A funeral celebrant is a non-clergy professional who delivers non-religious funerals. The term celebrant on its own refers to someone qualified to perform weddings, funerals, and other special events.
Funeral celebrants are typical for atheist funerals and other non-religious celebrations of life. They also conduct semi-religious and spiritual services.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What is a Funeral Celebrant?
- What’s the Difference Between a Funeral Celebrant and a Funeral Director?
- Funeral Celebrant Duties
- How to Find a Funeral Celebrant
- How to Become a Funeral Celebrant
- Funeral Celebrant Resources
- Funeral Celebrant FAQs
A funeral celebrant leads guests through the funeral service without relying on religious customs. They’re an option for mixed-religion families or those who would prefer not to include these services in their loved one’s funeral.
In this guide, we’ll explain the purpose of funeral celebrants, their duties, and how to become one yourself.
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What is a Funeral Celebrant?
In many religions, you need to be ordained or empowered by religious leaders to perform a funeral ceremony. This is usually a member of the clergy or another religious leader.
While there aren’t strict legal rules about who can lead a funeral service, having a professional can help the family through this difficult time.
In the case of a non-religious funeral or celebration of life, many families choose to include a funeral celebrant. This is a qualified person who officiates the funeral services.
They plan and oversee all of the proceedings, and they honor the person’s memory with respect.
While these can be semi-religious or spiritual events, they usually don’t mention religious beliefs or the afterlife. Funeral celebrants are common for both traditional funerals and funeral alternatives.
What’s the Difference Between a Funeral Celebrant and a Funeral Director?
Many people confuse funeral celebrants with funeral directors. It’s easy to get these two roles confused, especially when they both play such important roles within the funeral or memorial service.
A funeral celebrant is trained to lead the funeral, often speaking throughout the ceremony. While they might play a small role in planning the funeral, the majority of tasks actually fall upon the funeral director.
A funeral director is licensed to handle not only funeral preparations but also the legal and practical concerns. They prepare the death certificate, organize the burial or cremation, and assist the family throughout the entire process.
Funeral directors have special qualifications and education that prepare them for this hands-on role. Though a celebrant might be familiar with different religious customs and mourning practices, they don’t handle the legal, financial, and practical aspects of the funeral and final resting place.
Funeral Celebrant Duties
Funeral celebrants play several roles in the service or celebration of life. There are no limits to who can conduct a funeral, but a celebrant has more experience.
This expertise reveals itself in their many duties. While the specialty of the funeral celebrant depends on his or her background, most celebrants do the following:
- Organize the funeral - The funeral home you choose likely has a funeral celebrant who can help with organizing the service itself. From developing the structure of the ceremony to preparing a schedule, celebrants are there to help.
- Lead the service - Funeral celebrants lead a non-religious service that focuses on the life of the deceased. They touch on his or her accomplishments, relationships, and impact without speaking of religion or the afterlife.
- Expert knowledge - Qualified professionals are familiar with death and dying rituals, funeral songs, readings, symbolism, and traditions around funerals. They are a fantastic resource for all of your questions.
- Organize speeches - Organizing speakers at a funeral is a challenging job, especially when emotions are high. A funeral celebrant takes over this leadership role, guiding guests through multiple speakers.
- Personalization - Because religious ceremonies rely on a long-held tradition, non-religious ceremonies have the opportunity to be more personalized and unique. A celebrant has the training to personalize all components of the service.
- Grief management - Finally, a celebrant is trained in managing grief within families. They help families at a time of loss, and they work well under stress.
Many people mistakenly confuse celebrants for those who handle the body or burial services. While many celebrants are available for advice about these topics, they are not qualified as a funeral professional or mortician. Though there is often overlap, this is not always the case. Instead, think of funeral celebrants as ceremony specialists.
How to Find a Funeral Celebrant
How do you find a qualified funeral celebrant for a loved one’s ceremony? First, realize that there is no single governing body or organization defining the exact standards for celebrants. However, the Celebrant Foundation and Institute is a non-profit educational organization that qualifies celebrants.
The Celebrant Foundation and Institute also has courses available for specialization. For example, some professionals specialize in miscarriages, the death of a child, and other traumas. Looking for a funeral celebrant with a certification through this organization is a good option.
Other organizations offer qualifications, though you’ll need to do your own research on their quality. Otherwise, it’s common to ask for a recommendation through your funeral home to find trusted funeral celebrants in your area.
It’s common for them to have references and other ways to validate their claims. At the end of the day, you want to choose someone you trust.
How to Become a Funeral Celebrant
Anyone has the opportunity to be a funeral celebrant. It takes a bit of training and patience, but this is a role that’s open to anyone of any background. To become one, you’ll need a certification. This specific certification depends on your location.
Many funeral celebrants also possess funeral director licenses, though this isn’t mutually exclusive. Celebrants are often also grief counselors, hospice personnel, social workers, healthcare professionals, and clergy members.
To become a funeral celebrant, search for state certification programs. These usually require taking an online course and logging at least 10 hours of training.
Once certified, you’re eligible to perform funerals in most states. Many celebrants partner with funeral homes to find clients, but they also market themselves.
Funeral Celebrant Resources
If you’re interested in becoming a funeral celebrant, it’s easy to get started thanks to the numerous online resources. This is an up-and-coming field, and many people are looking for ways to give back to their communities. Here are some of the most popular funeral celebrant resources.
The first place to find resources and guides is the Celebrant Foundation & Institute. With over 20 years of helping celebrants across the nation, there is so much to be found on this website and through this association. While you can get certified through this program specifically, they also have many free handbooks and tools.
A Good Goodbye
Another great place to find tools is A Good Goodbye with Gail Rubin. Gail is a pioneering death educator who began the Death Cafe movement in the United States. With three books on the end of life and talking about death, she encourages people of all backgrounds to think about their own mortality. Her website has a wealth of resources, videos, and ideas for becoming a memorable celebrant.
National Funeral Directors Association
Even though funeral celebrants are different from funeral directors, there is still a lot of overlap in terms of the service itself. The NFDA offers certified celebrant training through the InSight Institute. You can register online and earn up to 17 CE hours in your state. All courses through NFDA are approved by most state licensing boards.
American Humanist Association
More and more people are choosing to hold non-religious funerals nowadays. The American Humanist Association advocates for progressive, inclusive values for humanists, atheists, and other freethinkers. With the American Humanist Association, you can become a humanist celebrant online.
International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association
Lastly, the ICCFA offers celebrant training as well. The mission of the ICCFA is to help members thrive in today’s funeral marketplace as well as prepare for the future. By adapting to modern needs, this is one of the most forward-thinking programs available. You can also become an ICCFA member to gain access to even more tools and resources.
Funeral Celebrant FAQs
Now that you know what a celebrant does, let’s review some of the most common funeral celebrant questions. There’s a lot of misunderstandings around this type of professional and the services they provide.
How much does a humanist celebrant charge for a funeral?
A humanist celebrant is one who is accredited and trained in non-religious ceremonies. They’re commonly chosen for celebrations of life or memorial services.
While the fees will vary depending on the type of service, a humanist celebrant likely charges around $150-$400. Again, check with your local celebrants for custom pricing.
It is common to shop around for the right price. Recognize that those with more experience also have a higher price tag, though this might be worth it. This is an important day, and it requires a trusted professional.
How do you find funeral celebrant training?
There are a number of ways to find training programs for funeral celebrants. The most common way is to do an online search. By searching for celebrants in your specific location, you’ll see what the requirements are in your state.
Another option is to ask your local funeral home for a recommendation. These are familiar with the different programs available as well as requirements. One of the most widely recognized celebrant programs is through the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA).
How much does a funeral celebrant make per year?
Using the price range above, most funeral celebrants earn anywhere from $75 to $150 per hour, depending on their skill level and experience. However, most funeral celebrants hold other professional positions. They might also serve as a wedding celebrant or work in the health or funeral industry.
Those who choose this path usually do so in their free time. They’re driven by their passion for service and commitment to others. Funeral celebrants generally perform funeral services on the side either as a part of a bigger role as a funeral director or as a side job. Helping those in need is a way to find lifelong fulfillment.
What qualities make a good funeral celebrant?
Not everyone has what it takes to be a good funeral celebrant. These are individuals who take part in a highly personal, emotional service. The best funeral celebrants are selfless, and they know how to focus on others. They’re also strong organizers who have a knack for putting together events.
Most importantly, a funeral celebrant is comfortable with emotions and grief. Many people struggle to come to terms with death and mortality.
Funeral celebrants confront death on a regular basis. They’re not afraid of death or afraid to speak about these topics. They’re a pillar of strength for those who need it the most.
Get the Funeral Support You Need
It takes a special type of person to be there for others in their time of need. When dealing with the death of a loved one, you need all of the help available.
Having a funeral celebrant in charge of the service puts the day in an expert’s hands. From planning the funeral service to keeping the focus on the deceased, these professionals know what they’re doing.
A funeral celebrant is a non-religious funeral expert. They cater to individual needs with regard to spirituality and traditions. Today, we all have the freedom to plan the type of funeral we want.
While this is a great luxury, it also presents new challenges. For those needing extra support for a loved one’s funeral, funeral celebrants are there.
If you want to learn more about what funeral celebrants do, read our guide on civil funerals.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, you have more than just the funeral to think about. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.