Funeral Celebrants: What is a Funeral Celebrant and Where Can I Find One?


Posted on April 15, 2014 by

What is a Funeral Celebrant?

Funeral celebrants are ceremony specialists who have a sound background in the history of ritual, ceremony, and funeral traditions in many cultures and religions. Celebrants take the time to learn about your loved one and will weave their life story into a unique end-of-life ceremony. Many funeral celebrants have been drawn to this work by a strong realization that every life has meaning and deserves to be celebrated and celebrated well. Many have experienced loss themselves. All are convinced that funerals can be a valuable source of healing. Nothing can take away the grief, but a genuine, well prepared tribute may ease the pain.

What Do Funeral Celebrants Do?

Funeral Celebrants design and officiate at personalized end-of-life ceremonies for funerals, memorials or celebration of life events, graveside tributes or a scattering of ashes. Meaningful end-of-life ceremonies are crafted once the funeral celebrant has spent ample time with the family doing an in-depth interview to get a full picture of the life of the deceased.

The celebrant then focuses completely on the family’s wishes for the ceremony and creates the complete ceremony script, including the eulogy, designing custom rituals, and/or working with rituals from their faith or cultural traditions. 

The celebrant researches and suggests all readings, prayers or blessings (if desired) and submits the entire script for the family’s review and approval beforehand.

Sometimes a death occurs and in accordance with the deceased’s request, there is “no funeral”. Often this can leave a void for those left behind. Families may choose to hold a dedication ceremony some time after the death. The planting of a tree or designating a park bench in the honor of your loved one provides an opportunity to pay tribute and marks a tangible transition point for saying good-bye.

Some Funeral celebrants also perform animal companion memorials.

Do Funeral Celebrants Work with Funeral Directors?

Funeral celebrants can work directly with families who are planning an end-of-life tribute, or in conjunction with other funeral professionals such as a funeral director, death doula, cemetery, crematorium, members of the clergy and event planners.

How Do Funeral Celebrants Differ From Funeral Directors?

Funeral directors help with the funeral arrangements, write and place the obituary, coordinate logistics, assist with casket selection, and prepare the body for funerals by embalming when desired.

As the ceremony officiant, the Celebrant’s priority is the meaningful delivery of the ceremony that has been reviewed and approved by the family. The Celebrant will coordinate the participation of family and loved ones who may be involved in the ceremony. The Celebrant will work with the Funeral Director and/or the managers of the selected venue to ensure they are aware of the ceremony details and understand any logistics they need to coordinate with their staff.

Where Can I Have a Ceremony with a Funeral Celebrant?

Funeral celebrants can perform ceremonies wherever the family wishes to pay tribute to their loved one. The location of your choice may be a funeral home, park, cemetery or at a beach, the family’s home or holiday retreat. Celebrants perform ceremonies for the scattering of ashes and burials at sea – wherever the family prefers.

Life-Cycle Celebrants® will even craft a ceremony to align with a special memorial experience – a hike to scatter ashes, a horseback ride, a beach bonfire, or whatever resonates for your family.

What Should I Expect From a Celebrant?

You should expect to experience a meaningful and memorable ceremony that honors your loved one and aligns with your preferences and beliefs. Funeral celebrants serve secular, religious, spiritual, interfaith, atheist, and agnostic families as well those clients who simply wish to express themselves in a manner of their own choosing.

Celebrants strive to reflect their clients' histories, personalities, cultures, values and beliefs without judgment. When working with a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant® from the Celebrant Foundation & Institute every word of the ceremony is shown to you beforehand assuring accuracy and tone.

Below is a list of what you should expect from a funeral celebrant:

  • A gentle interview with family and friends (approximately 1-2 hours)

  • Researches, writes, plans and officiates at the ceremony

  • Expert knowledge in death and dying rituals, world traditions, prayers, readings, scripture, symbolism and mythology

  • Officiates at the ceremony 

  • Works as part of a seamless team with other funeral professionals

  • Creates a custom ceremony just for you (no templates used)

How Much Do Funeral Celebrants Cost?

Each funeral celebrant is responsible for setting their fee and setting up and managing their own individual practice. The typical range for a funeral, memorial or a celebration of life ceremony is between $400 and $850 + depending on the number of services requested.

Each client and every Ceremony requires a different combination of skills and time. Variables affecting the price include the planned length of the ceremony, the number of participants (speakers, musicians etc) the geographic area, ceremonial considerations and travel time.  

Most funeral celebrants will meet with you at no obligation so they can learn about your needs and explain their services. A fee estimate is generally provided after this meeting.

How Do I Find a Funeral Celebrant?

There are several organizations that provide education and certifications in celebrant services for various rituals and life cycle events. When evaluating and selecting a celebrant, be sure to ask about and consider the type of training of the celebrant received. Some celebrants are certified online with a simple application or weekend seminar, while others go through detailed training programs. Below are a couple organizations to consider that also provide a directory of their certified or endorsed providers:

  • Celebrant Foundation & Institute: a non-profit organization that provides a seven month in-depth training to quality for Life-Cycle Celebrant® certification. Each celebrants is trained and certified in the art of ritual, ceremony world and faith traditions, along with the study of mythology and proven skills in ceremonial writing and speaking. CF&I has trained more than 900 Certified Life-Cycle CelebrantsTM throughout North America, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Spain and France.

  • The Humanist Society: originally started in 1939 by Quakers, is a non-profit organization that certifies people to give them the same rights and privileges granted by law to priests, ministers, and rabbis of traditional theistic religions. Most funeral celebrants will go through the application and endorsement process to be "Humanist Celebrants."  They have approximately 200 endorsed Humanists Celebrants.

Celebrant Foundation & Institute LogoThe information on funeral celebrants was provided by the Celebrant Foundation & Institute (CF&I), a non-profit educational organization dedicated to certifying Life-Cycle Celebrant® to create and officiate individual, meaningful, and relevant ceremony and ritual. CF&I’s mission is to pioneer the widespread use of relevant, customized ceremony to honor the fullness of the human experience across the lifecycle.

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