When The Funeral Celebrant Visited The Crematorium

Funeral celebrants are a strange breed. Most people, when they go on holidays, visit beaches, scenic areas, buildings of historic interest. On my staycation last week, I visited the Island Crematorium (link) in Cork, South-West Ireland. I tapped into the power of my network to arrange the visit, and the crematorium manager Brian Johnston said he’d show me around.


You see a long corridor made of stone, with stone walls on either side. There’s a slight bend in the corridor and you can see strip lighting on the left and right-hand side of the corridor. I took these pictures on my crematorium visit by kind permission of Brian Johnston.

The Island Crematorium is located just outside Cork City, where the River Lee meets the sea. It’s in an area with a strong military tradition and the building itself used to be a gunpowder hold in the eighteenth century. This means its thick stone walls have really lasted the test of time – though 200 years of grime had to be scrubbed off the walls during the restoration process.

What’s The Crematorium Like?

Being a slightly warped funeral celebrant, I was fascinated to see the area where the cremations actually happen. But only authorised personnel are allowed in that area. Still, there was plenty to see in the public areas of the crematorium. The entrance alone is quite striking. It’s a long corridor that curves through the stone, with strip lighting on either side of the path.

You find yourself in a long room, softly lit with lamps. Chairs are spaced out across the floor, in line with COVID restrictions. There is a lectern to the side where the celebrant delivers the ceremony. And the coffin rests in a platform called a catafalque, cut into a wall. The platform is surrounded by blue gates, and when the time comes to say goodbye, the blue gates gently close.


The picture shows a long, dimly lit room, with wooden chairs on the right-hand side and a black lectern on the left. On the left-hand wall, you can see two blue gates. These are the gates that close around the coffin at the end.

Three Questions From A Funeral Celebrant

As a funeral celebrant, I had three questions in my mind. How long can a family spend in a crematorium? Who handles the music? And who presses the button at the end? I know that if you’re grieving, that last question isn’t something you want to think about it. And I don’t want to think about it either. I want to deliver a beautiful, dignified ceremony for you, and these questions are all critical in helping to deliver that.

First, ceremonies at Island Crematorium happen every hour, on the hour. This is different from other crematoriums where ceremonies happen every 20-30 minutes. I’ll still make sure to keep my ceremonies at 20-25 minutes. That gives you and your family time to settle in and then have a little chat afterwards, Plenty of time at either end for you to give each other comfort, and for me and the crematorium staff to comfort you.

You can find out more about the funeral services I deliver on my Funerals page.

The crematorium staff then handle the music. If I’m your funeral celebrant, I’ll have helped you choose some music: a favourite song your loved one listened to, or a song that you feel will fit the mood of your ceremony. I’ll then tell the crematorium staff what music you’ve chosen. They’ll load it up through the power of digital music. And then all they have to do is press a button at the right time to start the music.

And finally, there’s that incredibly poignant moment when you say goodbye to your loved one for the last time. This is why I’m so anxious about who presses that final button. I want you to be able to say goodbye with dignity. The crematorium staff make this very easy, for me and for you.

The Final Moments

As I say the final goodbye words, the blue gates on either side of the coffin begin to close. They close very slowly, while music plays. We know that this moment is going to be heartbreaking for you, and we’ll tell you that in advance, so you’ll be in some way prepares.

And then while that moment is happening, everything will be done to ease your pain as music as possible. All you’ll see is those blue gates, sending your loved ones onwards to their final journey.

If you’d like to find out more about the funeral services I deliver, in a crematorium or elsewhere, send me a message on info@celebrantderv.ie

How Long Is A Celebrant-Led Ceremony

In my blog posts, I tend to focus on what goes into a ceremony – for example last week, I spoke to you about the love story. But there’s another important aspect to a celebrant-led ceremony that’s also important and that you mightn’t have thought about – how long a ceremony is.

You may be delighted to know that a ceremony led by an independent celebrant is a lot shorter than a traditional ceremony. Because we’re not bound by any legal or religious obligations, there are fewer procedures for us to follow, so we can deliver your ceremony in as much or as little time as you want.

This photo illustrates the idea that timing is important for ceremonies.
There’s a picture of an old-style alarm clock. It’s black and white and has bells on it. There’s a hand pressing one of the bells.

In a way, asking how long a ceremony is like asking how long is a piece of string. You’ll decide the length. Sometimes people do want a long ceremony with loads of rituals. Some people like it brief and to the point. There is no right or wrong way. There is just your way.

Still, there are average lengths of time that a ceremony can last for, so I’ll give you a run-through here.

First, the big one – weddings

Your average celebrant-led wedding will be around 30 minutes long. Within that, you’ll usually fit in two readings, three pieces of music, a love story, a ring and vow exchange and that all important pronouncement. You’ll be surprised how fast the time goes. I know I always am!

Then there are baby namings.

At baby namings, there are lots of little ones in the audience, so I’ll make it snappy. The first time I did a baby naming, it was 30 minutes long, but with the benefit of hindsight, I’d go for 15 minutes, 20 minutes tops. I’d concentrate on rituals, with a quick reading to break those up. In that time, depending on how many people are involved, we could get three rituals done.

Now for vow renewals

The length of a vow renewal will depend on the type of vow renewal cereninbt you’re going for. Some people want their vow renewal to be like a wedding. In that case, the vow renewal will take about 30 minutes. But some people prefer a no-frills vow renewal with an emphasis on family rituals. In that case, the ceremony can be completed in 15-20 minutes.

And finally, funerals

The length of a funeral will also depend on the type of funeral you’ve chosen. A ceremony in a crematorium will take 20 minutes because that’s the length of the slot you’re given, and there’ll be other cremations taking place after you. Or you may just want a brief graveside or scattering of ashes ceremony and those would take about 10-15 minutes. On the other end of the scale, you may be holding the funeral or memorial service in a funeral home, a public venue or in your own home. There’ll be no time limits, so you can go for a true celebration of life that can last for up to an hour.

Why A Short Ceremony

There are lots of reasons why a short ceremony is a good idea. One is attention span. Our heavy use of social media and smartphones has cut our attention span to the bone. So, if I keep it short and snappy. I’ll be sure to hold the attention of the crowd.

Also, the sooner I finish my ceremony, the sooner you can get on with celebrating your day, and there’s no way a celebrant like me would want to hijack that precious family time. After all, as celebrants we’re all about family.

Whether you want a brief but brilliant ceremony or a long and lavish celebration, I’ll be here for you. Give me a call on 087 6959799.

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