The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Come on, it’s not rocket science

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

speaking

 

Churchill was mulling over a cabinet appointment, weighing up the merits of a candidate. Glancing towards his principal private secretary he enquired: “What about So-and-so?” The PPS murmured: “Simply won’t do, Prime Minister.”

They talked like that, then. They understood the thermonuclear power of understatement.

That same PPS might have pronounced the same judgement on a number of today’s funeral celebrants.

In the beginning were the humanists. Then came the civils. Then the Green Fusers. Then the AOIC. Then, in what order I knoweth not, the Fellowship of Independent Celebrants, the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants, Perfect Ceremonies, County Celebrants, the Scottish Independent Celebrants Association… That’s as many as I can be bothered to track down in 5 mins of googling. These are all training organisations. There’s a bunch of self-taught freelancers out there, too. Together they’re breeding like rabbits. Demand for secular funerals is rising, but is it really rising this fast? 

So who’s good and who’s not? If there needs to be a cull, who needs to go? 

If you were to say that some celebrants are better than others, how would you make that value judgement? Where’re your criteria? 

If it’s about brains, what level of intellectual attainment does a celebrant require? Some would say you need to be really quite bright to be any good at this work. It helps with the thinking and the listening and the writing. You need grammar, you need spelling, you need vocab, you need apostrophes. It does no harm to be well read. You need a formidable armoury of brain cells to create something appropriate and thoughtful and meaningful that articulates the feelings and values of the mourners and makes a funeral intellectually, emotionally and spiritually useful.

How are we to rate performance skills? Just as a beautifully crafted script can be devalued by mumbling, so can an indifferent script can be made much of by excellent delivery, a compelling presence and a mobile face. As to the quality of the thoughts and ideas expressed, one person’s banality is another person’s enduring wisdom. A lot of clever stuff uttered by brainboxes possibly passes over everyone’s heads. Style may count for more than substance, emotional rapport for more than cerebral rigour, with an audience whose minds are suffused with sadness. 

What about motivation, then? Celebrancy has got to be vocational, hasn’t it? You’ve got to have a sense of mission, surely? You care about your work so much that you spend hours agonising over every script. You wouldn’t dream of taking on more than five ceremonies, max, a week. Three, even. 

There is no doubting that bright, vocation-driven celebrants work incredibly hard at what they do. They reflect on their work self-critically, hanker to do better, are never satisfied with themselves. They are, in their way, admirable human beings. It’s not the money they do it for, not principally, it’s the getting it right that gets them out of bed in the morning. But are they in the wrong line of work? Is it really this hard?

When I posted a video of David Abel, of the Fellowship of Independent Celebrants, on the GFG’s Facebook page,  comments were universally disparaging. Mr Abel, addressing would-be celebrants on his website, doesn’t address the matter of vocation at all. He doesn’t talk about supporting bereaved people and creating meaningful funerals in a secular age. He bypasses philosophical and vocational values and confines himself entirely to money matters: “It’s a market that’s very quick to get into … Some of my colleagues are conducting eight to ten funerals a week at a minimum fee of £150.” Watch him here.

The verdict of the market would seem to be that Mr Abel and the celebrants he trains are doing a perfectly good job at 8 to 10 a week. If he neglects to talk about vocational values in his video, his organisation requires high ethical standards of its members. Furthermore, Mr Abel has been instrumental in working to establish an umbrella organisation for all celebrants in order to drive up standards. 

Just as funeral directors conduct their own backstabberly feuds in the best traditions of any caring profession, celebrants, too, are prone to really quite beastly factionalism. This is not just a matter of turf wars and power plays, though, goodness knows, these abound. Nor is it as simple as mutual animosity between visionary pioneers and cut’n’paste journeymen. 

It may be the case that some celebrants take themselves more seriously than the job demands.

Wherein lies the value of a funeral? 

 

44 comments on “Come on, it’s not rocket science

  1. Saturday 14th September 2013 at 5:50 pm

    […] The full answer to this question is long and complex but can probably be condensed as ‘I (think I) am the Right Sort of Person’. What, precisely, is a Right Sort of Person? There was a discussion about this recently here.  […]

  2. Wednesday 4th September 2013 at 12:58 pm

    […] The answer is that the bereaved are best served by people with good hearts, good minds and good judgement. Eyebrows have rightly been raised at the spectacle of what some would characterise as an incursion, recently, by funeral celebrants who are not only reckoned second-rate but, also, unhealthily mercenary — those who seem bent on putting the ‘sell’ into celebrancy. Narcissistic windbags intoxicated by the sound of their own voices, some would add. The GFG has, of course, been even-handed and defended those so disparaged. […]

  3. Wednesday 24th July 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Appreciate the back up Ru 🙂 I have considered the “embed” question and it makes sense, yet like many I value my independence. I am seriously considering the Greenfuse FD training in a few years and could then act as a freelance celebrant and FD. All options remain open 🙂

  4. Lol Owen

    Wednesday 17th July 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Ian – my only comment directed in your direction was a clarification on the extent of my inking.
    “And if verbal mistakes don’t show in the oral delivery on the day, their presence in a celebrant’s literature hint at other stumbling blocks to comprehension that will certainly compromise the appreciation of an audience of mourners.”
    I can’t agree. Give me good, honest, heartfelt words of compassion, love and respect for the deceased over any amount of scholarly brilliance, delivered perfectly, devoid of personality or individuality any day of the week.
    At first we had the colour bar, now we have the grammar bar.
    How long before discarded and disaffected celebrants gather en masse in St. Neots where their charismatic leader declares “I have a dreeme.”
    However, it is to be expected, for as the good book says:
    “And the unschooled were expelled from Eden, for their sins of illiteracy greatly offended the gods in their heaven, and they were cast into the desert for 40 years, forced to toil in the hell that is Dignity and the Co-oP”

    • Wednesday 24th July 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Lol I’m with you. I think you have been unfairly judged. If you’re doing four funerals for Peace Funerals, then I can think of no higher endorsement. I hate all that Eat shoots and leaves self congratulatory bollocks. Fuck dat shit. Spelling is not about intelligence, especially emotional intelligence, which is all you need in this job, not a classical education.
      Long may you continue Lol. To me, you sound in the right job.
      And to answer another earlier question, yes, there are way too many celebrants, poorly trained and led to believed that there is a career out there. Like most therapists, they do it just long enough to seriously screw a few people up, then quit.
      I ‘ve said it before, and like nearly everything I’ve ever said, I’ll say it again: why don’t good fd’s grab and embed good celebrants? What’s wrong with them for god’s sake?

  5. Richard

    Wednesday 17th July 2013 at 5:41 pm

    A long thread rich in interesting and amusing insights. More!

  6. A Celeb

    Wednesday 17th July 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Kingfisher: it does feel like that at times! (‘It’s about the funeral director and his big black vehicles’) but, call me an idealist, there are a lot of good people out there who care. Like you.
    ian said ‘IMO if you speak clearly, can communicate effectively with people and dress smartly you’ll be on to a winner…’ Seems crude but I agree. Also, calm under pressure. A flapping celeb is no good to anyone.

  7. ian

    Wednesday 17th July 2013 at 11:12 am

    We use those that we know are going to do a good job, end of. I’m with Andy – all we do, in reality, is ensure that a family get exactly what they want and everything runs smoothly.
    A few weeks ago I used someone I met at the crem. She was taking the service after us and did a great job. Unfortunately she couldn’t stick to her 30 minutes. That’s unfair on everyone else (in particular the family following us, whose funeral is just as important). I tried to explain the problem to her but she wasn’t interested.
    One of the big selling points a few years ago was that non-religious ceremonies weren’t ‘cut and paste’ but sadly a lot of the time they seem to be just that. We have people that we used for years but every ceremony became the same – and as much about them showing off as it was for the benefit of the family.
    IMO if you speak clearly, can communicate effectively with people and dress smartly you’ll be on to a winner – i’d use you because there is no one round here like that!

  8. Wednesday 17th July 2013 at 10:30 am

    It’s all about the easiest option, A Celeb, and the one that creates the least hassle for us. Book the funeral to suit ourselves, then find a vicar/celebrant/anyone really who can ‘do’ the funeral. Why should we care about the ceremony? That’s your job.

    Been there, seen it, rebelled against it, regret it occasionally, thrive on it frequently.

    And yes, sometimes the client is very specific about where and when the funeral should be, but not very often. After all, the funeral isn’t really about the client is it? It’s about the funeral director and his big black vehicles, his silly hat and his ability to upsell coffins, flowers and more big black vehicles to maximise profit…

  9. A Celeb

    Wednesday 17th July 2013 at 8:38 am

    Yes, how do funeral directors and arrangers decide? Tell us!
    I have never been interviewed. I got my first few bookings because they were desperate to get someone. And it’s not always the funeral arrangers who insist on a particular slot – sometimes the client is determined to have a particular day or time.

  10. Tuesday 16th July 2013 at 6:05 pm

    All I can say Lol is that first impressions count. Your website was my first impression of you. Have a look at Charles’ view on spelling mistakes on websites in his blog post on April 11th, and you’ll see I’m not alone.

    • Jonathan

      Tuesday 16th July 2013 at 10:02 pm

      “If you can’t get the spelling, grammar and punctuation right on your own website, what does that say about your ability to arrange a funeral?”
      (C. Cowling, 11 April, GFG blog.)

      Well, it doesn’t say much about that ability, of course – any illiterate person can arrange a funeral – though possibly it irritates and prejudices pedants such as I, or Charles.

      George Orwell said: “Correct grammar and syntax [and, by extension, spelling] are of no importance so long as one makes one’s meaning clear.” But Orwell was wrong. Language is about more than making one’s meaning clear – you could equally say that it doesn’t matter what scruffy rags and tattooed buttock skin you display in public so long as you cover your body according to the requirements of the law.

      Presentation makes a visible statement about the quality of what’s behind it. There are ways and ways of getting your message across; and a common English language, with unambiguous rules to which everyone adhered (if only such a thing existed!), would seem to be a good thing to aspire to, and through which you could make an eloquent and attractive account that’s a pleasure to listen to and easy to understand, rather than a mediocre, repetitious performance to be endorsed with routine words of praise that reflect no criticism of the funeral director.

      And that’s the real point in question here – which of the celebrants on offer puts on a show worth listening to?

      Or is it? A funeral is not a show, whatever the fun-bling merchants would have you believe, proffering their catalogues. You may come away admiring the actors and the props and the scenery and the production team and the soundtrack, with cries of “That was exactly HIM, darling, he’d have ADORED it!”; but will that memory truly support your grief in the middle of the night in years to come?

      So. A celebrant who speaks words so clear and true they touch you to the quick is worth a thousand showmen who’ve done it all a thousand times and know how to make you applaud. And if verbal mistakes don’t show in the oral delivery on the day, their presence in a celebrant’s literature hint at other stumbling blocks to comprehension that will certainly compromise the appreciation of an audience of mourners.

  11. ian

    Tuesday 16th July 2013 at 4:51 pm

    LOL, you said yourself that some people have been ‘dissatisfied initially’. Its just a fact of life. if you can cover the tattoos then fine. It obviously has no bearing on your ability as a celebrant – I never implied that it did.

    I have a whole arm full of tattoos that go just to my cuff. no one knows I have them. I live where I work and I never go out without a long sleeved shirt/top/jacket on. I wouldn’t risk the potential of someone of someone judging me based on that. It’s a reality that I get on with. my wife doesn’t think anyone would care – but why risk it. I don’t need anyone to see them. I got them for me not them. It’s a pain in the back side but that was my choice.

  12. Lol Owen

    Tuesday 16th July 2013 at 4:37 pm

    For Ian and Andrew, re-read my post, I mention a hint of tattoo peeking out of shirt cuffs. There are none on my hands or anywhere else immediately visible, and whilst even that may be too much for the sensitivities of St. Neots, where I ply my craft it causes absolutely no problems whatsoever, even for the Country Life readers amongst us.
    How shallow an approach to discount someone because of five spelling mistakes on their website. For what it’s worth, I coded the site by hand, hence no spell checker. Does that make me a bad celebrant, someone not to be trusted with your families? Is my spelling a reflection of my humanity and compassion for others? Does it indicate a lack of ability to craft a moving and meaningful ceremony?
    It certainly doesn’t seem to bother Peace Funerals of Sheffield, past winners of the GFG award for whom I am conducting four funerals this week, nor Lymn’s of Nottinghamshire, a very highly regarded family owned company.
    I think there are too many celebrants out there, because with this embarrassment of riches on offer to FD’s the basis on which someone is offered work is not always in the best interests of the families concerned.
    It may be the heat affecting my usually easy going nature, but frankly I am firstly annoyed to be dismissed in such a fashion and secondly cannot believe such tripe is trotted out by someone who is a past winner of a GFG award? Can awards, like knighthoods be rescinded?

  13. Tuesday 16th July 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Point taken about market research. But at least if all the FDs said no straight away, I’d stop trying to influence them.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had an FD (except Poppy) not tell me that the time was already booked.

  14. Tuesday 16th July 2013 at 9:05 am

    I have to agree with Ian, mostly. (Lol, before I even knew what you looked like, I’m afraid I had turned off due to the 5 spelling mistakes on the funeral page of your website).

    There are more and more fds out here who care about the ceremony, but still a very large proportion who don’t. The simple way to evaluate your fd is to listen when the phone call comes. How many of you are told “the funeral is at 2.30pm on Wednesday”? That is the point at which you should lose all respect for him or her. If you’re not available, they’ll just move on to the next one on their list.

    Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to be phoned and asked “I’m with a lovely family to whom I think you would be very suited. They’d like a funeral perhaps Wednesday or Thursday next week, what is your diary looking like?”

    But I equally fall into the pit of “we know this celebrant, she does a fantastic job, everyone loves her, so why try anyone else?” I have the double guilt of giving a talk to all the new entrants on the IOCF courses – trying to inspire them, but knowing that they will be hitting their heads against brick walls when they get into the real world.

    We also now have a full-time funeral director on our staff who is an exceedingly good celebrant, so there is the ‘business’ side of things which says we’re paying her anyway, so she may as well be our celebrant of choice – the celebrant’s fee going towards her salary.

    But Ruth, although I appreciate that being to the truth is better in the long run, would you not become very despondent if, having trained and become all excited about your new venture, every FD simply turned you away? [Although I do wonder why would-be celebrants don’t do some market research before they go on the training course rather than after!]

  15. ian

    Tuesday 16th July 2013 at 8:24 am

    As a fd, IMHO the ‘market’ is a bit oversaturated. we have just received the BHA book of registered members – I haven’t even heard of most of the ones in our area. We try to match up families with celebrants to use the person that, in our opinion, would be most suited. But to be honest, most people want pretty much the same thing.
    You then start to work on other criteria.

    I am sorry to say, Lol, that I would struggle to use someone with any visible tattoo’s at all. (and believe me I’m no old fashioned fuddy duddy) You have to accept that when you have tattoo’s that are visible, you are going to alienate a proportion of people.

    We also started using a woman recently who was unable to wotk within the time at the crematorium. We’ll never use her again and neither will most people at our local crem.

    Basically, do a decent job for the family, look smarter than everyone else and be sensible – believe me, you’ll shine above the rest!

  16. Monday 15th July 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Ruth hit the nail on the head there.

  17. Monday 15th July 2013 at 9:55 pm

    OK, so we celebrants can congratulate ourselves on the list of qualities we bring to the job (including humility); but part of Charles’ original question was whether there are simply too many of us. And I think it needs answering. ‘Too many’ could mean that everyone who wants a celebrant can find one; or that everyone who could conceivably want a celebrant but didn’t know they existed can find one if they decide that’s what they want; or that funeral directors have too many people like me turning up & reminding them (again) I exist.. Quite often I wish an FD would simply say to me Thanks for coming in, but I don’t need you, rather than encouraging words and no work. I’d like to hear from FDs about how they do decide who to use when, & whether they feel they have an embarrassment of what may not be riches.

  18. Jed

    Monday 15th July 2013 at 8:42 am

    I read this recently: It’s about sharpness, softness, diligence, dottiness, intellect, ignorance, curiosity, compassion, love, laughter, timing, tenacity, vocation and a touch of juju voodoo!! None of these appear on the job description, or essential job skills/experience when you start training… None of these can be ‘taught’ or ‘trained’, the families probably couldn’t quantify what it is they love about Their ace celebrant – they just know they feel safe and supported and guided…. it’s a gift.

  19. Monday 15th July 2013 at 8:32 am

    Ru, I like to surprise people 🙂

  20. Lol Owen

    Sunday 14th July 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I’ll confess to following this thread since it’s beginning, an it is only the fact that I have just written my 15th service for the week ahead that I have time to comment 😉
    What makes a good celebrant? For myself the essentials are, in no particular order as they say on the tv: compassion, writing skills, listening skills and conversational ability to keep the talking going when the client dries up through grief or simply confusion as to what is expected of them at that point, along with an ability to speak in public without shrivelling up or dying a death. An easy going personality with the ability to guide people, often without them realising you are doing it, are again ideal attributes.
    In truth, none of the above training organisations will endow anyone with all of the above, if any, it has to be within the individual to start with.
    Certainly, writing skills improve, as do interviewing techniques become refined and delivery skills on the day become better.
    The fact that you have been on a course is no guarantee you are a good celebrant, in fact at that stage you are far from it and just beginning to learn your craft, much as you begin to learn to drive once you have passed your test and rid yourself of the instructor next to you.
    For myself, I am in a constant state of flux in that I am never happy with the whole package I bring to my clients. Sometimes I think my writing skills need to improve, other times it’s my presentation or my interviewing. Whilst it can be frustrating it is also reassuring, because I know that when I am equally happy with all my skills I have stopped improving and am then probably on the downward slope.
    What no one has addressed in their comments so far is personality, in so much as that not every client will like you nor will it be reciprocal, so whilst we may do our very utmost for them as celebrants, they may not recognise that fact either to themselves or anyone else.
    from experience, and those who know and love me will attest to this, appearance is also sometimes a factor. I’m a fairly big guy at 6’3″, 19 stone with a shaved head and the hint of tattoos peaking from under shirt cuffs and a face for crimewatch. I wear reasonable suits and handmade shoes, yet I have experienced stereotyping from some clients who, whilst they have warmed to me eventually, have on my appearance alone been, for want of a better word, dissatisfied initially.
    To paraphrase someone : you can’t please all of the people all of the time….

    • Monday 15th July 2013 at 3:53 am

      Wow Lol, that’s made me completely reprint my mental picture of you. Thank you! Something to do with your name had put me in mind of Wilfred Owen, so I had you in tweeds with a haircut nearly a hundred years out of date.
      Nothing wrong with a shaved head. Or tatts. Or a face from crime watch…

  21. Jonathan

    Sunday 14th July 2013 at 6:21 pm

    The whole reason we have funerals is because we value people we were attached to, and to contemplate a tier system for celebrants is comparable to offering a low-budget half-baked cremation with burned flesh still clinging to the cremains.

    It takes what it takes to complete the work, and as with cremation or burial it ought to cost what it has to cost, and that is the simple truth that funeral directors need to be telling their clients. There are no short cuts in this part of the service.

  22. Jed

    Saturday 13th July 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Aha – good points AH & CC… I patently hadn’t imagined the scenario to its conclusion… Theoretically it’s one thing to think of a pricing differential but of course as an FD I wouldn’t want to be offering any family the ‘second rate’ celebrant. And I’ve had a taste of the second rate organist too – grimsville indeed! You’re right Andrew, we should only be offering the best… So that would do it then? If you know who’s any good and only use them then presumably that would be market forces at work…?

    • Sunday 14th July 2013 at 10:14 am

      That should be a new post, Jed.

      But one thing springs to mind when reflecting on this: ‘bespoke’ from my point-of-view as a funeral director is about cutting the fancy stuff, the limos, the prats in the hats. The same thing from a celebrant’s perspective is about getting more involved (and thus commanding a higher fee).

      Can the two live side-by-side?

  23. Saturday 13th July 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Interesting point, Andrew. Food-on-table considerations need to be factored in? If bespoke comes in at around 10-12 hours (often more), there’s got to be a reasonable hourly rate. Perhaps. (Depends if the celebrant has a pension, say.) Dunno.

  24. Jed

    Friday 12th July 2013 at 11:45 pm

    The value of a funeral lies in the price of the components and in the feeling of ‘we did a good job for Grandad’ today. Good FDs really take responsibility for the job of matching celebrant to family. The FDs know their families and hopefully know their celebrants. The brilliant, vocational, attention to detail celebrants who put their heart and soul into each ceremony should command higher fees and flexibility, to reflect demand for their time, commitment and talents. Those where ‘this is just a job and I can do 10 a week’ should be cheaper. Like Waitrose and Aldi. Perhaps market forces need to be allowed free reign. In an ideal world the customers get to choose where to spend their money. Perhaps the FD could offer a choice of celebrants at different grades. Finest bespoke, or Value prewritten…. you’d expect to pay more for the tailor made surely?

    • Saturday 13th July 2013 at 11:36 am

      Blinking good point, Jed. Perhaps off-the-peg and hand-tailored? Good celebrants can offer both (if they want).

      But no. No FD should be in the business of promoting or tolerating secondrate ceremonies, I feel. The future of the funeral depends on the quality of the work delivered by celebrants, as does the commercial survival of FDs. As a proportion of the cost of a funeral, the services of a celebrant are astoundingly cheap. Better to make economies elsewhere if it’s a budget funeral that’s asked for. Better a Galaxy hearse than a blah-blah sendoff.

    • Saturday 13th July 2013 at 12:14 pm

      As a (hopefully) half-decent organist, I’m inclined to agree with you, Jed, to an extent. It pains me to hear Abide With Me murdered by someone who has commanded the same fee as a semi-professional, especially when you get to the end of the hymn and have to ask ‘what was the tune?’

      But at the same time, is it fair to ask (as an FD now) your client “would you like the organist who can’t play for £50 or the one who can for £100?” Similarly, is it professionally reasonable to ask “would you like a celebrant who will cut and paste last Thursday’s ceremony for £180 or someone who will tailor a completely individual occasion for £300?”

      Is it fair to put a bereaved client through having to make these decisions? Isn’t it very nearly akin to asking “did you love your mum, so doesn’t she deserve the best coffin?”

      In general, the most emotionally rewarding funerals that we arrange are also the lowest cost ones. These funerals, perhaps ironically, are certainly the ones that as funeral directors we gain the most from. I’m well aware that the funeral is not about us, but if we can benefit as well as the client, surely that’s a win-win situation, and one which inspires us to promote and encourage clients to reframe their thinking about what is important in a funeral.

      If we (as FDs) can provide ‘bespoke’ at lower cost, can’t a celebrant as well?

  25. Friday 12th July 2013 at 10:35 am

    Simon, I don’t know about the rest of them, but as a mystic humanist with a small h, a thorough working knowledge of the Bible is essential. And we all know what happened to the chaff, that old unquenchable fire did it’s thing.

  26. Simon Lamb

    Thursday 11th July 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I feel celebrants would be well advised to take a horses for courses approach to their role. Some funerals require minimal input with the family taking full control of eulogies and other time consuming aspects whilst others may require the skills and experience suggested by Charles. Many businesses tailor their products to fit the ‘good, better, best’ model with families who would prefer to pay for ‘good’ getting a bill for ‘best.’
    As funeral director I often play the role of master of ceremonies and, since I’m paid to be there in any event, at no additional cost to the family.
    The wider question is how funeral directors can sort the wheat from the chaff (if that is not too biblical for some readers) and give new celebrants an opportunity to display their talents. It is a conservative trade so the existing players have a massive advantage.

  27. ian

    Thursday 11th July 2013 at 8:53 am

    taking the job seriously and taking your self seriously are not one and the same…I take my job extremely seriously but, lets face it, it isn’t rocket science, its just like everything else in life. You can do things well or you can’t.
    (IMHO)

  28. Quokkagirl

    Thursday 11th July 2013 at 7:13 am

    Maybe we do take ourselves seriously, but you know what? I’ve taken every job I’ve ever had seriously. It’s my default position in life. I serve by nature – my job choices have reflected that and I have always wanted to do my best for those I serve.

    I sound like a self-congratulatory arse (with or without skirt tucked in) but in fact I find it a burden to be like that. Oh! How I long for the ability to earn a decent wage by ‘doing’ more than five ceremonies a week. Oh! How I long for those people I meet not to touch the sides as I swallow them whole ready for the next mouthful of income. But in this life, with my fundamental nature, it ain’t gonna happen.

    Good celebs are like good anything – art, music, literature, sport, populist culture: they’re only good if it means something to the viewer, listener, reader or partaker. If that is taking myself too seriously then stick a pencil up my nose and knickers on my head and call me bonkers. Who in the dismal trade isn’t weird?

    But GFG aren’t you too taking yourself a bit seriously too? If you can measure the efficacy and heart of a good funeral director enough to approve them then why is it so different for a celebrant’s qualities to be measured?

  29. A Celeb

    Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 7:32 pm

    AH: perhaps her beauty dazzles so much that no-one notices anything else…
    And, if we’re not beautiful we can distract people from our mediocrity by leaving our flies undone/tucking our skirts in our knickers. Something to add to the training courses?

  30. Richard

    Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Has any celebrant tried writing their own eulogy as a mind-focussing exercise in discovering what they’d like said about themselves, and what they’d not like said? Or have any celebrants conducted research among friends about what they’d like said about them at their funeral?

    Here’s a voxpop on this subject on vice.com: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/what-would-people-say-at-your-funeral

    Warming to the idea of continuing feuds with enemies beyond death, one self-confessed intolerant grump says he’ll have a strict guest list in order to exclude those he doesn’t want to attend.

    • A Celeb

      Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 7:35 pm

      That’s the good thing about funerals – our families and our friends can say what they like and we can’t do anything about it.

      • Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 8:29 pm

        Quite so, A Celeb. it’s the last word in talking about someone behind their back, an opportunity to let off steam — in a loving way or in a cross way. Talking behind someone’s back is reckoned a bad thing, but we all do it and we all need to do it; it’s a perfectly healthy way of testing/verifying a viewpoint. (The blessing of extreme old age — 50+ — is that if you become aware that people are talking about you, you don’t give a fig.)

        This is why a living funeral is a non-starter. All you get to hear about yourself is a lot of verbal candyfloss.

        Another reason why dead people should stay quiet at their funerals.

    • Jed

      Friday 12th July 2013 at 8:29 pm

      Interesting idea…. There’s the stuff I’d LIKE to be said …. He was a breath of fresh air….. And there’s the stuff I think is more likely to be said… He was a cantankerous old bugger who hated the world! It all depends which day I die…. A very challenging idea in truth though… How to write it so it sounds ‘true’ …flattering yet real, honest not cruel, gentle not sloppy, humble yet eulogising… Flipping heck it’s a hard thing to achieve. Hats off to all good celebrants! Perhaps I could interview a few a la Sir Alan Sugar? There could be a good reality show with my funeral as the grand finale and the final little apprentice reading the eulogy?

  31. Jonathan

    Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 1:59 pm

    In an industry whose customers think they’re under obligation to buy your product, are in a state of stress and confusion, and have no idea what they’re buying or even what it’s for, anyone can get any old crap past the checkouts. But that doesn’t mean every supplier is content to do so.

    What we need is death publicity – death cafes, funeral exploration workshops, pavement conversations about death and dying; actual death needs to be in the streets and shops and on the television and the national curriculum; death needs to be in its rightful place – in our faces, where we can see it and converse with it. As things stand, punters don’t even notice when they’ve been ripped off because ‘value’ and ‘funeral’ don’t belong in the same sentence in their grammar. Consumers need to be demanding, not acquiescent; and if those who value what they’re offering retain their standards, demand for their service will rise.

    Let the others fend for themselves.

  32. Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I wouldn’t say it’s about taking yourself seriously. It’s about taking the work seriously. And if you don’t think helping people through dying and death and loss is important, why are you doing it? And this is as true for celebrants as it is for funeral directors, mortuary technicians, bereavements officers – all of us.

    p.s. A celebrant with pants tucked into skirt who showed some heart beats a smartly dressed celebrant on automatic any day.

    • Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 2:25 pm

      I’ll try to remember that, Poppy…!

  33. Wednesday 10th July 2013 at 8:36 am

    Two statements, take ’em or leave ’em:
    1. The job is endlessly uncertain – that’s why we may at times be perceived as taking it all too seriously. Not that I have any sense of what the “right” level of seriousness would be. More to say about why it is an uncertain business, or seems, thus, but it’s a lovely morning…

    2. The verdict of the market? Libertarian economics hasn’t had a good press recently…My experience has been that some FDs have a real concern and interest in the quality of the ceremony, and the others don’t care as long as your flies are done up/your skirt’s not caught in your knickers, and you turn up on time. So those people would certainly be well pleased with someone who took ten ceremonies a week, cut and pasted away and was a smooth operator. They don’t know about the quality of the ceremony because they have never bothered to stay and watch much of the ceremony.

    Maybe it depends how much working with bereaved people gets to you, or not – which is surely even truer for FDs, with their 24/7 job.

    My question is: if other people’s pain doesn’t affect you at least a bit, how can you do a good job? If it affects you too much, how can you do your job?Or am I taking it all too seriously…

  34. Tuesday 9th July 2013 at 1:39 pm

    A celebrant came to see me fairly recently, and she told me the reason she was so successful was that she was so beautiful. Ironically, the leaflet she gave me had the sentence “I conduct ceremony’s in many places” in it.

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