unique approach and style. Much of your decision will have to do with how compatible you think you are with the celebrant. There are questions you can ask and factors to consider that can help you narrow down your choices. Reputable celebrants are happy to answer questions and provide references. They want their clients to be fully informed and confident about their services. 

Questions to Ask When Selecting a Funeral Celebrant / Funeral Officiant

  • How much do you charge for your services?
  • What is included in the price?
  • What is your philosophy on collaboration?
  • How much involvement would you like me to have?
  • Can I speak with some of your previous clients?
  • What would you like me to know about you?
  • What kind of training have you had?
  • How is the deceased’s faith included in the service?

What Qualifications Should I Look For In a Funeral Celebrant?

There are several training and certification programs available for celebrants. Ask about the training your celebrant received and about his or her experience. The associations that provide celebrant and officiant training have websites that detail the approach they advocate. Reviewing the site of the institute where a celebrant was trained will provide additional insight into their philosophy and approach.

How Much Does a Funeral Celebrant or Funeral Officiant Cost?

Engaging with a celebrant is a process much like making any other significant purchase of services. Prices can vary widely. Celebrants are usually independent contractors who set their fees based on their experience, market conditions, and other factors. Costs can range from $250 to $1,000, depending on the services provided. Some celebrants charge a flat fee while others charge by the hour. Since there are no standard prices, it can be beneficial to shop around.

Before you commit you should make sure that you know what you are buying and how much it will cost. Reputable funeral celebrants and officiants will be more than happy to talk with you about how they price their services. Of course, the price isn’t the only factor you should consider when choosing a celebrant, but it is an important consideration. You are entering into a contract for services so be sure to read the fine print before signing an agreement. Remember, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event so you should be comfortable that you are getting the services you want at a price you can afford.

What About Funeral Celebrants and Religion?

How much religion and spirituality to include in an end-of-life ceremony can be a complicated question. There is no right or wrong answer—only what is right for you and your loved ones. Using a celebrant or an officiant that is not affiliated with a particular church can be a good option for someone who would like to have a religious service but doesn’t belong to a church. If you would like to skip religion but add some spiritual aspects, a celebrant can help. The bottom line is, people have a wide variety of needs and desires when it comes to how they want to express religious views, if at all. Discuss your religious preferences with your celebrant to ensure that the ceremony reflects your wishes.

How Does a Funeral Celebrant Work?

A critical aspect of a celebrant’s services is to spend “family time” upfront gathering information about the deceased. They will want to know as much as possible since the goal is to create a ceremony that truly reflects the individual. Take full advantage of this time, be open, and sharing.

Each funeral celebrant and officiant has his or her own unique way of working with their clients. Once they have gathered information regarding the deceased, some celebrants prefer to work on their own and check in periodically with their clients. Others prefer to work hand in hand with the family. You want to make sure the celebrant you choose works in a way that makes you are comfortable. There are many ways to plan a ceremony, and each celebrant develops his or her unique approach. Discuss the way they work to make sure you are comfortable with it. Be sure that you approve of every element of the ceremony.

We are fortunate that in modern times we have the freedom to plan whatever type of funeral we want. While that is a great thing, it also presents us with many options and choices. Choosing to work with a funeral celebrant or funeral officiant can help narrow down the choices since he or she is trained to help clients think through their options. If you are unsure if working with a celebrant is right for you, call an officiant in your area and talk with them. An open conversation can help you decide if they are the type of professional you will be comfortable working with or if you would be better off planning the ceremony on your own or working with a funeral director or clergy member.

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