Frequently Asked Questions About Celebrants
Specific questions about the training
- Do I need to do any reading or preparation before the training? No, you will be given your materials on the first day of training.
- Do I need to bring anything to the training? You will be given a workbook for taking notes, Doug Manning’s book, The Funeral, as well as a Celebrant flash drive with lots of resources contained on it. You will be assigned to write a eulogy for homework on the second day of training so you will need paper and pen, or your laptop if you prefer, for completing your homework.
- Is a laptop required? No, if you prefer to do your writing homework on a laptop then you may bring one. We will have a printer available at the training.
- When will the training schedule for next year be posted? We will post any trainings for next year as arrangements are made. Just keep checking our website for additional dates.
- Do I need to attend the whole training in order to be certified? Yes.
- Why are there different prices for different trainings? National and state funeral organizations or other groups sponsor the trainings and set their own price.
- How do I register? Registration information for each training is available by clicking on the date and location for each training in the blue box on our How to Become a Celebrant web page.
- Most of your trainings are 3 days but the ICCFA University training is 5 days. Is there a difference in the training? The actual Celebrant training is the same. However, in order to fit the ICCFA University schedule an additional speaker or trainer is brought in, usually a trainer that works on speaking skills.
- May I attend trainings that are sponsored by funeral associations even though I am not a funeral director? Yes
Celebrants in general
- What are the implications of being “certified”? When we launched the concept of Celebrants in North America and developed the training, we wanted to be able to assure funeral professionals who might be utilizing Celebrants that the ones who were “certified” had come through training and were conversant and grounded in the concepts of the value of the funeral, how to work with a firm, how to work with families, etc. So, while there is nothing legal or binding about it, it designates you as someone who has made the effort to become a proficient professional.
- Who recognizes the certificate? The certification is nomenclature for people to recognize that you are part of the professional group who conduct funerals. The main group that needs to recognize what a Celebrant does and offers are the local funeral directors who will refer families to you.
- How do Celebrants network with each other? InSight provides networking opportunities for our Celebrants through yearly newsletters and a private Facebook page which Celebrants may join after they have completed the training course.
- Does attending the course earn me a spot on your Find a Celebrant search at www.InSightBooks.com? After attending our training, if you wish to be listed on Find a Celebrant the cost is $50/year. You will need to provide your bio information and a headshot.
- Are other marketing materials available? The Celebrant flash drive you receive at training provides ideas for brochures as well as a logo file to help you create your own brochures and business cards. If you would prefer for InSight to do the design work for you, there are several options available in the product catalog included on your Celebrant flash drive.
- What would InSight say are the business advantages to doing your certification vs another? We really cannot speak to another training or another training group, but what we offer is that we are very connected to the funeral industry and well-known there. We have articles in the national professional journals several times throughout the year and it helps when you are speaking to a funeral professional who is familiar with our training.
- Are funeral homes open to working with Celebrants? There is no way to give a blanket answer to this question. Many funeral homes are open and willing to use Celebrants, more all the time. Different areas of the country seem to be more open than others. Not every funeral home is open to the idea. It is difficult for funeral directors to learn to trust an outsider with their families. They feel protective of their families and want to be sure that anyone they call on will do a good job. Other funeral directors prefer to stay within the traditional options or others are not sure how to offer Celebrants to their families. InSight makes the effort to publicize Celebrants in all the professional journals throughout the year to speak to these concerns. There are also large national funeral corporations which are now interested in having Celebrants on their staff and are working hard to get as many trained as possible in the coming years. So, the trend is shifting to more and more funeral homes seeking Celebrants whom they can either call on as independent contractors or add to their staff.
Why do we need Celebrants?
More and more we hear of celebrants in funeral service. Why is the trend growing?
- The Nones: The precipitous increase in the families who fall into the group defined as the “Nones” who have no church affiliation and no desire for a religious funeral experience. The last research showed the total number at 20%, and over 35% for Generation X and Millennials. From all the data gathered, this will only increase, so firms are faced with either providing an officiant that fits these families or losing their business completely.
- The Cremation Effect: Families will no longer accept the “rent a minister” option that has been offered for decades. With the rise in cremation, they have the choice to take the urn and design a tribute on their own. We tell funeral professionals all the time, “To cremation families, you are optional.” So firms are finding that the Celebrant offering keeps families at their firm and meets the needs of these families. One of our large firms that offers Celebrants on a regular basis revealed recently that cremation families who utilize a Celebrant for the service spend 37% more on goods and services.
- Leading by example: As more firms, especially large firms and corporations, have adopted Celebrants as an option that is offered to all families who need one, putting the option on the GPL and seeing a significant increase in revenue and satisfaction, the word has gotten out. When an owner hears from one of his trusted colleagues that this approach is working and paying off, then they are much more interested in having one or more for their firm.
- Quantity of Celebrants: As of the beginning of 2015, the Insight Institute has trained over 2500 Celebrants and holds approximately 18 trainings per year. So, there are more Celebrants available to work either as independent contractors or to work for a firm.
Other than presiding over a funeral, what else do Celebrants offer a family?
- Presiding vs Creating: Celebrants see their work as a collaborative and creative process that they share with the family. Presiding or officiating over a funeral is just a small part. Yes, Celebrants are the ones at the podium and they do most of the eulogy presentation and/or MC the other speakers and music or tributes that the family has chosen, but every word is written based upon what they hear from the family, what the family needs, and what will be most beneficial and memorable to those in attendance. InSight Celebrants do not walk in with a prepared service in which they insert the appropriate names, every word is written specifically for that service after meeting with the family.
- The Family Meeting: This is one of the most vital and healing aspects of a Celebrant’s work. Not only is that 1 to 3 hour gathering a time to hear the stories in order to design and write a personalized service for the deceased, but it is also an important time for the family to share stories, to begin to grieve together and to develop safe places with each other for their memories.
What will I learn at Celebrant Training?
When we began our training program in 1999 we outlined what we thought were the most important elements for any person serving as a Celebrant to know. We knew that we would be training a wide variety of people—funeral professionals, clergy, teachers, medical professionals, retirees, bereavement specialists, even a clown—and the list goes on. But we wanted for everyone to start at the same place when we talked about grief and the funeral and what a personalized service offers to families.
- Day One: We are such passionate believers that the funeral service itself in an important and sacred first step in a person’s grief journey that we want every one of our Celebrants to be well grounded in the value of the funeral, the elements that are important to grieving families and how to listen to and work with each family. So, that is what we cover on our first day of training. A person can find courses in ceremonies and creative writing in a variety of training settings. We believe what is most important is adding the aspect of grief and how to deal with that most unique emotional response.
- Day Two: The second day of training is focused on the logistics of putting a service together—how to facilitate a family meeting, the art of ceremonial writing, the process of consultation and service planning, how to work with the funeral directors, how to utilize and find resources, music, readings, and all the other elements that can be included in a service.
- Day Three: The third day of training is practical application. Each of the trainees takes part in a funeral presentation created from an assigned scenario. Each group creates a life story and from that story designs a complete funeral service and conducts it. The participants can learn a great deal from watching their fellow trainees and see how they chose to put a service together.
- We also provide each Celebrant with a Resource Book with sample services, ceremonies and readings and we offer a place for them to network with each other, brainstorm and share stories and mutual support beyond the days of training on a private Facebook page.
What can a Celebrant offer a funeral home?
- The right choice for families who do not have a clergy or a church or do not wish to have a traditional service. A resource that can be articulated at pre-need, at first call or at arrangement. An option that gives those families who walk in saying they want cremation and no service an option and a reason to reconsider not having a service. A large majority of those immediate disposition families are making those choices not from a financial need, but because they’ve experienced the traditional cookie cutter or evangelical approaches to funerals and they want nothing to do with either of those. So, they think their only choice is to not have a service. When the funeral home tells them, “We have someone who will create a service that is exactly a right fit for you and your loved one,” then they are willing to listen to what the funeral professional has to offer.
- A person who is well-versed and comfortable with all types of ceremonies who could offer graveside ceremonies, cremation ceremonies, holiday memorials, or any other type of ceremony that a funeral home might want to offer to their families and their community.
- Happy families: We could expound upon this for pages, but the fact of the matter is that when families and guests leave a Celebrant service, they are touched, they are engaged, they are encouraged to grieve their loss in a healthy way and to be present for each other along the way. Families have called on Celebrants five years after a funeral to ask them to do another service for a family member. That’s a memorable occasion when they wish to have another experience like they had before because it was so meaningful.
Can a funeral director, due to their experience with families, offer themselves as a celebrant without specific training?
- Funeral directors are not trained to do services. Students at mortuary schools are taught all the mechanics of planning the logistics, how to arrange the service, how to present goods and services, how to embalm bodies and take care of the details. Some funeral directors have developed service design, writing and public speaking skills and many directors have found themselves called upon at the last minute to fill in when an officiant didn’t make it. But, being a funeral director does not make one a Celebrant. We hear from funeral directors at every training that we gave them the ability, the tools, the resources and the confidence to be able to put together services in a way that they had not had before.
- It is very difficult to be a funeral director and a Celebrant for the same family. Both are time consuming and very specific tasks. Celebrants average 8-10 hours preparing a service—meeting with the family, writing the service, creating memory take-aways and conducting the service. Meanwhile, the director has many tasks to take care of for the service as well as handling calls and meeting with other families. The majority of Celebrants who serve on staff as a Celebrant either hand the funeral directing duties over to another staff member when called upon to serve as a Celebrant, or are designated as a full-time Celebrant who can also see families when they are not working on a service.
If a funeral director is looking to hire a quality Celebrant (or train one of their existing staff for the role) for their funeral home, what should they look for?
Look for someone who:
- Is comfortable with public speaking
- Has some level of ceremonial writing ability
- Has a sense of creativity, imagination and curiosity
- Has an ability to listen to people and be comfortable in difficult situations
- Has a heart for helping hurting people
Number 5 is mandatory. The rest are learned skills and can be built and improved upon. The best Celebrants are the ones who can walk into a room of perfect strangers, sit amongst them and gain their trust by listening to their stories, their hurts, their grief, and then put together a service that honors that life and gives voice to the memories and the needs of that family.
Celebrants live to hear two things:
“You must have known _______ very well.” This means we captured the essence and told the story in such a way that people thought we were just talking about a dear friend.
“We couldn’t have done it without you.” This means that the family knew that we were walking with them on their most difficult days, offering our talents to be their voice, and they felt heard, understood and comforted by our presence.