As soon as I receive the request to act as a funeral celebrant from my personal contacts, or the funeral directors in Hertfordshire and North London, being based in Hatfield it is easy to cover both areas, I arrange to visit the next of kin and the chief mourner. Normally the bereaved family are eager to see me so that they have a clearer idea of what the ceremony can include, they need to ensure that they have all they want for the final goodbye, is it to be a celebration of life, or more or a standard cremation or burial. The family like to have the assurance that things are moving forward and someone has control over the service, someone to officiate who has done it before and is professionally trained to lead a ceremony.

Some families at the initial visit know what they want and have already have a skeleton order worked out, others have no idea and need more guidance. Readings, tributes, eulogy, poems, prayers are all options and usually quite easy to sort out, it is after all up to the family. In all my services it has to be your choice, your voice, your ceremony, what is right for you and yours whether that be a baby naming, a wedding or a renewal of vows or a funeral in fact at any of our services.

When I go to meet a family arranging a cremation, the question that seems to cause most thought and concern is the question of music. Do you have music at a cremation service people ask, well yes most people do, what sort of music, well that is up to you, whatever sort of music you want really, how much music, well again it varies, but normally three pieces, one piece of music at the beginning, the entrance music so to speak, one at the reflection point when the mourners are left to recall their own memories of the deceased and the last piece at the end when people leave the chapel.

So what the problem, well the problem seems to be what music to choose. Everyone wants to do the right thing by their deceased, to do what they feel the deceased would want if they could pop back for a minute and approve it. The family want to make the right choices, choices that meant something and are significant to the deceased and the life they have lead and it is at that point the worry, stress, concern, call it what you will starts, what music is right and what should be chosen.

Naturally I have the answer to avoid all this and it is simple, speak to your family before you die, write your wishes down to be found after your death, have a funeral plan, just share your thoughts before it is too late. After life preparations can save so much time and stress for those already coping with grief. You can put everything your nearest and dearest will need when you are no longer with us into a book like this one.

I don’t know the percentage of people that have these things already prepared, my experience has come up with very few. Such a simple thing could really help the nearest and dearest when they are planning a funeral and have so many decisions to make, but it is something we all avoid doing, it is almost as though we want to add to the stress.

Then of course there are those that want to discuss with their families, but their families don’t want to listen, the thought of losing their nearest and dearest and discussing a funeral is all just too much, the answer then would be pen and paper and the book as mentioned above.

Would the deceased want music at all, most people I have to say do want something, how much music do they want though, would they want classical, pop, rock, something soulful, humour, a football anthem, something uplifting, something sad and meaningful, or nothing at all.

Would you for example want “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” by Glinda and the Munchkins as the exit music at your funeral, probably not, unless you were involved in amateur dramatics and had recently been involved in a production of The Wizard of Oz or that the song Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, signified and played a major part in your life.

One of the first cremations I conducted the exit music chose was “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor I didn’t really know if it was aimed at the mourners or the deceased, but as I had just pressed the button to close the curtains for a final time round the coffin it did strike me as a little odd, I have to say.

Either way it is always nice if the celebrant can explain the background to the choice of music, it makes the service that little more bespoke. A professional, qualified celebrant won’t be working from a template, it will be a bespoke service, let it stand out for the right reason and be remembered as such.

Rosy Holt Independent Celebrant
Your Choice, Your Voice, Your Ceremony