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What is a Funeral Celebrant?

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Updated September 18, 2013

Woman & Man
Photo © Comstock/Getty Images

What is a Funeral Celebrant?
In its broadest linguistic sense, a celebrant is simply anyone who celebrates something. More-focused definitions state that a celebrant:

1.) Participates in a religious ceremony or rite, i.e., someone present at a baptism, confirmation ceremony, etc.
2.) Officiates at a religious or secular/civil ceremony, such as a wedding, a service to welcome new family members, coming-of-age rituals, etc.

A funeral celebrant falls into the latter category. A funeral celebrant is a qualified individual who works with a family to craft and conduct a ceremony befitting, and tailored to, the beliefs, values and desires of a deceased individual and his or her immediate family members. Such services might or might not include aspects and components of "traditional" religious and/or funeral/burial ceremonies.

How are Funeral Celebrants & Funeral Directors the Same/Different?
A funeral celebrant and a funeral director often perform many of the same functions -- that is, he or she coordinates and conducts various aspects of a funeral ceremony in conjunction with the immediate family of the person who died. Celebrants, however, often officiate at other life events, such as weddings, civil unions, divorces, coming-of-age rituals, retirements, etc.

The two roles are not mutually exclusive, however. Funeral celebrants can also hold a funeral directors license, and many licensed funeral service professionals have also undertaken the training necessary to become a "certified" celebrant.

Who Becomes a Celebrant?
People from all walks of life can choose to become a certified celebrant, including funeral directors, grief counselors, hospice personnel, social workers, healthcare professionals, and even members of the clergy. The reasons vary but, generally, anyone who feels the calling to assist others mark and celebrate the important moments of life might decide to become a certified celebrant.

Why Would I Use a Funeral Celebrant?
Right or wrong, people can perceive the service arranged by a funeral director or clergy member as religious and/or somewhat standardized or "cookie cutter" in nature, and therefore not reflective of the unique individual it is intended to honor. In addition, a growing percentage of the population defines itself as non-religious, and therefore does not wish to involve at the end of life those associated with an organized religion, such as ministers, priests, rabbis, etc.

The celebrant movement is not exclusively secular, as noted above, and the services created and conducted by certified funeral celebrants can still be spiritual in nature -- even to the point of incorporating aspects and components of "traditional" funeral and burial rites, e.g., the recitation of Psalm 23 or the singing of "Rock of Ages." The beliefs, convictions and attitudes of the surviving family members with whom the celebrant works determine the tone and content of the eventual service.

Can Funeral Celebrants Embalm a Body?
A funeral celebrant cannot embalm a body, unless he or she has received the medical training and professional licensure necessary to do so. Embalming training is not part of the celebrant-certification process.

Are Funeral Celebrants Licensed?
Funeral celebrants are generally certified by a for-profit or not-for-profit organization, but there is neither a standardized educational or training program they must pass nor are they subject to government oversight or regulation.

How Much Money Does a Funeral Celebrant Charge?
The costs vary, so it might pay to shop around. For instance, some funeral homes now offer families the services of a certified celebrant and charge the typical honorarium given to clergy members for presiding over ceremonies, i.e. a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, many celebrants work independently and might quote a flat fee for the type of service you wish to arrange, or even a per-hour cost. Each celebrant sets his or her own fees, so make sure you ask about all of the costs involved up front.

Sources:
“Our Mission.” www.celebrantinstitute.org. Retrieved September 15, 2013. http://celebrantinstitute.org/?p=mission

"Recognising the role of funeral celebrants" by John Sellwood. February 21, 2011. www.tellinglives.co.nz. Retrieved September 15, 2013. http://www.tellinglives.co.nz/blog/posts/view/2011/02/recognising-the-role-of-funeral-celebrants

You Might Also Like:
Five Reasons to Plan Your Own Funeral
How to Plan a Funeral or Memorial Service
Preparing for Death

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  5. What is a Funeral Celebrant? About.com Death & Dying

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