Guidance for arranging a funeral ceremony
Help is at hand
To help you think about the ceremony before we meet up, I urge you to spend a little time reading through the notes below. They will help you think about how you might wish to celebrate the life of the person who has died.
The following information will need to be collated and discussed.
- Early Years – When they were born, their parents’ names, where they were born, raised, and educated. Short stories they may have shared with you about their youth.
- Relationships – Names of the family and their relationship with the person who has died. Were they married or cohabiting? How did the couple meet? If married, where and when? How would you describe your relationship with them?
- Career, hobbies and interests –What did they do for a living, and how did they relax? What captivated them, and what can you tell me about their hopes and dreams?
- Special stories and memories –Think of three short stories that tell me about who they were and what made them so endearing, or maybe not so as the case may be.
- Personality and character – Ask family and friends to think of a couple of words that describe who they were and be ready to share those words with me.
- The good and the not so good – The ceremony works better if it is authentic. So, how would you describe the strengths and weaknesses of the person who has died? What did they like, and what did they dislike?
Why not put a little time aside to write down your responses to these pointers before I speak with you, and send me your thoughts via email beforehand to firstname.lastname@example.org
A Celebration of Life
- acknowledge (a significant event) with a social gathering or activity.
- perform (a ceremony) to officiate.
A Celebrant will work with the family to celebrate the life of the person who has died. This can include:
Of course, this list is not exhaustive.
A real celebration will reflect the personality and character of the person who has died; their strengths, their weaknesses and all that was good in their lives. It will be an occasion to say thank you and to say farewell to them. It will also, console and uplift, bring comfort and galvanise memories. It will be an occasion for “well-chosen words, thoughtfully spoken”.[i]
[i] The Association of Independent Celebrants (AOIC)
Ritual & Religion
Contrary to popular belief, funerals do not have to be religious or spiritual. We do not have to sing hymns or recite prayers, but I will be delighted to include these elements within the ceremony if it feels appropriate for you to do so. I usually light a memorial candle at the start of the ceremony, which provides a focus, do let me know if this does not feel relevant. You may wish to place flowers or rosemary (a symbol of memories) around the coffin and have photographs and memorabilia on display during the ceremony too. All of this may be discussed when I meet you.
Music & Poetry
When it comes to funeral ceremonies, music and poetry play a pivotal role. They can be an integral part of celebrating the life of someone we love. They can arouse memories and emotions and can be very comforting.
The ceremony will be time-critical, but it will be essential to have a least two music pieces and a maximum of four and perhaps a couple of poems or readings too, even if this will be a graveside ceremony. If you are struggling to choose music or prose, then the following links will provide you with some ideas.