|You may have
already heard of the term ‘life celebration’, it is certainly becoming
ingrained into our culture now. Life celebrations are ritualistic
celebrations for life events, these can be births, engagements, marriages
and deaths. Holding a Life Celebration either in lieu of, or as an
integral aspect of, a funeral is becoming much more popular today.
This is changing our whole
concept of what a funeral is. The once somber tradition, where we
were all expected to stand round, look extremely upset, and weep has changed.
The funeral, that would have been held in a somewhat grand, grey and stoic
funeral home, or maybe the local church, would have adhered to convention
at all costs. The Life Celebration is completely re-shaping this
landscape. The shift towards life celebration is certainly being
influenced by the baby boomer generation who has sought new and different
rituals for their rites of passage throughout their lives. It is
estimated that around 15% of the U.S. population is not affiliated with
any church*, and religiosity is declining in many states, and therefore
"Life Celebrations" offer a unique means by which to conduct befitting
ceremonies that are non-religious.
dedicated their life to a particular
pursuit. Maybe the deceased had a favorite place where the celebration
can be held. Often certain memorabilia are used throughout the life
celebration to bring everyone together in a shared experience. Life
Celebrations have been known to include such things as: printed T-shirts
in memory of the deceased, themed food that was a favorite of the deceased,
ritualistic lighting of candles, Chinese lanterns or the release of balloons,
butterflies and doves.
What is a life celebration?
In terms of a funeral, the focus
is more on making it a celebratory event, an uplifting tribute to a life
lived. The onus is placed on bringing people together to celebrate
the live of the deceased. It is generally a more creative event,
where anything goes. Stories are told, music and video played, and
readings, poems, prayers or chants held. Props are often employed
to signify special memories of the deceased. Maybe they had a special
A life celebration can be
held either as part of a funeral service, or conducted after a funeral
or cremation. A life celebration can also be held as part of a home
funeral, or even conducted as a ‘living memorial’ whilst your loved one
is still able to participate.
What is a celebrant?
A certified Life Celebrant has
been specially trained to understand how to help families commemorate and
celebrate life events. Celebrants can become certified, and although
they may fill the role of the clergy at a funeral, they are not ordained
by any faith. A celebrant may include religious elements into a life
celebration if you so choose, but they do not guide you in any faith aspect.
Training offered for Celebrants
typically includes three elements:
Life-Cycle Celebrancy – ceremonies
for families & children
What does a celebrant do?
A celebrant is trained to understand
the theory of ritual, ceremonial structure, symbolism and the culture of
storytelling. This means they can pull from a wide array of knowledge
and skills that focus entirely on how to create personalized ceremonies
for people from all belief and value systems. They generally focus
on the detail and are experienced in extracting from surviving family what
are the details, sometimes even the minutia detail, that can make a life
celebration a special and uniquely personalized event. A celebrant,
like clergy, plays a role in the funeral that compliments the role of the
A funeral celebrant will
generally provide the following services:
Meet and spend time with family
to establish a ‘picture’ of the heart and soul of the deceased in order
to best present their story.
Help the family create a memorable
Life Celebration service.
Write the eulogy from the information
you have provided.
Deliver the eulogy and any other
readings, prayers, etc that you require.
Co-ordinate the Life Celebration,
introducing any other speakers or players.
Assist you with selecting appropriate
readings, prayers and props to best symbolize your loved one.
Make suggestions to assist you
with memorialization ideas.
Ensure that the Life Celebration
created best reflects the legacy of the deceased.
Deliver any graveside committal
If necessary, a celebrant will
also conduct annual or special day remembrance services.
How can a holding a life celebration,
or the services of a celebrant, enrich the funeral experience?
As just mentioned above, the
role of the celebrant IS one that enriches the role of the funeral director.
A funeral celebrant will focus entirely on the commemorative aspect of
any funeral or memorial service, leaving the funeral director to focus
on the logistics of the funeral itself.
Some funeral homes employ
their own funeral celebrants these days, who will work closely with family
to plan the tribute aspect of the funeral service. Alternatively,
family can choose to employ their own celebrant in lieu of using the services
of a minister.
to choose a life celebration
instead of a traditional funeral service is all about choice. Remember,
as much as funerals are for the dead, the deceased is not present to participate,
and the rituals we perform as part of the death care process are important
for the living. Many believe that a funeral ritual is a key aspect
of ‘closure’ for those left behind. The question is more about what
kind of closure you desire. What do you want your very last memory
of your lost loved one to be like?
||As cremation continues to
gain popularity, this is presenting greater opportunity for family to arrange
and host their own life celebration memorial event. Many choose to
have a funeral home conduct the cremation, and then arrange their own life
celebration event with the cremated remains at a later date. The
fact that the life celebration can be held at a period of time after the
bereavement also means that family have had time to adjust to their immediate
grief, and therefore enables a more celebratory and uplifting memorial
to be conducted when the time is right. Enrichment is a personal
thing. How we all choose to deal with death and grief is very different.
How do I find a celebrant?
There are presently over 1,600
certified celebrants in North America. As I have mentioned some funeral
homes today now actually employ their own funeral celebrants. If
the funeral home does not have a celebrant on staff, they may very well
know of one locally that officiates at funerals.
If you have previously conducted
a direct cremation and are now looking for a celebrant to help host a life
celebration memorial service, we have included some resources below to
help you locate a celebrant.
How much do the services of
a celebrant cost?
As with anything when it comes
down to quoting prices, this can vary so much depending upon what your
specific needs are, what celebrants are available in your area, whether
your funeral home offers this service and how much time is available for
From the research I have
conducted you can expect to pay anything between $200 and $1,000 for the
services of a certified Life Celebrant. A freelance celebrant can
typically charge around $450 and would commit approximately 5 – 10 hours
time with the family to co-ordinate services.
Can I arrange my own life celebration?
Absolutely! And what a
wonderful idea. Just imagine what fun you can have planning how all your
relatives and friends are going to celebrate you! There are even
websites now that facilitate you planning out your own wishes for when
the time comes.
This obviously saves family
from having to pull all this together on your demise. Plus
it does mean that YOU have created the perfect celebration of your life
that you feel best reflects you….or certainly how you want people to remember
food or a hobby. The sky
really is the limit, and the more creative the more memorable it will be.
Ideas on how to stage a life
Not only can you plan your own
life celebration, but there is no reason why you cannot co-ordinate the
life celebration of your loved one yourself, without the services of a
celebrant. You need a member of the family who feels strong enough
(emotionally) to lead the services. Gather together memorablia concerning
your loved one and organize a memory board or table. Perhaps create
your own memorial candles or lanterns. Arrange to give everyone some
memory seeds to plant. Or arrange a theme that best connotes the
deceased, be it sport,
The Internet, of course,
provides a great tool to be able to find suitable readings, poems or quotes
and technology can even help you create your own slideshow or DVD to commemorate
the event. Remember, it is all about creating a ritual that tells
a story and represents, in as concise a way as possible, the essence of
the person deceased.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
* American Religious Identification