What makes for a ‘bad’ funeral celebrant?

Charles 1 Comment

Posted by Carole Renshaw, a civil celebrant

The market of Humanists and Celebrants seems to be growing!  

I’m sure more are spilling out of the training programmes……….than they are withdrawing or giving up the cause!  The plethora of new websites……new training provider logos………new leaflets………gives us some confidence that numbers in the profession are on the up! 

Now if we take the economical and market driven debate – it would say that competition drives up service quality.  I have no argument with that.  But I do want to raise that thorny question – not what makes a good Funeral Celebrant………..there are plenty of books on that………….but What makes for a ‘bad’ Funeral Celebrant? 

And my take on this is simple!  I don’t believe that any Celebrant would be labelled as a ‘bad’ one in the eyes of mourners.  That’s not to say they don’t exist.  Funeral Directors will also have their own views on this.  After all, they’re privileged to have that helicopter view of Celebrants as they sit and compare our styles, our words and our prices.  

But so long as people leave their service feeling the send off was just what ‘Joan would have loved……’ then these same individuals who are at their lowest ebb and at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, are happy – if happy is the right word! 

I wonder if  people who have lost someone special, really want to have to make that rational informed decision between good and bad.  Don’t they just want someone to support them through it?  It’s not until people have been to a few of these types of services, that they begin to make informed decisions of what’s available in the market.  That leads to competition.  And competition leads to better services.  

I worked in health care for many years and I’ve seen people’s lives saved by poor and atrocious medical care.  The very fact that lives had been saved was enough for the judgment call – not how they got there.  That journey wasn’t relevant enough to be the point of discussion. 

Funerals are no different.  If Celebrants can help mourners to leave a service happy, comfortable and contented that their loved ones had a good send off ……then they’ve hit the right button!    A fellow Celebrant once asked me if I sent out questionnaires for feedback after a service.  My answer was short and sweet – No!  And when I asked them if they had ever received poor feedback – their answer was short and sweet – No!  I rest my case. 

I was guided by a family member recently who very clearly told me that ‘….it has to be a good funeral…’.  It wasn’t until I delved further and asked him ‘…what does a good funeral look like?’ that I got to the heart of the debate.  Good……Bad……….we use these words too freely for them to have any real meaning. 

I think it’s far easier to ask ‘What makes a good Celebrant’ from the mourners perspective.  But what makes for a bad Funeral Celebrant – well that has far more reaching consequences for the profession and the funeral industry. 

But the industry is informed enough to know the answer.  And as competition increases, that answer will keep changing! 


  1. Charles

    Most families have such appallingly low expectations, that if they just get through it without anything glaringly wrong happening then that is enough for them. Also, just after the funeral is too soon for them to judge. Go back after a year to get an answer with value.

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