The Modern Day Funeral: A Celebrant’s View


Guest Blogger Phil Spicksley writes on some considerations in planning the modern day funeral.

Over many years when a person died the Funeral Director would attend and say to the family, “I’ll send the Vicar!”

This should not be the case nowadays because more and more grieving families require and deserve a choice when it comes to arranging the funeral of a loved one.

End of life care should not just mean preparing for death in care terms but preparing for a funeral so that the person who faces leaving this earth can plan what they want and not just what the family or minister thinks he or she wants.

Across the UK up to 70% of funerals are now conducted by Celebrants.  So what is a Celebrant?

A Celebrant is an officiant that conducts all sorts of ceremonies including funerals.   The term ‘Celebrant’ came to this country in or around the year 2000 and it is an Australian term.

A Celebrant conducts unique ceremonies and in the case of a funeral will write and conduct a service that celebrates the achievements and life of the deceased.

I have been a Celebrant now for 9 years and currently I am the President of the Association of Independent Celebrants

When I started there were very few training courses and I was advised that a good Celebrant had to be able to get the information, put it together and be confident in delivering the service.   With my past experience as a Senior Detective in the Humberside Police I felt confident that I had the ability and skills to give it a go.

I enquired into courses but actually trained on the job with a Celebrant who had many years experience and I was soon working on my own conducting funerals.

What is the difference between a Humanist and a Celebrant? A Humanist should not include any religious content in their service.  A Celebrant can include whatever the family wish.

When I first contact the family I tell them that they can have whatever they wish in the service,  it is a blank canvas and together  we will paint a picture of their loved one.

Quite often families have asked for a non-religious Minister and when I ask the family whether they want a non-religious service or a middle of the road service they do not understand the difference between a Humanist or Celebrant service.

I give advice in this way, I ask, “Did your mother live her life by Christian principles but didn’t go to church?” They quite often say, ‘Yes that just sums her up”.

I then suggest that they have a prayer or bible reading.

Asking whether their mother watched Songs of Praise on a Sunday.  They quite often say “She loved it and never missed it”. I then suggest that they have a hymn.

From a non-religious the ceremony moved very quickly to a ‘Middle of the road’ type funeral.

Because Celebrant funerals are now very popular there are lots of training companies that are promoting training and making very good livings out of selling their services. The country is getting swamped with poorly trained and inexperienced Celebrants.

When engaging the services of a Celebrant either through a Funeral Director or by direct contact with the individual you must make sure that the Celebrant is professional, a member of a recognised trade association and adequately insured.

Why should a Celebrant be a member of a trade association?

Every Celebrant must recognise that it is important to work in a professional manner, be insured and accountable to the families that engage them. Belonging to a trade organisation provides support, protection and professionalism.

Each Celebrant should also be covered not only by Public Liability but Professional Indemnity Insurance too. Public Liability, in case there is an accident and there is a claim against their actions, should they be at fault. Professional Indemnity covers them for omissions, mistakes and failures that may cause distress to the family, such as breaking down or getting stuck in traffic resulting in being late or not turning up for the service.

The Association of Independent Celebrants is the only trade body that automatically covers all members for both PL and PI insurance.

The association are also Associated Members of the National Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors and Supplier Members of the National Association of Funeral Directors. This gives support and information from the most professional associations in the business.

Being a member of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition the association are consulted at Government and national services in relation to end of life care and provision. Claire Henry MBE is the CEO of the NCPC and is the Patron of the AOIC.

The association is also pleased to be associated with the charity ‘The Child Funeral Charity’. This relatively new charity supports families that are faced with the expense of paying for a child’s funeral.

Remember each and every funeral is a unique opportunity to celebrate your loved one in a way you want and in a way that he or she would have wished. You only get one throw of the dice and so it is important that you chose a professional in whom to place your trust.

The AOIC logo is our kite mark, you should ask your Funeral Director for a Celebrant who is a member of a trade body and insured. Do not accept anyone who is not insured no matter how much the Funeral Director recommends them. If something goes wrong you will have no avenue of redress.


Phil Spicksley - president photoPhil has been a Registered Independent Celebrant for 9 years having completed a career spanning 30 years in the Police.   He has been the President of the Association of Independent Celebrants now for over three years.


Living in North Lincolnshire he conducts services across the Humber Region, Lincolnshire and Sth Yorkshire.   More information can be found on his website:




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