Short shrift for the overreachers

Charles 12 Comments

You probably missed all this and, in truth, had you been aware, you might have either snorted derisively or, like me, mischievously hung on in there for a bit to see what happened next. I’ll tell you the story now. It’s about a bunch of funeral celebrants who went off on one and had to be smacked.

How is the public interest served by making public a silly and ignominious enterprise which did no more harm than cost a few people a few bob, an acre or two of time and a little local damage to their vanity?

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.

At the beginning of the year a bunch of celebrants — I’ll spare their blushes by not naming them — took it into their heads that they had received some sort of a licence from the government to form a regulatory body for celebrants, which they called the Association of Regulated Celebrants (ARC):

“ARC has been setup to oversee and regulate the future activities of Celebrants working within the UK. ARC has been accepted by the Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, to ultimately become the regulatory body for the Celebrant industry … under the umbrella of ARC, we hope that we can ensure the high standards of working ethics of true professionals within our own organisations, and start to regulate the registration of all working celebrants and the standards of regulating the training of them within that same industry. There can only be one ‘agenda’ and that is working to the regulation of our celebrant industry to the benefits of everybody…. and every organisation benefiting by it.”

Yes, you have to read it twice. Yes, it makes you gasp. To adapt Mr Obama, it is the audacity of… ach, you fill in the missing word.

In response to an enquiry about the veracity of the claims made by the founders of ARC, an official at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills responded on 29 July 2013 as follows:

I have contacted the FOIC to ask about the claims you described and as a result they have taken them off their website. I have also received written assurance from the head of FOIC, who is also a director of the ARC, that these claims will not be repeated by either organisation. 

Not with a bang but a whimper, as the expression has it.

All celebrants are, to some degree, tainted by association with this escapade. How ‘good’ celebrants might respond is another matter. You may have an idea what that is. 


  1. Charles

    Read this on the IoCF website where they quite rightly let us know about this organisation and what was happening with them. I chose the institute because as with all good organisations, it appeared that they wanted to work with celebrants not to tell them what to do. Seems like someone was seriously overreaching themselves

  2. Charles

    What a crude attempt at a marketing ploy. But Charles, I’m not sure why all celebrants, good bad or indifferent, are “tainted” by this bunch of fools. Outside Funeralworld, that luridly-lit emotion-filled arena of professionals, would-be professionals and couldn’t be professional if their lives depended on it, most people won’t know or care about this. In the usual and sensible way, they will seek personal recommendations. Within Funeralworld, some FDs might have been misled, and celebrants still largely depend on FD’s recommendations, but surely those who care about the quality of the actual funeral will follow their instincts and what they know. Am I being too optimistic? It’s irritating, disturbing and amusing in equal proportions; if families and FDs stopped using me or any other celebrant merely because we weren’t in ARC then it really would be time to howl, and quit.

  3. Charles

    Something about this makes you think it’s a sign o’ the times. We’ve seen the numbers of organisations accrediting celebrants expand, it’s natural that the next step should be to try capture the market in some way, preferably by dressing celebrants up as ‘approved’, and probably extracting a fee from them too. I seem to remember that IOCF tried to move in that direction a little while ago but gave it up. Like GM I’m less worried about reputation damage for our profession – but it does make you alert to the sort of shenanigans that people are going to get up – too much room for knaves and dunces!

  4. Charles

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea to have a generally accepted accreditation system for celebrants. The problem surely is when a single training organisation sets itself up as an independent arbiter: there’s a basic question of ethics there.

    1. Charles

      I would agree with you but I was of the understanding that ARC was designed to encourage all the Association from all around the country to come on board and build together using everyones experiences and knowledge to bring a standard to the industry that we can all be proud to be a part of…..and as Mountain Celebrations is independant I would consider joining ARC….All good Celebrants strive for the same thing and that is to build a good reputation and provide independent and dignified services and ceremonies to give everyone choice….

  5. Charles

    Gloria, I am with you. Having recently been discussing some of the organisations with FDs it seems that they don’t actually give a monkeys about which badge you wear. Either you do a good job or you don’t. And if you don’t, then the whole thing is kinda self regulating.

  6. Charles

    I am very disappointed with everyone’s negative views or is it fear that someone dare to achieve recognition and understanding….. most of us in this industry work hard to build good business and achieve a good reputation – ARC is something that will protect all of our future’s – as we know there are some celebrants out there that shouldn’t be let near a family…. or a crem – I simply believe that this group are just trying to build good grounding for future celebrants and also a little protection for those of us who are already established… or a you all afraid that there standards are a little higher than yours….. I am sure we can all improve on what we do…..instead of people thinking that Celebrants are just over paid speakers maybe this is an opportunity to prove that we are professionals who would like to make sure that our industry is regulated so that the too bit wonders are not damaging all of our reputations…. just a thought it would be nice to see some support for this group and I hope that many other groups join them to build a reputable body….

    1. Charles

      I agree with Claire about the ARC being allowed to have a part in the industry, but not to the point where I don’t have a choice. To falsely mislead celebrants, to make us think that the organisation has government backing is just plain wrong. As to being afraid, what is there to be afraid of ? I have my own standards that I work to, but being fairly new to the industry looked around for an organisation that would help me. IoCF does that. Reasonably established, reasonably priced and with the clout to get me a good deal on public liability. From what they say, ” oversee and regulate” smacks of someone who wants to work over not with me.
      As to Ruth’s overpaid speakers point, the feedback I have had shows people think that I am both compassionate and professional. My membership of the IoCF bolsters this when I explain to both FD and public.

  7. Charles

    Claire, my own view is that there is much to be said for the various celebrant bodies (there are probably far too many), together with independent, non-aligned celebrants, enjoying collegial relations and, where appropriate, making common cause. They are all dedicated, after all, to the same end: the best interests of bereaved people and the creation of meaningful send-offs for the dead. Their distinctiveness is a proper reflection on the diversity of those they serve — and let’s not overlook, here, those who serve members of faith groups of all sorts.

    The establishment of ARC was predicated, as I understand it, on the misconception that it was to be empowered by BIS as a statutory body “to regulate the registration of all working celebrants and the standards of regulating the training of them.” This was always an eyebrow-raising, if not flabbergasting, claim. If the government has not seen fit, or declared any intention whatever, to regulate funeral undertakers, why on earth would it seek to to impose a legislative framework on the ancillary service offered by celebrants?

    In the light of this, people who regard the entire ARC escapade as bonkers are to be forgiven their scorn, I’m afraid. No one likes being bossed about; the prospect of a group of people proposing to aggregate such powers to themselves was bound to be received with, either, resentment by those who took it seriously, or a dismissive chuckle by those who didn’t.

    There is unquestionably a unanimous view in the matter of those you describe as ‘too bit wonders’. It may well be that the market – funeral directors and the bereaved – is sufficient in itself to sort the wheat from the chaff. As for collegial relationships between celebrants of all stripes, this can only be achieved through mutual respect. I do not doubt that the impulse that generated ARC was well-meaning and that aspects of ARC’s goal are worth striving for.

  8. Charles

    I have been training celebrants since 2007 and am the founder of The Fellowship of Professional Celebrants (FPC) of which we now have 200 members. I am all in favour of celebrant associations supporting one another to ensure that the word ‘celebrant’ becomes synonymous with ‘care, respect, personalisation, quality, understanding…and so much more’

    Whilst they are direct competitors I have the greatest respect for both Greenfuse and IOCF, because like ourselves their training courses are uniquely written (not copied like those of other organisations) and we all provide continuity along with ethical & practical support for those we have trained.
    The FPC pride ourselves on the level of support and guidance we give our members, but we do this by talking WITH them, not AT them. We also give a % of all membership fees to children’s & bereavement charities and in the past 3 years have donated over £8000 to these wonderful causes. We all need to make a living, but how nice to also be able to give back.
    We were approached by ARC to associate with them earlier this year and they invited me to become a director! my gut instinct was instantly “no way” but I gave careful thought and made appropriate research before delivering my decision to them. I carefully crafted a very long letter to them asking for the reasonings, benefits to the public, manageability, logistics, sustainability etc etc, They wrote back saying they were unable to answer one single question which instantly flagged to me that they didn’t actually have a clue what they were doing!
    But maybe even more importantly than that, when I did a Directors check with companies house, the same few individuals who had set themselves up as directors of ARC had also set themselves up as Directors of about 5-6 other limited companies with slight variants of the name. Why did they do this??? They wanted to encourage every single celebrant in the country to join whether they had received any form of training or not (what does this say about flagship standards?) and they wanted to charge every single celebrant in the country for being on their ‘legal register’ and yet they were advertising themselves as a non-profit making body. So where you may ask were these monies going to go to? Perhaps do a directors check for yourselves and the question will be answered.
    Thank you Charles for this blog, it has simply confirmed by suspicions and reaffirmed that the FPC absolutely made the right decision in declining to be associated with ARC.

  9. Charles

    Could I also please just take this opportunity to clarify that our organisation ‘Fellowship of Professional Celebrants (FPC) is absolutely in no way associated with the newly formed ‘Fellowship of Independent Celebrants (FOIC)

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