What’s a Celebrant to Do?

Charlotte Eulette, the international director of the Celebrant Foundation & Institute (CF&I), reached out to the Humanist Society to share her two decades of experience educating professional Life-Cycle Celebrants®. (Celebrants, generally speaking, are individuals who fulfill roles similar to members of the clergy, but serve clients not associated with a traditional religious community.) What follows are her responses to questions on how celebrants can best serve clients and prospective clients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kathy Diedrich: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing celebrants at this time, and what suggestions do you have to address them?

Charlotte Eulette: We first and foremost suggest that celebrants take care of themselves and their loved ones and do as well as possible during this crisis. We can all agree these are unprecedented times; our whole world is in the midst of a multitiered crisis that affects every level of our lives.

At present, celebrants are checking in with their client honorees who have booked ceremonies with them, many of which are wedding ceremonies. People getting married at this time are choosing to postpone, however some locations allow a small group gathering and micro-weddings to take place. Celebrants will want to regularly check their local government announcements because each state, province, or town may have their own amended procedures regarding marriage license information and guidelines for people gathering for a wedding—and the information is subject to change. Many clients are working on their ceremony scripts with celebrants and planning for their actual “live” ceremony to take place in the future. Some weddings are being planned to take place online via streaming video with the legalities of the marriage license already completed in advance.

As professionals, celebrants are reaching out to their clients to discuss possible solutions and developing a plan B and even a plan C for their ceremony while knowing that restrictions for public gatherings may change for better or for worse. Celebrants know that being professional and compassionate and being in touch with their clients is key.

KD: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing celebrants offering funerals or memorial services at this time, and what suggestions do you have to address them?

CE: CF&I celebrants have a long history and relationship with funeral directors, especially in North America. Celebrants who choose to contact funeral directors and deathcare providers in their area will want to check in with them to see how they’re doing and ask how they (the celebrant) can help. Funeral directors and deathcare providers have expressed their need for celebrants to help to contact and interview families (by phone or via internet applications like Zoom or Skype). Celebrants can write the ceremony as a eulogy, memorial, or end-of-life celebration or remembrance. It may be delivered later when family and friends can gather, or soon via social media streaming that the funeral homes have in place. If the family isn’t working with a funeral home, celebrants and family members can work together to devise a plan for a distance memorial utilizing technology options available to them.

Even if the family chooses to delay the memorial service, celebrants may find that families wish to have the ceremony written now. This provides a way for them to process their current feelings and begin the grieving process, instead of waiting for an unknown future date when they can gather in person and the ceremony can take place.

KD: What should funeral and memorial celebrants expect following the easing of restrictions?

CE: We don’t know yet. All we know at this point in time is that we’re working together with the deathcare professionals in our community, and we’ll keep our communication open so that we can transition to a normal way of life and be able to have funerals and end-of-life celebrations for and with our loved ones the best way possible. We do expect that there will be increased requests for funeral and memorial services and that the demand for celebrant services will remain high for months to come.

KD: During this time when ceremonies are limited by stay-at-home orders and physical distancing requirements, how can celebrants best prepare for the time when restrictions ease?

CE: Keep healthy and safe. Be in contact with family and friends, especially now since many people feel isolated. Reach out to clients who celebrants may have events booked with and keep an open communication going with them. Regularly check with their region’s restrictions regarding this crisis. Have a “backup celebrant” in mind just in case the ceremony gets changed or a celebrant replacement needs to step in for some reason. Being a good citizen, a kind neighbor, and a compassionate human—of course that’s good advice for all of us—we are a resilient human family through thick and thin.

You can learn more about CF&I at celebrantinstitute.org.