Who can conduct a funeral?

If you have been to be a funeral, it was more than likely conducted by someone. In many cases, this is likely to be a person of religion or a professional celebrant. Do these people know the deceased? What will they say about them? You could always do it yourself?

Funerals don’t actually have any legal status, which means there’s is no legal binding to how the funeral has to be conducted. Obviously, there are certain things that have to be done with the body, but anything done before the body is disposed of is anyone’s game.

A ‘good’ funeral requires sensitivity and comfort. Ministers and celebrants are trained and experienced in this, and in this case, the distance they have is a benefit. No matter how well versed you are in public speaking, delivering a funeral for a close friend or family member can be an entirely different ball game. So who’s up for the job?

Religious leaders

They may not be the trendiest choice but back in the day, they were the go-to’s for funeral services. Now, with religious funerals becoming less popular they aren’t in as high demand as they once were. Religious funeral leaders tend to lead the ceremony with prayers, hymns and other religious readings. They normally adhere to a tried and tested order in which the service plays out.

It seems the obvious choice for a person of faith to have their funeral lead by a religious leader and held in their place of worship, but it isn’t always the case. A lot of religions see no reason why a religious or non-religious person can’t have a religious funeral. Typically, the benefit of a religious leader is that they have an idea of what the deceased was like. Obviously depending on their commitment. Their place in the community allows them to offer ongoing support, which may not be the case with other funerary leaders. Grieving friends and family can visit, seek guidance and advice.


Celebrants are sort of like travelling funeral leaders. Wherever they are needed, they go. While they aren’t dedicated to a particular belief or order of service, they can take inspiration from other services and mix and match appropriately. While the religious leader focuses on the religions specifics for the funeral, the celebrant will focus on the deceased’s character and base it around that.


A celebrant will usually meet with the family or close friends before to get an idea of the kind of person they were, to get an idea of the kind of ceremony that would be most fitting for them. They aren’t strictly non-religious either, if the person was a ‘half-time church-goer’ then aspects of a religious ceremony can be added, again, fitting more with the type of person they were. In line with this, they can also perform a totally free-from-religion ceremony too.


Humanists are the antithesis of the religious leader, not saying they are the anti-christ, but their focus lies in science. They approach the situation with a very matter-of-fact attitude and look for happiness that way.

Although it may sound harsh, they are more about expressing sadness in a healthy and celebrating life. Humanist funerals becoming more popular due to scout change in beliefs.

Much like a religious leader, a humanist celebrant will offer support outside of the service. They pride themselves on their compassion and understanding and are very much focused on representing the life of the person who has passed as well as possible.


Since anyone can conduct a funeral, why don’t you do it yourself? It’s defiantly the most personal of all options (and the cheapest!) Which there are no strict rules to what must be covered. It’s important to remember that all the bases must be covered. A ‘full’ representation of someone’s life at a funeral is not only for the deceased but to help mourners get some closure too.

It’s also not a place to overindulge one’ss own grief. The family and friends of the deceased should still be consulted. It is first and foremost a time to pay respect to someone’s life.

If the role of a sole speaker seems too much, then it can be split amongst friends and family. It isn’t uncommon for whole families to each say something about a family member who has passed away, in tribute. You will need to work out an order of appearance and speaking times etc.

For more information about who can lead a funeral, how to arrange one or simply ideas on how to have a more personal funeral check out the rest of the site.

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