Funeral Planning (Part 1)

Creating A Funeral Ceremony

If you want a religious funeral ceremony, you will want to put yourself in the hands of your faith leader and negotiate. A religious ceremony normally has a format, a liturgy, which you will be able to personalise only to a certain extent.

Starting with a clean sheet

If you do not want a mainstream religious funeral, you get to start with a completely clean sheet. You can do anything you like. A good funeral ceremony will be as unique as the life lived.

Do it your way

A funeral thrives on the participation of people close to the person who has died. It is one of those rare events which are not necessarily improved by professionals. The reason for this is that every family does things its own way. A funeral needs to be created and conducted according to the culture, customs and language of your family.
Start the process of creating the funeral ceremony by deciding what you want to achieve. Make a list of goals. Style your funeral by asking yourself whether you want it to be traditional or innovative, formal or informal. Do you want an element of ceremonial ‚- military standard bearers or a horse-drawn hearse? Do you want it to be plain-speaking and down to earth, or do you want it to be poetical and full of beauty and mystery? What will be the mood of those who come? What will be the dress code? Who will carry the coffin?

Can a funeral be fun?

You want to celebrate the life of the person who has died. But is it okay to be funny?
Humour has its part to play in a funeral, but not as a cover for sadness. Jokes cannot displace sadness or paper over it. An account of someone‚’s life will almost certainly contain funny episodes, and good, happy memories will always make people smile.

Choose your ingredients

A good funeral is likely to appeal to the heart, the head and the senses. There are all sorts of ingredients you can bring to your funeral which will enable it to do this. Music. Poetry. Prayers, perhaps. Candles. They need not cost you more than a few pence. But if you want to push the boat out the sky is the limit.

Construct the ceremony

A funeral ceremony needs to be written down from beginning to end. You could try doing it all just from notes, but that might be living dangerously.
By writing it all down you can keep an eye on timings. You‚’ll want to use the time you have in the most profitable way. Remember, if you are using a crematorium chapel, the worst thing you can do is go on too long and keep the next funeral waiting.

Writing everything down also means that you can share what‚’s been written with other people, invite their suggestions or input, and end up with something everyone agrees is just right.

If everything is written down and someone at the funeral finds they cannot carry on, somebody else can come up and take over. This is what families and friends do for each other.
You will want the funeral ceremony to have a logical structure ‚- a beginning, a middle and an end ‚- and a sense of forward movement.

A ceremony template

There is no right way to structure a funeral ceremony but here is a workable template. Follow it if you like it. If you don‚’t like it, your reaction against it may show you the way ahead.
You can intersperse these sections with songs, poems, readings, a candle ceremony and music.

  1. Welcome + notices
    Thank everyone for coming. Invite them to come along to refreshments / make a donation / attend the dove release afterwards.
  2. Why we are here?
    Tell everyone what is going to happen and why. Describe the purpose of the funeral.
  3. How we feel
    Deal with the really sad bit now. Talk about the death and how you all feel about it. Once you have done that, you are free to give your entire attention to the life of person who has died and talk about nothing else.
  4. Remembering
    Tell the life story and celebrate the life. This is often called the tribute or the eulogy. If forms the big heart of the ceremony.
    A video tribute or life-story slideshow can make all the difference to this part of the ceremony. Find out more by contacting us.
  5. Farewell
    This is often called the committal. It is the part of the ceremony when everyone says goodbye to the body of the person who has died. At a crematorium it is customary, at this stage, for the coffin to be hidden by curtains, or for the coffin to descend. The coffin does not have to disappear like this. A farewell can work just as well when the coffin stays in full view.
  6. Closing words
    Words which speak of acceptance and looking forward may, you feel, be an appropriate way to end the ceremony.
  7. Lacking confidence?

If you feel that writing a funeral ceremony is too big a task, then engage a celebrant to help you or do it for you or use a Ceremony Scripting Service. Not many people would have the confidence to go it alone. You do not have to hand over completely to the celebrant. You remain in charge of the process and, of course, you have the last word on all decisions.

Proud of what you‚’ve made?

Yes? Then – Film it or photograph it
If, having planned your funeral, you find yourself feeling proud of what you‚’ve done, you will also find yourself looking forward to the funeral. If you have created something memorable, you‚’ll want to share it with those who couldn‚’t be there and you‚’ll want to savour the memories as the years go by. To do that, you‚’ll need to make a record of the funeral, and the best way to do that is photographically ‚Äî either with stills or video. It is an interesting reflection on society‚’s denial of death that this is the only life event where cameras are never traditionally seen ‚Äî unless it‚’s the funeral of a celeb, of course. Well, you are not in denial, you have embraced the occasion. Take your camera and invite others to bring theirs. Alternatively, you can book a professional here.
For further information please feel free to contact UK Society of Celebrants or alternatively you can buy a copy of the Good Funeral Guide here.

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