Choosing a Civil Celebrant

What to look for in a funeral celebrant…

Call me a funeral celebrant, a life time commemoration specialist or the one to organise a uniquely tailored send-off for a loved one that everyone will feel has done justice to your loved one’s life… it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that when you engage a celebrant to lead a funeral service or memorial you can have as much or as little say in how you say farewell to a loved one. You can throw out any perceived rules that you may have heard, as well as, any previous experiences – especially if they didn’t work for you. And this applies to choosing your celebrant and everything else from a funeral director to where and how you celebrate your loved one’s life. But not so much when it comes to religious services. You are in “their house” so to speak, so it’s important to respect their standards and guidelines.

There are so many truly wonderful funeral directors, conductors and arrangers out there [Soon to come: Who does what for a Funeral?]. They’ll sit and listen and offer a range of suggestions if you have no idea where to start. [Soon to come: What comes first? …all about doing some forward thinking on the funeral front.) And there are some who can feel more like you are moving through a sausage factory than a creating unique farewell to someone you love.

If you haven’t thought about who you’d call first – a celebrant or a funeral director – you’ll find some things to think about here [Soon to come: What comes first?].

When it comes to choosing a celebrant, know that you have the right to choose. And just like waiting until you’re in immediate need for a funeral director, the same applies for a celebrant. On one level, it is much easier to think about what you would like in a funeral celebrant long before you need one. So, to get you thinking about what you might consider here are a list of considerations when it comes to choosing a celebrant that is best for you and your family.  Note that I didn’t say “right” for your family? That’s because there may be several celebrants that work could work equally well for you.

You might like to reflect on whether you…

·      would prefer to know the celebrant beforehand;

·     think it’s important for the celebrant to know your family beforehand;

·     know how much guidance you will need when the time comes… have you been involved in too many funerals recently or not had to think about a family funeral for decades?;

·     prefer male or female celebrant or if it doesn’t matter;

·    want to have creative control with some guidance or would prefer not to have to think or do any more than is absolutely necessary in your time of grief.

As a celebrant, I think it’s important for families to consider how they would like you and others to feel during and following the send-off, whether it is a traditional funeral service or a truly unique and well-crafted send-off.

Do you want your celebrant to sit and listen, look at photos, hear your stories and share in your memories? Do you want to talk about the characteristics of your loved one, the things they loved doing, their favourite songs, writers, poetry, their adventures, through to the day to day habits and traits that reflected their life?

Do you want to hear all the possible, left field possibilities or to be guided through the creation of a traditional and formal service? Do you want the celebrant to do what it is you want them to do or to suggest a wide range of options that are available to you? Do you want a long service (over 45 minutes) or a brief service (under 25 minutes)? This is important when considering venues (check out Where to have your funeral?)

Then there’s the inclusion of religious components in a civil service. For some a completely Humanist service is ideal. For others, they want a small reference to God and Heaven over more broad-ranging religious elements. And for others, where a Church is not available they may want the inclusion of hymns and prayers as well as a reading from The Bible. These options are simply offered to get you thinking about what you want in your service of celebration or commemoration.

There is no single way to celebrate a well lived life.

We have just one life…

Jacqui Chaplin

Independent Funeral Information | Life Story Collector & Writer | End of Life Tributes | Easier End of Life Experiences | Funeral Arrangements and Celebrancy

Just One Life… doing and designing dying and death differently and with dignity and distinction.

For more information on doing dying and death differently or to start thinking about how to handle a death of a loved one before you are overtaken by grief, organise a conversation with Jacqui today.

Call +61 (0)412 741 531 or email

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Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.

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