Funeral Celebrant

Effie Maclellan

Celebrating Life, Reflecting on Death: Funerals, Memorials, Scattering of Ashes

Civil Celebrancy

Civil Funeral Celebrancy: what is it?

Civil Funeral Celebrancy originated in Australia about 40 years ago and is now practised in many countries. However, this type of funeral ceremony is regularly confused with humanism; and is not common in some parts of Scotland. 

A civil funeral celebrant is a person who performs civil funerals in a dignified and culturally acceptable manner for those who, for whatever reason, do not choose a religious ceremony. Civil funeral celebrants also serve people who have religious beliefs but who do not want the funeral ceremony to be conducted in a church, temple, mosque or other place of religious worship. Usually, people choose a civil funeral celebrant because they wish a professional person to co-create a ceremony centred on the person, their history and their achievements. In civil funeral ceremonies, decisions about the content of the ceremony are made by the family of the deceased in consultation with the celebrant. So the civil celebrant can be defined as a professionally trained ceremony-provider who works in accordance with the wishes of the client.

Depending on circumstances, best practice is usually for funeral celebrants to interview the family, carefully prepare the eulogy, liaise with those persons who are to speak at the funeral, and finally provide resources and suggestions to assist the client family in choosing the most appropriate music, quotations and readings. Occasionally, a rehearsal is indicated for a ceremony. More often, a planning session is sufficient to ensure that the ceremony that is delivered is the one that is planned. To achieve this, the funeral celebrant works in cooperation with a Funeral Director.

The celebrant is usually the central person who delivers the ceremony. He or she is the facilitator, the adviser, the resource person, the co-creator of the ceremony, and the director. A celebrant, by this definition, does not come from the standpoint of any doctrinal belief or unbelief. A trained celebrant operates on the principle that their own beliefs and values are not relevant to their clients, or to the professional service they provide for them.


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