How a Funeral Celebrant Differs From a Director

Senior Women at Funeral
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When you are planning or attending a funeral, you may wonder what a funeral celebrant does and how the role differs from others, such as a funeral director. In its broadest linguistic sense, a celebrant is simply anyone who celebrates something. More-focused definitions state that a celebrant:

  • Participates in a religious ceremony or rite, i.e., someone present at a baptism, confirmation ceremony, etc.
  • 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 second category. A funeral celebrant is a qualified individual who works with a family to conduct a ceremony 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 ceremonies, funerals, or burials.

Funeral Celebrants vs. Funeral Directors

A funeral celebrant and a funeral director often perform many of the same functions. 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, or retirements.

The two roles are not mutually exclusive, however. Funeral celebrants can also hold a funeral director 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 celebrates the important moments of life might decide to become a certified celebrant.

Why Use a Funeral Celebrant

Right or wrong, people can perceive the service arranged by a funeral director or clergy member as religious or standardized 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 officiants associated with an organized religion.

The celebrant movement is not exclusively secular. 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. They might include 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 a Funeral Celebrant 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.

Costs

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, such as 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.

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  • FAQs Celebrant Foundation & Institute.