Many names are used for us celebrants and the ceremonies we give, and I get that it’s hard for you to distinguish between us all. I’ve described myself on my website as an independent celebrant, but I could also say that I’m a civil celebrant.
What does the term civil celebrant mean? And what does that mean when I’m delivering a civil funeral?
Officially, a civil funeral is a funeral that upholds the values of civil society and a person’s human rights, rather than religious or cultural belief. That’s what The Celebrants Network in Australia says anyway.
I’d put it more simply. A civil funeral respects who the person was. You are the person who decides what that ceremony will be. You may be arranging a funeral for a loved one or even planning it for yourself. Either way, if you’re planning a civil funeral, you’re in charge.
Here are the different parts of a ceremony that you can decide on.
The eulogy is the centrepiece of a ceremony, where you tell the story of a person’s life. It’s what makes a funeral ceremony personal. You can share colourful stories about the mischief the person got up to and tell jokes to show what sort of person they were.
In your eulogy, you can paint an honest picture of the person, sharing challenges that they overcame and endearing quirks in their personality. Your eulogy will show the world who this person really was and what they meant to you.
The Right Words
There are lots of words in a funeral ceremony. You have the opening words, the readings, and the words that introduce each part of a ceremony. Then you have those all-important closing words. Each set of words gives you a chance to celebrate the uniqueness of your loved one.
You can open your ceremony with a quote that inspired your loved one, choose their favourite poems and readings and close with a piece of wisdom that they shared with you. And even though a civil funeral isn’t religious, you can include prayers or spiritual readings if they were important to the person. After all, the goal of a civil funeral is to reflect the person’s values.
Like with words, you can choose whatever music you wish for a civil funeral ceremony. You can be guided by what music the person liked. You don’t have to worry about whether the music is too spiritual or not spiritual enough. As long as it fits with who the person was, that’s what matters. You can choose any type of music, played whatever way you wish.
Civil funerals tend to centre more on music and words, but a funeral celebrant will be happy to make room for rituals if you wish. The most popular ones are lighting of candles and offering of gifts, which are familiar from traditional funerals.
Lighting candles can be a symbol of hope, while offering gifts is a touching way of showing people what was important to your loved one – a football jersey, a newspaper, a trophy. You don’t have to stick to those rituals either – within reason, anything goes.
A civil funeral gives you the chance to say goodbye to your loved one the way you want, and the way they would want. If the idea of a civil funeral appeals to you, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org