Funeral Celebrants Are Taking Over NFDA 2015 (And The World)


Here at funeralOne, there is nothing we love more than the opportunity to educate, excite and celebrate the funeral profession. This is why every year we look forward to October and one of our profession’s biggest educational conferences… The National Funeral Directors’ Association Conference. This year, NFDA 2015 was bigger and better than ever.

After four days of exciting industry announcements, educational sessions, innovative awards and, most importantly, the chance to connect with our clients and fellow vendors, we’re more excited than ever to charge ahead in our work and help create the ultimate experience for the families (and funeral homes) we serve.

But we realize that not everyone had the opportunity to head down to Indy for a few days and get a closer look at what’s happening in our profession… so we’re bringing NFDA to you! Today, we’re taking you behind the scenes of one of our favorite educational sessions of the week ﹘ Another Day, Another Black Dress.

In this session, we left the world of American funeral customs behind and were taken “down under” by Stephanie Longmuir, a funeral celebrant based out of Melbourne, Australia who has hosted hundreds of services. And in a society where 50% of all funerals and memorial services are led by a celebrant, Longmuir had some interesting insights into where funerals may be headed as families focus more on celebrating life and funeral personalization than ever before. Here are some of the most important insights we took away…

1. The role of a Celebrant is to be a facilitator

A funeral celebrant should not walk into a meeting with a family with a fill-in-the-blank template. Instead, every meeting should begin with a blank piece of paper and encouragement to tell a story. Most celebrants will see their families within 24 hours of them meeting with the funeral director, giving them 3-4 days to collect enough stories, memories, feelings and personal anecdotes to put together a complete story.

And these moments are not just collected from the immediate family. Instead, a celebrant will reach out and encourage all family members to get involved and be engaged, from great-grandparents to great-grandchildren. Their job is to collect all of the best puzzle pieces to put together the most complete, beautiful story possible.

2. Celebrants are not all that different than a Funeral Director

You may see your role as a funeral director as wildly different from a celebrant, but in fact, you may be surprised by some of the similarities between the roles. First, celebrants are also on call 24/7 for their families, often responding to calls in the middle of the night from people who are looking for help planning the picture perfect service for their loved one. Longmuir also shared that 15% of her business comes from families she has worked with in the past, meaning that she counts on the experience that she delivers to bring her future referrals or families.

Celebrants are also just as influenced by the ever-popular Baby Boomer generation when it comes to planning and arranging their services. After all, this power generation is constantly looking for more meaningful, personalized ways to honor their loved ones, and celebrants do a great job delivering this type of approach, whether it’s through unique words, music, rituals, pictures or places.

3. Celebrant-led services are not only for the non-religious

There is a bad assumption out there that, if you are religious, you must have a traditional funeral service, and if you are not, you should have a celebrant-led service. However, the line is much blurrier than that. Celebrancy is not about straying away from traditional religious practices and rituals. In fact, Longmuir said she often is asked to include religious content in her services, whether it’s a bible verse, a religious hymn, or even a beautiful prayer to close out the service.

However, the beauty about a celebrant-led service is that you are not restricted to any certain tone or theme when it comes to memorialization. You can completely personalize the service, the music or the location to best fit the life of the loved one. If this means playing rock music at the start of the event, and closing out the service with a prayer… so be it! Every funeral should be as unique and different as the life it is celebrating.

4. A great celebrant should be part of your team, not just on your payroll

The relationship between funeral director and celebrant is extremely important… and it is not something that funeral directors should take on lightly. You are putting an enormous amount of trust in these individuals, as they are leading your services and being a representative of your funeral home (even if they aren’t an official member of your staff). Therefore, be sure that you trust the celebrants that you hire, and look for the following qualities:

  • A strong recommendation from a colleague
  • A confidant
  • Storytelling abilities and strong writing skills
  • Loads of patience and empathy
  • Someone who is reliable, honest and trustworthy
  • Proven experience and success leading services


It’s also important to remember that, just like there is no one-size-fits-all funeral service, there is no one-size-fits-all funeral celebrant. Many families consider factors like gender, background, hobbies, experience, background, religion and family when they are choosing the perfect funeral celebrant. A great funeral director should have many different celebrations to draw upon for a funeral service, because connecting a family with the right celebrant is extremely important.

Are you beginning to see an increase in celebrant-led funeral services at your funeral home? What do you think about this trend? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Bob Robinson

    I’ve been working at Braman Mortuary and Cremation services in Omaha, NE for nearly 3 years after retiring from 35 years in education. I’m currently in preneed sales and since starting and connecting with several blogs and other information sites have become very interested in the possibilities of becoming a Celebrant. This article has intrigued me even more and I’m looking for the best route to follow to become a Celebrant.

    Is there a course of study that is recommended or a company that specializes in training or has material available? I have searched to find out if there are Celebrants in the Omaha area and do not see any so this may be an untapped venture here.

    Do you have suggestions?

  2. Rilee Chastain

    Hey Bob, thanks for the message! I know a lot of our readers have had great experiences with the InSight Celebrant Training program (, which offers training and certification at several locations. I would look further into that 🙂

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