Funeral celebrants in the UK - everything you need to know

Funeral celebrants in the UK - everything you need to know

by Jon Crawford2023-08-030

Bespoke funerals are increasingly popular in the UK, as people seek alternatives to traditional and religious ceremonies. Booking a funeral with Fenix makes it easier than ever to create a completely personalised tribute to your loved one. You can choose flowers, transport and much more to suit your budget and wishes. 

When it comes to leading the funeral service, however, you might feel out of your depth, simply too overwhelmed by grief and sadness to step up in front of a crowd. This - and the reasons below - is why we always recommend using one of our trusted funeral celebrants for any attended ceremony. 

What does a funeral celebrant do?

Funeral celebrants in the UK take on a broad range of tasks depending on the wishes of their clients and their families. Some popular services that most funeral celebrants offer are:

  • Meeting with the family: The first step in planning a funeral with a celebrant is to meet with the family to discuss the deceased's life and funeral wishes. The celebrant will ask questions about the person's hobbies, passions and values. They will also discuss the family's preferences for the funeral ceremony.
  • Creating a ceremony: Once the celebrant has a good understanding of the deceased's life, they get to work creating a ceremony that reflects their personality and beliefs. The ceremony will typically include readings, music and poems. The celebrant may also ask family members to share memories of the deceased.
  • Leading the ceremony: On the day of the funeral, the celebrant will lead the ceremony. They will welcome guests, answer any questions they may have and deliver the readings and eulogy. 
  • Providing support: Funeral celebrants also provide support to the family during the funeral planning process and on the day of the funeral. They can offer guidance and advice, and they can be a source of comfort and strength.

How do funeral celebrants differ from religious and church officiants?

There are two types of funeral celebrants in the UK, differentiated by the amount of religious content they are permitted to include in the services they lead.

Humanist celebrant

These days, humanist celebrants are a popular choice. They are able to officiate over any non-traditional ceremony, whatever its format, but can only include a limited amount of religious elements. They will create an order of service or celebration that is non-religious, highly personal and more of a celebration of life. In humanist funeral services, the celebrant may designate a few minutes of silence for those who want to pray or reflect to do so, but this is up to personal preference, and there are usually no religious readings or prayers during the service.

Civil celebrant

A civil funeral celebrant or officiant may add a spiritual or more overtly religious element to a funeral service. They can be flexible when it comes to including these elements into the service in a way that humanist celebrants cannot. However, they are still not officially affiliated with any particular church or religion, and as such, the civil funerals they lead cannot take place in any denominational venue, such as a church.

How much does a funeral celebrant in the UK cost?

The average cost of a funeral celebrant in the UK ranges from £150-300.

Most funeral celebrants in the UK work on a self-employed basis - meaning that they are free to set their own rates. The cost will depend on some factors such as:

  • Location of the ceremony - celebrants usually charge more in major cities like London.
  • Length and complexity of the service - a simple service will usually be cheaper than a service with lots of readings, music and entertainment.
  • The experience of the celebrant - experienced celebrants will cost more than newly-accredited celebrants.
  • Additional expenses - these could include travel, printing, and even accommodation for the celebrant if they are travelling a long distance to lead the ceremony.

What is the best way to choose a funeral celebrant?

When it comes to choosing a funeral celebrant - humanist or civil - a personal, emotional connection with the would-be officiant is a must. But what other skills, qualities and accreditations should you look for when trusting someone to someone to lead that special send-off?

The easiest option is to contact us and speak with one of our knowledgeable staff. We have a network of trusted, qualified funeral celebrants who we work with on a regular basis. Whatever you need to create your bespoke service, Fenix can assist with our diverse pool of celebrants who are from many different backgrounds. If you need your ceremony to be in a language other than English, have a specific religious or spiritual slant or include traditions from countries other than the UK, it is likely we can connect you with a celebrant who can help you.

Tips for choosing a funeral celebrant in the UK:

  • Ask friends, family, or religious leaders for their recommendations.
  • Search online for celebrants in your area.
  • Once you have a shortlist of celebrants, speak to them in person to see if they are a good fit for you and your family.
  • Ask potential celebrants about their experience, their philosophy, values and their fees.
  • Ask celebrants if they can help you to write the eulogy, or give you feedback on it.
  • Trust your gut feelings. If you ‘gel’ with a particular celebrant, this could be the confirmation you need. For something as personal as a memorial ceremony or celebration of life, you should feel completely comfortable with your chosen celebrant; certain they will do all they can to make the occasion meaningful, personal and memorable for all the right reasons.

What will a funeral celebrant ask you when you first meet?

It’s the funeral celebrant’s job to celebrate the life of your loved one in a way that captures their essence and personality completely. In many ways, it should almost seem like they knew them as a friend for many years. In order to paint an intimate and authentic picture of the deceased, the funeral celebrant will need to know key facts about the person they are paying tribute to.

At your initial meeting with your chosen celebrant, you will spend some time getting to know each other - chatting and creating a real human connection. With such a milestone event to be planned, both client and celebrant should be completely at ease with each other and able to communicate like old acquaintances.

The celebrant will usually invite you to speak freely about the life of your loved one, your memories of them and what they brought to your life and those who loved them. They will listen to your memories to gain a deep understanding of who your loved one was. With this knowledge, they will create a service that celebrates their life, while bringing comfort to those who are grieving. 

This may seem like a lot to ask… to bare your soul to a relative stranger the first time you meet.  Funeral celebrants, however, are trained to be excellent listeners, sympathetic to the needs of the recently bereaved. Once the ice is broken, people often find the conversation flows freely. 

Many people find that this process is actually an important part of grieving. It allows them to remember their loved one and to share their memories with others. It can also be a way to come to terms with loss and to find closure.

Can a funeral celebrant help with funeral planning?

This period between death and the funeral ceremony is always a difficult time, stressful and emotionally draining. Another benefit of working with a qualified funeral celebrant is that it will support you through these difficult days until the ceremony comes. Funeral celebrants in the UK have a wealth of experience in helping bereaved people and demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence when talking to those suffering from acute loss.

From helping you choose the perfect readings, poems and music to reserving a venue that suits your service, a funeral celebrant can prove invaluable at such a taxing time. 

Celebrants also often liaise with the funeral directors to keep things moving and will keep you informed of everything relating to the process. This might free you up to take care of other day to day things and give you some headspace for grieving, instead of all your time being taken up by funeral planning. 

Some examples of celebrant-led funerals 

It’s clear that employing a funeral celebrant is a massive help when planning a custom ceremony that does not fit the traditional or religious funeral format. With that in mind, here are some suggested ideas for celebrant-led funerals and celebrations of life in the UK.

Celebration of life for a lover of nature and the great outdoors

Here we could see a humanist celebrant officiating over a bespoke service at a woodland burial ground. The outline of the service could be as follows:

  1. The celebrant welcomes guests and introduces themselves before explaining the purpose of the ceremony and the significance of the green burial service in honouring the life of the deceased.
  2. The celebrant leads the service, with poems or readings chosen by the family (perhaps with their help) that reinforce the green theme of the ceremony and are particularly poignant in evoking the character of the deceased. The celebrant will read the eulogy or introduce a family member who will do this.
  3. The celebrant performs a rite or blessing to honour the deceased. For a green ceremony, it could be the planting of a tree or the scattering of wildflower seeds accompanied by a humanist blessing.
  4. The celebrant officiates over the internment of the body in the woodland burial plot, again noting the significance of this to the departed.
  5. The celebrant offers closing words of comfort and a call to celebrate the life of the deceased and remember them whenever they witness the beauty of nature, for example.

A celebrant-led celebration of life for an avid music lover

A celebration of life/party at a music venue in the deceased’s hometown, which pays tribute to their lifelong love of music and music culture.

  1. Music playing as people arrive. The celebrant welcomes guests and introduces themselves, explaining the significance of meeting in a music venue and how music was the passion of the deceased. Some words explaining that today is a celebration, a chance to remember the deceased and have fun while doing so.
  2. Celebrant gives a eulogy interspersed with some of the deceased’s favourite songs. The songs help build up a picture of the deceased and set the tone of the service.
  3. Guests are invited to the stage to share memories and stories of the deceased. These could be memories relating to fun times at this venue or seeing musical acts together.
  4. Guests with a musical talent have been asked to bring instruments - the stage is opened up for them to perform the favourite songs of the deceased.
  5. Celebrant delivers closing words, maybe a spiritual blessing built from favourite song lyrics and encourages guests to enjoy the evening, keeping the spirit and soul of the deceased in their minds as they socialise, dance and enjoy the music.

What does it take to become a funeral celebrant in the UK?

A career as a funeral celebrant can be rewarding. It is a chance to help people at one of the most difficult times in their lives and to celebrate the lives of the deceased. Celebrants usually work on a self employed basis, and it’s fairly common to combine freelance celebrant work with another career like wedding planning or events management.

What qualities should a funeral celebrant have?

  • Communication and listening: A would-be funeral celebrant should be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with people of all ages and backgrounds. They should also be great listeners who can absorb people’s stories - and share their own - in a way that is both sensitive and respectful.
  • Empathy: Celebrants must be able to empathise with grieving and distressed people. They should have a window into their pain and be able to comfort them with words of experience and wisdom.
  • Creativity: Celebrants also need to have a flair for creating meaningful and personalised ceremonies that celebrate the lives of the deceased, creating memories that will last. They should be able to think outside the box and to come up with original ideas.
  • Organisation: Celebrants must also be well organised and adept at managing multiple clients and keeping them updated. They should also be confident liaising with venues and other service providers.

Training courses for funeral celebrants in the UK

Various qualifications that will help start a career as a funeral celebrant in the UK are available to study at private institutions. Some examples are:

  • Wedding, funeral and naming ceremonies training
  • Level 3 Certificate and Diploma in Celebrancy
  • Postgraduate Master's in Existential Humanist and Pastoral Care

Some established organisations that offer funeral celebrant training in the UK are: 

When choosing a place of study, you should make sure that the organisation is accredited by the relevant regulatory bodies such as Ofsted and AIM.

How much does it cost to become a funeral celebrant in the UK?

With the ever-increasing popularity of bespoke and non-religious funerals in the UK, there are growing numbers of training courses available. There are different study options - from online learning to in-person training. 

For this reason, the range of costs is quite wide, ranging anywhere from £495 for an online course to £3,000 for a complete qualification.

Should I book a celebrant?

Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand exactly what a funeral celebrant could bring to your celebration of life or civil funeral. 

While there is no obligation to employ the services of a celebrant, many people do find that they offer a friendly channel of support when faced with a huge amount of organisational tasks at a challenging time. When bereavement hits unexpectedly, many of us will find ourselves plunged in at the deep end: arranging a funeral and the associated services for the first time in our lives. Having someone to help share the burden can be a great relief.

Ultimately it comes down to personal choice and the wishes of the other members of the deceased’s family. However, even people lucky enough to have a large, supportive group of family or friends that can all help with planning the service often find that having a professional with an in-depth knowledge of the industry is a real plus.

To add to this, a celebrant who can think objectively and ‘out of the box’ might be just the catalyst you need to create a ceremony that provides a tribute to your loved one that will stay in peoples’ memories for years into the future.

For help finding a funeral celebrant or any other funeral services contact Fenix

Remember, we can help with anything you need to create a send-off that is personal, respectful and memorable. Get in touch any time to speak to one of our advisers for expert, impartial advice with no obligation quotes with no hidden charges. 

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