A memorial can be casual or formal. Guests can arrive in jeans. Or they can be dressed in formal black attire. It can be in person, on Zoom, or some combination. There’s no “good” or “bad.”
However, an end-of-life celebration does need some organizing in advance to avoid confusion or even hurt feelings. Everyone in attendance needs to feel they understand what to expect. Family dynamics combined with grief can be stressful enough.
A celebrant is a trusted facilitator during a funeral or memorial. The celebrant is the host you appoint to help those gathered follow your programme. It can be very short (15 min.) or relatively lengthy (90 minutes and up). But, there needs to be a plan. The celebrant can help you draft this programme.
Six Key Tasks for Your Celebrant at the Memorial or Funeral
- Offer words of welcome and provide an overview of how the event will unfold.
- Introduce speaker(s) who offer a eulogy.
- Facilitate symbolic practices such as lighting candles, releasing balloons, laying flowers, and religious or cultural traditions.
- Facilitate an “open microphone” when speakers briefly share a special memory.
- Thank everybody for coming (or introduce an appointed family member to do.)
- Announce next steps to ensure all guests feel confident that they can also leave appropriately. (e.g. where to gather for refreshments or to encourage the signing of a guest book upon leaving, etc.)
Your celebrant will meet with you prior to the funeral or memorial to discuss your family’s ideas. Many families add other elements: music, singing, “words of wisdom” (a poetry reading, spiritual or religious texts), or a movie about the deceased person’s life. Families often wish to engage grandchildren if applicable. The time to discuss such ideas is prior to the memorial so all gathered can focus on celebrating a life well lived.
If you want to learn more about the tasks fulfilled by a funeral director and how they are different from your celebrant, click here.