Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Funeral Celebrants | Arranging a Funeral / Wedding - Save £000's

Why are so few people prepared to discuss the "business" of death? 

Having recently read "R.I.P Off!: Or The British Way of Death" by Ken West, one may be able to glean why!

A recent consumer report warned us all that dying now costs £7,300+. Apparently shuffling off your mortal coil is a very expensive thing to do. The various costs ranging from funeral flowers to cremation have risen by £400 since last year. Cremation costs alone have risen by around £1,000 in the past few years over £2,800. And don't think a burial will be cheaper; it would set you back £3,500 +.

If this were any other cost the obvious reaction would be to ask why. Has the price of raw materials risen? Well I suppose rising energy prices must have an effect on the cost of cremation but Sun Life's Annual Cost of Death report admits that cremation costs have risen as councils look to increase profits following budget cuts. But instead of pointing this out, news reports just state that funerals are expensive and insist we should be saving for them. I wonder where these reports emanate? The insurance industry perhaps?

Well I'm planning but I'm not saving. There is no way I'm spending £7,248 on a party I won't even attend. My family know perfectly well that should I pop my clogs any-time soon I want the lowest cost funeral possible. If it was legal I'd just have my body chucked in the nearest landfill. Instead, I keep meaning to fill the forms out so my body is donated to medical research. That ought to save a lot of money, then my family can just use £1,000 to throw a good wake and that's that.

However, there is a wider problem here beyond my own funeral. Why are we letting death prices rocket? The truth is that as a nation we don't like to talk about money and we don't like to talk about death. This is a combination that allows the industries associated with death to constantly up their prices. Who's going to haggle with an undertaker after all? Personally, I think it's time we did – I'd love to know if anyone has and what the reaction was - just drop me a line here.

As a Funeral Celebrant, I recently officiated at the funeral of a friend (no-charge). Obviously, I had to liaise with the Funeral Director chosen by the family. I had previously dealt with this particular Funeral Director, who was a well respected local independent & I had officiated many funerals at the local crem. I merely had to make two, five minute phone calls to the FD to ensure everything went smoothly - which thankfully , it did.

On receipt of the bill, the son of the deceased contacted me. To my amazement, the FD had charged £335 for liaising with me. On further investigation, this FD's standard charge for providing a Funeral Celebrant was also £335 (even though local Funeral Celebrants usually charge £150 - 180). I have no problem with people making a profit - but profiteering is unacceptable.

I've heard of cutting wedding costs by pretending you are organising a family get together to avoid the  ‘wedding premium'. I took it upon myself to negotiate a premium venues cost by using the same "negotiating ploy" - the saving made was over £4000.

As for the soaring cost of cremations, it's time we all took a stand against the councils & funeral directors blatant profiteering. Just haggle and avoid being RIP'd OFF/ scammed!

I am not saying that all FD's and Venues are scamming in the same way - I am just cautioning the public at large to take note of the Latin maxim of "Caveat Emptor" ( buyer beware).

Stats from Moneywise. Thanks

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Raising money in memory

Interesting arguments on charitable donations by mourners made at or around the time of a funeral. Thanks for the Posting Charles. Raising money in memory.

If you are interested in becoming a funeral celebrant have a look here.

A Naming Ceremony - A Few Thoughts.

Naming Ceremonies

You want to call me what???

A naming ceremony is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the birth of a baby or welcome adopted or stepchildren into your wider family circle. A Civil Celebrant will work with you to design and deliver an alternative to a religious celebration, but it creates a special event at which to gather together family and friends for a dignified but relaxed occasion.

A naming ceremony welcomes a new child or children into your family and enables you to express love, care and commitment to them in front of your family and friends and celebrates the name of a new child or children. Furthermore, the naming ceremony enables supporting adults / mentors or grandparents to publicly promise to help and support your child or children as they grow up within our community.

Every ceremony is different and you choosing the content will ensure that it is a truly unique celebration that you and your family will remember as your child grows older.

Any parent, legal guardian or person with parental responsibility of the child may organise a naming ceremony and you can choose to hold it at any wherre you choose (well almost anywhere!)

A Civil Celebrant led naming ceremony can last anywhere from 20-45 minutes. Normally a commemorative certificate will be presented by your celebrant to mark the event.

For further information and availability, please contact one of our celebrants.

Most people choose to personalise the Ceremony by including a reading of verse or a suitable piece of prose. However, your choices can certainly be limited if you choose to go down the registrar / religious minister route. If you are interested in becoming a family / naming celebrant have a look here.

Below is a small selection of suggested poems that you may wish to choose from when deciding on the content of your ceremony and a link to where they originated.

Children Learn what they Live

If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn;
If children live with hostility,
They learn how to fight;
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy;
If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty;

If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient;
If children live with encouragement,
They learn to have confidence;
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate;
If children live with fairness,
They learn justice;
If children live with security,
They learn to have faith;
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves;
If children live with love around them,
They learn to give love to the world.

Dorothy Law Nolte

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran


“Walk a little slower Daddy” said a child so small
“I’m following in your footsteps and I don’t want to fall.

Sometimes your steps are very fast,
Sometimes they’re hard to see;
So walk a little slower Daddy,
For you are leading me.

Someday when I’m all grown up,
You’re what I want to be;
Then I will have a little child
Who’ll want to follow me.

And I would want to lead just right,
And know that I was true;
So walk a little slower Daddy,
For I must follow you.


A Mother’s Wish

I hope my child looks back on today
And sees a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking,
But children grow up when you’re not looking.
Tomorrow I’ll do all the chores you can mention
But today, my baby needs time and attention.
So settle down cobwebs; dust go to sleep,
I’m cuddling my baby, and babies don’t keep.


A Poem For Parents

There are little eyes upon you,
And they are watching night and day;
There are little ears that quickly
Take in every word you say.

There are little hands all eager
To do everything you do;
and a little boy who's dreaming
Of the day he'll be like you.

You're the little fellow's idol;
You're the wisest of the wise;
In his little mind, about you
No suspicions ever rise.

He believes in you devotedly,
Holds that all you say and do,
He will say and do in your way
When he's grown up like you.

There's a wide-eyed little fellow
Who believes you're always right;
And his ears are always open,
And he watches day and night.

You are setting an example
Every day in all you do;
For the little boy who's waiting
To grow up to be just like you.

Author Unknown

Brand New Little Daughter

She´s your brand new little daughter,
so enchanted, sweet and smart.
With a coo, she´ll have you smiling
With a laugh, she´ll own your heart.

It´s the time for hugs and kisses,
Reassurance when she cries.
It´s the time for making moments
Full of love and Lullabies.

For these golden days of childhood
come and go so very fast -
Hold her tight and love her dearly.
Make these precious moments last.

Linda Lee Elrod 

For My Baby

My baby has fallen asleep.
Finally his chest moves up and down.
His soft curls at his ear.
He smells clean, soapy from his bath.

I know him inside out.
The creases at his elbow,
The plumpness of his cheeks.
What makes him coo or cry,
Is part of me.

He's wrapped just in a towel.
That's how he fell asleep
and so
I left him like that
I would not want to wake him
We would both be up the night
And I've only just taught him to sleep -
Four hours at a go.

It is a precious thing to be needed so, by
Such an innocent.
Relied on entirely for sustenance,
My maternal heart moulds his life,
His days.

And yet it does get tiresome for
I have a daughter to think of too.

My baby lies asleep
And I am wide awake.
Feeling how much I love him.
Dreaming of what he will become

I hope to drift off soon
For in but a moment
The alarm clock will sound
And it will be time to get
My baby up for work.

Sharon Brennan

Precious one,
So small,
So sweet,
Dancing in on angelic feet
Straight from the heaven’s brightest star

What a miracle you are!

Author Unknown

A baby will make love stronger
Days shorter, Nights longer
Bankroll smaller, Clothes shabbier,
The past forgotten,
And the future worth living for.

Author Unknown

Ode on the Whole Duty of Parents

The spirits of children are remote and wise,
They must go free
Like fishes in the sea
Or starlings in the skies,
Whilst you remain
The shore where casually they come again.
But when there falls the stalking shade of fear,
You must be suddenly near,
You, the unstable, must become a tree
In whose unending heights of flowering green
Hangs every fruit that grows, with silver bells;
Where heart-distracting magic birds are seen
And all the things a fairy-story tells;
Though still you should possess
Roots that go deep in ordinary earth,
And strong consoling bark
To love and to caress.

Last, when at dark
Safe on the pillow lies an up-gazing head
And drinking holy eyes
Are fixed on you,
When, from behind them, questions come to birth
On all the things that you have ever said
Of suns and snakes and parallelograms and flies,
And whether these are true,
Then for a while you'll need to be no more
That sheltering shore
Or legendary tree in safety spread,
No, then you must put on
The robes of Solomon,
Or simply be
Sir Isaac Newton sitting on the bed.

Frances Cornford

NB. These poems and readings have been collected from different sources. Whilst every effort has been made to trace the author, please let us know the name of any not acknowledged.
Acknowledgement : My Baby Celebration

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Funeral Celebrants | 9 Fascinating Funeral Traditions

Funeral practices are deeply ingrained in culture and, around the globe, hugely varied traditions reflect a wide spread of beliefs and values. Here, a look at just a few of funeral traditions that might strike someone outside a culture as odd.

New Orleans Jazz Funeral
The New Orleans jazz funeral. It’s one of the prototypical images of New Orleans, Louisiana: the boisterous, jazz-tinged funeral procession. Fusing West African, French and African-American traditions, funerals in New Orleans strike a unique balance between joy and grief as mourners are lead by a marching band. The band plays sorrowful dirges at first, but once the body is buried, they shift up tempo. Cathartic dancing is also a part of the event, to commemorate the life of the deceased.

Death Beads
South Korean burial beads. Last year it was reported that there was a growing trend in South Korea, where a law passed in 2000 requires anyone burying a loved one to remove the grave after 60 years. Because of dwindling graveyard space and this resulting law, cremation has become much more popular. But families don’t always opt for ashes. Several companies there compress remains into gem-like beads in turquoise, pink or black. These “death beads” are then displayed in the home.

Grandma? Not looking her best!

Filipino death traditions. Many ethnic groups in the Philippines have unique funeral practices. The Benguet of Northwestern Philippines blindfold their dead and place them next to the main entrance of the house, while their Tinguian neighbours dress the body in their best clothes, sit them on a chair and place a lit cigarette in their lips. The CaviteƱo, who live near Manila, bury their dead in a hollowed-out tree trunk. When someone becomes ill, they select the tree where they will eventually be entombed. Meanwhile, the Apayo, who live in the north, bury their dead under the kitchen.

Sky burial in Mongolia and Tibet. Many Vajrayana Buddhists in Mongolia and Tibet believe in the transmigration of spirits after death – that the soul moves on, while the body becomes an empty vessel. To return it to the earth, the body is chopped into pieces and placed on a mountaintop, which exposes it to the elements — including vultures. It’s a practice that’s been done for thousands of years but, according to a recent report, about 80% of Tibetans still choose it. [The Buddhist Channel]

Reef Balls

Green funerals. In the United States, more and more people are opting for environmentally friendly burials. This means skipping embalming processes, mixing traditional concrete vaults and getting biodegradable, woven-willow caskets, which decompose into the ground. The Green Burial Council has approved 40 environmentally friendly cemeteries in the U.S. — way up from a decade ago. Another option: becoming a memorial “reef ball.” A company called Eternal Reefs compresses remains into a sphere that is attached to a reef in the ocean, providing a habitat for sea life. [Newsweek, Wall Street Journal]

Balinese Cremation
Balinese cremation. “Strange as it seems, it is in their cremation ceremonies that the Balinese have their greatest fun,” Miguel Covarrubias wrote in the 1937 book, Island of Bali. In 2008, the island saw one of its most lavish cremations ever as Agung Suyasa, head of the royal family, was burned along with 68 commoners. Thousands of volunteers gathered to carry a giant bamboo platform, as well as an enormous wooden bull and wooden dragon. After a long procession, Suyasa’s body was eventually placed inside the bull and burned as the dragon stood witness. In the Balinese tradition, cremation releases the soul so it is free to inhabit a new body — and doing this is considered a sacred duty. [The New York Times]

Turning the bones

The turning of the bones in Madagascar. The Malagasy people of Madagascar have a famous ritual called “famadihana” or “the turning of the bones.” Once every five or seven years, a family has a celebration at its ancestral crypt where the bodies, wrapped in cloth, are exhumed and sprayed with wine or perfume. As a band plays at the lively event, family members dance with the bodies. For some, it’s a chance to pass family news to the deceased and ask for their blessings — for others, it’s a time to remember and tell stories of the dead.

Aboriginal mortuary rites in Australia. When a loved one dies in Aboriginal society in Australia’s Northern Territory, elaborate rituals begin. First, a smoking ceremony is held in the loved one’s living area to drive away their spirit. Next a feast is held, with mourners painted ochre as they partake in food and dance. The body is traditionally placed atop a platform and covered in leaves as it is left to decompose. It has been reported that in some traditions, fluids from the platform can help identify the deceased’s killer.

Smoking Kills! Ooops - too late.
Ghana fantasy coffins. In Ghana, people aspire to be buried in coffins that represent their work or something they loved in life. These so-called “fantasy coffins” were recently popularized by Buzzfeed, which showed images of 29 outrageous ones, from a coffin shaped like a Mercedes-Benz for a businessman to an oversized fish for a fisherman to a really big Bible for someone who loved going to church. [Buzzfeed]

If you are interested in becoming a funeral celebrant have a look here.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Family Celebrants | 7 Strategies for Child-Friendly Ceremonies

My son and the many children I have spent time with over the years have all taught me a lot about celebrating. From them, I have learned that children love to be in community. They love to wear special clothes and have special jobs and be a part of something important and meaningful. But they also can get tired, shy, overstimulated, hungry, and cranky, and need to be protected and cared for. Celebrations are full of energy.

Whether acting as a ring bearer for a favourite uncle or a flower girl for a grown-up cousin, being honoured themselves at baby naming's or special birthdays, or simply attending a family reunion, children thrive at events like these when they are feeling good, when they are accepted for who and where they are, and when their grown-ups stay a few steps ahead of them (true in life too, right?).

The suggestions below can help you prepare yourselves and your little ones for a great celebration:

For a ceremony honouring a child

Choose a time that best supports the child’s rhythm. Does your child nap in the morning and have a midday burst of energy? Does an older child start to wind down around 2:30? Watch your child’s energy over a few days before setting a date, to decide when might be the time that he or she is at their best to handle the excitement of a celebration.

Have loved ones close by. On the day of the ceremony, arrange to seat parents, siblings, grandparents, caregivers, and other immediate family very close by, so this is who the child sees. Limit the number of guests: this can be very hard, I know! Remember, although it is fun, a ceremony is also “hard work“ for a young child—a lot of stimulation to take in.

Build in break times for the child. Right after the main event, give yourselves and your child (or children) a cozy ”rest moment” in a quiet room for some down time, a healthy snack, and a nappy change or potty break. Let the party continue to swirl around you as you take a slow, precious breath together.

Keep it short and sweet. Plan on ending early (earlier than grownups probably want!), or have a family member or caregiver take young children outside or back home if the adult group wants to continue on. Even an hour is a lot for a young child to experience, and two hours may be the top limit.

For a ceremony in which the child is a participant
Steady on. Wedding and other event weekends are often quite a whirlwind, with travel, hotels, new people, missed naps and late bedtimes. As best you can, keep your child’s world as steady as possible—a few favourite toys, built in play times, meals and sleep as close to normal schedules as you can manage. Have healthy foods on hand throughout events, including protein and water, and feed and soothe your child especially just before a required “performance.” A favourite security object to hold on to is nice, as well as quiet activities for necessary sitting-still times.

Practice. Your little one is probably very excited for his or her special role, but could also be nervous—or might be when suddenly facing all the guests!

A rehearsal will be very helpful; bring your own version of whatever “props” are necessary if not available (pillows or baskets or bouquets, etc). If there is not a rehearsal, calmly walk your child through his or her role on the site before guests arrive with lots of reassurance, and permission to come to you or a family member anytime. And of course, if your child decides—even at the last minute—that the role is too much for him or her to do at all, explain this quietly to the adults in charge, find a seat for the child, and keep the mood light—everything will be all right!

Relax and go with the flow. No matter what happens, welcome where your child is and what unfolds. Bring smiles and humour, and relax your fears of performance and perfection—simply be present. This sense of acceptance is a truly welcomed.

Even if you and your family are not an integral part of the ceremony, your child may still need some special attention and want to feel included. Pace yourselves, stay connected, slip out for some play time if necessary, and enjoy!

Jade Gracie is an Independent Civil Celebrant and Celebrant Trainer, a mum of two, and a perfectionist, living in Lancashire. She has Served in the Royal Navy. She enjoys listening to children tell their own stories, as well as supporting adults in telling theirs. Contact her at jade.gracie@uksoc.com or hereIf you are interested in becoming a family or funeral celebrant have a look here.