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What are Funeral Celebrants?

A funeral is an event at which you remember and celebrate the life of someone you knew. Not every funeral needs to be religious, even if you’ve had strong feelings about faith. It’s up to you and your family to choose the type of funeral that feels appropriate. For many people, using a celebrant is an ideal choice.

Celebrants create and lead non-religious ceremonies

A celebrant is someone who officiates at a formal life-event ceremony, without needing to be religious. Most celebrants conduct other services too, such as renewals of vows (with no faith-based connections), baby naming (as opposed to christening). A good celebrant will have plenty of experience, making sure everyone feels comfortable with the service.

A celebrant isn’t connected to a specific religion. Celebrants make suggestions for the way you’d like to commemorate someone’s life. It might be through readings, music, symbolic gestures, silent reflection or celebrant-led speeches. There’s usually quite a lot of flexibility around a funeral led by a celebrant, more so than in some religious funerals. 

  • With a celebrant, you don’t have to ‘stick to the rules’.
  • Your family – young children, especially – can come up with creative ideas to commemorate your life.
  • Or, if you want to, you can still include a spiritual element in the ceremony such as prayers, religious songs, or blessings.

Your local funeral directors will be able to recommend at least one celebrant to you. You might want to speak to more than one person to get a feel for their approach – there are also three key organisations who ensure their members are approved as civil celebrants: the Institute of Civil Funerals, Humanists UK, and the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants – we’ll list their websites at the bottom of this article.

Where can you hold a civil funeral, with a celebrant?

Almost anywhere, really. As long as you’ve got permission. A civil funeral service can be held at any venue that’s happy to offer you their location. For many families, the idea of working with a celebrant goes naturally with organising a woodland burial. Talk to hotels, village halls, community centres, organisations that open listed buildings even – and of course your local crematorium will have a space or building where you’d be welcome to host a non-religious funeral.

Do all celebrants work the same way?

No, humanists offer their services as celebrants, but humanists are non-religious and non-spiritual. There’s no ‘faith’ element to their services at all. Songs or music may be included, but hymns and prayers wouldn’t be appropriate.

With a humanist helping you to remember the person who died, you’ll be focusing entirely on the person’s life and what they meant to other people. If your family hasn’t been at all religious, or you’re bridging the gap between many different faiths among your friends and family, then a humanist-led service might be a good choice.  

Can a celebrant hold a service in a church?

It wouldn’t be appropriate to hold a non-religious service in a place of faith worship. However, the Church of England at least says that you may leave instructions for a Church of England funeral – even with non-religious poems or songs – and you don’t need to have been to church yourself. 

When you take out a funeral plan through Safe Hands, we will make arrangements to put you in touch with a funeral director who can recommend a celebrant local to you. For more information, try these celebrant and humanist websites: