Wednesday, 14 September 2016

New Training Course | End of Life Doula | Trial Offer

As many of you will be aware, since the Ideal Death Show in 2015 we have been looking to develop our own End of Life Doula course in order to offer training to those who wish to support individuals at the end of their life.

We intend to officially launch the course early in the first quarter of 2017. The cost of the course has yet to be finalised but is expected to be comparable to our Diploma in Family & Funeral Celebrancy (Group Training Course)

It is anticipated that the End of Life Doula Course will be delivered in several locations around the UK / British Isles

The Course Leader will be Chele Lawrence who, as well as being one of us, has extensive experience in developing, drafting and delivering specialist training for Macmillan , Marie Curie and British Red Cross amongst many others.

End of Life Doula Training | Trial Offer

We are aware that many of our members have expressed an interest in this training. Although we believe the training is ready to go - we would like to complete a final trial on the course in order to dot any "i's" and cross any "t's" requiring attention.

To this end we are offering the End of Life Doula Training on a first come, first served basis to just Six (6) UKSOC Members Only for £275 each - inclusive of training, all materials and lunches. 

The Trial will take place in Whitstable, Kent 

Part 1 on 15 -16 October 2016

Part 2 on 12 -13 November 2016

To register your interest or speak to Chele - feel free to drop her a line at or send her a message via the UKSOC Celebrants Facebook Group.

To book, please complete the contact form to your right using your UKSOC Email address and an invoice will be forwarded to you.

So, what's involved?

Course Outline

The face to face course is made up of four days delivered in two sections and on the completion of each section participants will be requested to complete a portfolio and learning journal.

Day one of the course, which establishes the culture with its shared and experimental learning style, focuses on the role of the End of Life Doula, the importance of good communication in relation to identifying client’s needs, the principles of effective listening and responding, information giving and obtaining when supporting people at the end of their life.

Day two is a natural progression from day one as it builds on the skills and knowledge gained previously. It is not about turning individuals into trained counsellors but identifies that some skills counsellors use can help individuals to become better emotional and practical supporters.

For anyone working in the area of end of life it is important to understand how people are affected by death. The focus of day three is to understand the meaning and experience of loss and bereavement and its impact on others. We look at bereavement theories and rituals and participants are encouraged to explore their own experience in relation to loss and bereavement in order to gain an understanding of how to respond and support others.

Attention on day four is given to the personal impact of supporting end of life clients and the importance of self-care. Participants are shown how to help a client develop a plan enabling them to live and die in the place and manner of their choosing. Finally we cover some of the legal implications of being an End of Life Doula.

Many aspects of the course focus on self-awareness. Self-awareness involves being conscious of who you are and how you will react in certain situations which is very important as a supporter for end of life clients. Knowing how you react enables you to develop strategies of support.

Participants attending the course are asked to attend all four days teaching which are delivered over two months. Each day commences at 9.30 am and concludes at 5.00pm.

Time is given at the end of each two day session to focus on what participants need to do to complete their portfolios and learning journals. One month is given to complete the relevant work.

As participants progress through the programme they will gain useful skills and discover strengths which will help them feel confident in their abilities.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Funeral Celebrant | The Role

As more people are choosing non religious funerals, there is a demand for the services of funeral Celebrants to write and perform life centred goodbye ceremonies. We all have different beliefs and styles; but all reputable and professionally trained Celebrants have the same role in helping families say goodbye.
The role of the funeral Celebrant is one of involvement with the family of the deceased, which starts from the first contact via phone with a family. We arrange to go to the home of the widow, widower or deceased’s family to gather information about them to start to build a ceremony based on their life, loves and achievements.
Meeting families can be a new experience for them. Families have told us they aren't sure how to act or what to say when they meet us. This is usually due to not having any experience of being involved with a Celebrant. We always greet families with a reassuring smile, a hand shake and some light hearted conversation. The handshake evolves into a hug towards the end of the meeting and we always reassure them that we are here to help them.
We always ask to see a recent picture of the deceased so we have the image of their face in our head for the entire meeting. The ceremony is about them, and they are the main focus of ceremony. Finding out stories, memories, employment, family, likes, dislikes, habits, hobbies, musical tastes and other personal information is just the beginning part of creating a ceremony.
Informing a family who have said their loved one loved Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones that music played at the funeral ceremony can be from those artists, is beneficial to them. 
Every family informed that they can have any readings, poems and music usually respond with the same questioning statement of ‘I didn’t know we could have that’. If a Father loved Monty Python and wasn’t religious, why shouldn’t his funeral include the famous Eric Idle song but have The Lord is My Shepherd?
funeral song meme
The Celebrant has to take on a detective like role and look for clues around the room and coax information from all present to include in the ceremony. It’s common for families to forget vital information such as hobbies or achievements during the meeting. We usually call families the day afterwards and tell them we will do this as more information comes to mind once we've left.
Occasionally, the role of the Celebrant can also be that of a mediator if family conflicts surround the ceremony. Sadly, this happens if there are family feuds, but these shouldn’t prevent the Celebrant for gathering information from all involved about the deceased and their relevance to estranged members.
Being asked to conduct a funeral, memorial or any other kind of ceremony is an honour. The role of the Celebrant is to be humble and professional. A family have given you, a complete stranger usually, the honour of saying the last words in public about their loved one. The funeral Celebrant’s job is to help a family say goodbye and acknowledge the life and passing of a loved one, and member of society.
The greatest compliment a funeral Celebrant can have is to hear families or friends of the deceased say the person ‘would have loved that’, or ‘you obviously knew them well’ or ‘you described them perfectly’. We are the last professional person to publicly have a role to play in the story of the deceased person’s life. We always thank families for compliments, but always tell them We just said their words, as it was their memories which created the ceremony.
Cast your mind back to a funeral you have attended. What do you remember about the funeral? Unless there were specific, nobody remembers the coffin, flowers, music or transport method. Everybody usually remembers the ceremony, particularly if it stood out as a reflection of them or sadly, if it wasn’t a true reflection of them.
The role of the funeral Celebrant is to help a family say goodbye to a loved one by commemorating and acknowledging the life of their family member. It’s such a rewarding feeling to know you have helped and encouraged a family to say goodbye in a way which suited the life of their member.

Adapted from a piece by Ellie Farrell

Funeral Celebrant | Dying Matters Awareness Week 2016 | The Big Conversation

From 9th-15th May 2016, it is Dying Matters Awareness Week, The Big Conversation This is a yearly event encouraging people to think and talk about death and dying. It may sound morbid, but it is far from. Events are held all over the UK, and I attended one as part of the Brum YODO (You Only Die Once) event held in Kings Heath Birmingham.
RFP 9923 
I was invited to attend Fletchers Bar where part of the event was held, and take part along with other Celebrants, undertakers, florists, artists creating alternatives to floral arrangements, a funeral photographer and hospice staff. The idea of the event was to inform and encourage people attending to talk about death and funeral arrangements. 
I took along some examples of funeral ceremonies, or celebration of life ceremonies as I prefer to call them. They were actual ceremonies I had written and performed, and full permission to use them as part of the event was granted by the families of the deceased. 
RFP 9888
As an alternative funeral Celebrant/officiant, I also write and perform memorials ceremonies. These are either after, or in cases of direct cremation, instead of funeral ceremonies. I took along an example of a thumb print tree which I usually take to memorials and encourage all attending the memorial to leave their thumb print on the tree and write their name. This is hung in the family or relatives home as a memorial to the deceased person. 
Attendees were invited to take part in decorating a coffin with personalised messages or paper flowers, pick from a selection of poems some which they would consider suitable for their own celebration of life ceremony, make a wreath out of material or speak to hospice staff. 
yodo one

The subject of attending death cafes, a visit to Westall Park Natural Burial Ground in Redditch two days later, discussing final wishes and taking part writing on ‘before I die I want to...’ chalkboards were informative. 
yodo two
As an advocate for green and natural burials, I spoke to a few people and informed them of alternative choices to traditional burials and cremations. People were intrigued to see a slideshow of funeral photographs capturing a natural burial. Funeral photography is becoming more popular and if done correctly by a skilled funeral photographer, it can be a lasting reminder of a personal life celebration, showing happy smiling faces too.
RFP 9830
It was a fun event and not morbid at all. Information on Dying Matters can be found here.
For more information on alternative non-religious funerals, green or natural burials or memorial ceremonies; please contact me
With thanks to 
Posted by Ellie Farrell

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Civil Celebrant | The Importance and Significance of Funeral Photography

What is your view on arriving at a funeral to say goodbye to a loved one, friend or college, and seeing a photographer there taking pictures? Would you find it morbid, strange, disrespectful, progressive or celebratory?

I’m Rob and I am a professional photographer, specialising in journalistic photography; capturing aspects, details, emotions and the atmosphere at all of life’s events. This includes photographing weddings and funerals; both of which are life changing events for all involved.

Weddings are joyous and happy occasions; marking the start of a new life for the couple getting married. The couple spend a lot of money making sure their day is about them, and I make sure I capture every detail of their day so they have visual and personal memories to look back at, and share with future generations.

Funerals, or celebration of life ceremonies as most families prefer to call them, can also be a time for smiles and celebrations. Families spend a lot of money and time making sure they give their loved one a befitting and personalised goodbye.

When my mother in died 2011, my family and I planned a non-religious celebration of life ceremony for her. We had floral tributes made to look like everyday items she favoured, and we asked all attending to wear brightly coloured casual clothing.

My memories of that day were obviously ones of sadness, but they also always bring a smile to my face when I think about how the entire day was. Bright colours, happy faces, old friends and amazingly artistic floral tributes. I regret not having the initiative to capture the day with my camera to look back at and show friends who couldn’t attend.

Each of us though are different, and each family has their own traditions and ways of acknowledging life’s events. As more families are choosing to take control over funerals for their loved ones, the acceptance, interest and demand for funeral photography is growing.

Families are choosing to have the funeral or memorial service of their loved ones documented by a photographer to have a lasting memory for now and future generations. Alternative funeral transport, family led funerals, natural burials, personalised decorated coffins, themed funerals such as football or Star Wars and bespoke floral tributes have caused a demand for funeral photography.

Funeral photography captures friends and families saying goodbye to a loved one and celebrating their life with tears, smiles and laughter; in a non-invasive and respectful way. Funeral photography isn’t about photographing a deceased person in a coffin, or lots of shots of random gravestones in gloomy cemeteries.

I capture the day as it happens, not just the funeral service itself. When a family ask me to photograph for them, I start by meeting them before the funeral day. We talk about their loved one’s life, their achievements, their personality and family. A funeral is not a day in a lifetime, it’s a lifetime in a day; and this starts by photographing at the family home.

The guests (I prefer to say guests rather than mourners, as they are attending a life celebration) get used to seeing me there as I photograph the floral tributes, chat with them about what I am doing and take pictures of them talking. When the hearse or transport arrives, the atmosphere usually changes as I capture the deceased returning and leaving home for the last time. Should a family want to see their loved one for the last time, I don’t capture this private moment unless they request me to.

When we get to the burial ground or crematorium, I keep out of the way and photograph what is taking place. I’m obviously very mindful not to capture images of grieving guests as this is a personal moment.

After the ceremony is over, I attend the wake, refreshments or memorial gathering. Eating, drinking and sharing stories together is prevalent in all human societies throughout history and after a funeral, it is symbolic or a new chapter for the family. Like weddings, funerals bring people together; sometimes from all over the world. Relatives and friends who have emigrated fly back for funerals as families come together to say goodbye to members.

These memories and gatherings being photographed give families something to look back on through the grieving process. Families can look at the images together and remember their conversation to a particular person in the picture with them. Sometimes people are unable to attend, and prints or digital images can be forwarded to people.

A funeral is an emotional event and like all events there are numerous others offering their services. My advice to anyone considering hiring a funeral photographer is to meet with them or talk to them first. Funeral photography is journalistic and discreet at the same time. It’s about capturing images of a family saying goodbye to a loved one in a personal way which includes aspects of the life they lived.

After reading this, what is your view on funeral photography? 

For information on funeral or memorial photography, please contact Rob Farrell.

Funeral Celebrant | Memorial Ceremonies | An Alternative to Funerals

Memorial ceremonies have always been a part of human culture. We usually associate them with celebrities, public figures, the army forces or public services. However, memorial ceremonies are on the increase for others members of our society, as more families are shunning what are viewed as traditional funerals. As a funeral Celebrant, I have definitely seen an increase in families choosing to celebrate their loved ones lives with a memorial rather than a funeral.
Unlike a funeral, a memorial ceremony usually takes place without the body of the deceased person being there. Due to this, a memorial can be held anywhere; at any time, and more importantly for any length of time. Funeral ceremonies or services as they are also referred to, are mostly held in designated buildings within a city council owned cemetery.
There are exceptions if a funeral takes place in an independently owned woodland or natural burial ground. As an alternative Celebrant, I am an advocate for this type of green and environmentally friendlier funerals. Families choosing these kinds of funerals generally have as much time as they require to say goodbye to their loved one, rather than the usual twenty to thirty minutes ceremonies held in council run cemetery buildings.
green burial site
For those families who choose cremation for their family member, memorial ceremonies are becoming a new addition to the procedure. Cremation has been the alternative to burial since it became legal in 1885. 70% of funerals today are cremations due to family choice, beliefs or lack of space in council run cemeteries.
Last year however, I noticed a significant increase in the number of families holding memorial ceremonies. The families I worked alongside had made the decision to have a life centred memorial after a direct cremation had taken place. Direct cremation involves the deceased person’s body being collected from a hospital, funeral director or family home and taken to be directly cremated without any ceremony.
These families had expressed a wish to avoid having a funeral ceremony. One family member told me ‘we couldn’t cope with the lasting image of the sight of a hearse arrive with a coffin containing Mom’. Another family member described a funeral as a ‘unnecessary waste of money’ and expressed ‘we would rather spend the money on a family party to honour Grandad properly’.
Memorial ceremonies have a completely different atmosphere to them in my experience. Gone is the traditional black clothing, men in dark suits and sombre looking faces. In their places, are everyday clothing, people smiling and a happier atmosphere with laughter and smiling faces. Guests are also more willing to speak as they feel more relaxed and at ease.
The presence of a coffin in an unfamiliar room, associated with feelings of sadness and grief, makes a traditional funeral a completely different occasion to a memorial. Memorials, whether there is an urn containing the cremated ashes of the deceased or not, are a more positive occasion. Children especially are encouraged to attend memorials as opposed to being shielded away as is common at funerals.
Memorial ceremonies are the perfect way to inclusively involve everyone of all ages in celebrating the life of a family member. Rooms and venues chosen for memorials can display not only a few possessions and standard style framed photographs as at a funeral; but can be filled with visual memories of the family member. Families can have large photographic displays, memory boards with quotes and thoughts associated with their loved one, books of remembrance, and family video memories.
I have been involved with memorial planning and I suggested a thumbprint tree painting by all who attended and this was turned into a framed print, displayed in the family home. The family also had a screen put up and their Father’s favourite film was shown during the memorial ceremony. It was a relaxed atmosphere with food available and everyone sharing thoughts and memories. An ‘open mike’ situation where anyone present could speak, was part of the celebration of life. A photographer captured the event just as a wedding, party or other social occasion would be photographed.
2 thumbprint tree
2016 started with the news of two celebrity memorials. Both Lemmy from Motorhead and David Bowie were privately cremated, and memorial ceremonies took place instead of traditional funerals. Lemmy’s was a very public event, with stories and speeches from his son Paul and famous friends. It was streamed live to the world via Youtube. Bowie’s was a very private and family only occasion, with news of a music tribute concert happening in March 2016.
Celebrity funerals and memorials influence fans into talking about their own arrangements with family and friends. Media announcements of direct and private cremation followed by personalised unique memorials, inform people of the alternative choice of having a funeral.
In my role as a funeral Celebrant, I help and support families in all aspects of saying goodbye to their loved ones. I work alongside undertakers and funeral directors who help families wishing to have direct cremation memorials to do so.
Memorial ceremonies are certainly memorable occasions, with tears of laughter and happiness as well as grief. They are a truly personal way to celebrate the life of a loved one. Will memorials become the personalised, cheaper and new way to mark the passing of people rather than the traditional funeral?

For more information on memorials or funerals, please contact your local celebrant here.

Original written by Ellie Farrell

Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Wedding Celebrant | Pop-Up & Flash Weddings

Many of you may have heard about pop-up weddings but not experienced one, however, once tried - never forgotten.

“You basically just show up. If you don’t want the stress and the cost of a traditional wedding, it’s perfect!”

So  “What is a pop-up wedding?”
Not all pop-up weddings are the same, but they do have a common purpose: to make it easy for a couple to get married, and to make it less expensive.

Pop-up weddings truly are perfect for couples who simply don’t have the cash to pull out all the stops on their wedding day. They are also ideal for couples with other priorities, such as travel.

And because not all of us like wedding planning, they are a great option for couples who don’t want to invest months orchestrating an event.

Some pop-up weddings are like fancy elopements with no guests. Australia’s The Pop Up Wedding describes their service like this:

“We find the coolest venue, the hottest photographer, really creative stylists and florists and a rocking wedding celebrant and put them all together so for one hour you can have your dream wedding with no fuss, no stress and a few guests.”

Perth Pop-Up Wedding, also in Australia, allows up to 16 guests, and lets you choose from eight different venues.

“We provide an incredibly stunning and romantic venue with three inspiring and uniquely styled ceremony options … a beautiful mini bouquet, Perth’s most awarded celebrant… , celebratory champagne and cake for you and your guests and photographs of your ceremony followed by a short portrait session as husband and wife with one of Perth’s most sought after photographers…”

Thankfully, you don’t have to go all the way to Australia to have a pop-up wedding. The trend is catching on here in the UK too.

A pop-up wedding is much like an elopement. A short & sweet ceremony usually consisting of the couple, their witnesses, a few guests & a wedding celebrant. Endless natural landscapes for backdrops & vintage neon signage are a favourite.  

Another variant is a "flash wedding", flash as in "flash mob", depending on the location, not recommended unless you are a brave wedding celebrant with an equally brave couple. I did a goth themed wedding on the steps of a well know and busy cathedral (handfasting & broom jump too). The Bishop was incandescent with rage - but it was all done and dusted before he could do anything about it.

Why are couples choosing pop up weddings?
Large scale weddings aren’t for everyone. A lot of the couples would rather spend money on their honeymoon, instead of a ceremony that isn’t really about them. Pop-ups are all about the couples & the love they share. It’s really a sweet & genuine & exciting moment.

What’s the cost?
How long is a piece of string? Having taken a straw pole of those of us who have done them, the costs have ranged from £1200 to £5600 All in - including the wedding celebrant. Much depends on the imagination of the couple and the skills of the wedding celebrant / planner.

For UKSOC Wedding Celebrants interested in this concept - speak to your Mentor.

Funeral Celebrant | Funeral Poverty

What if there is none?
“The Cost Of Pauper Funerals Is Rising”, proclaimed recent headlines, along with a simultaneous shining of the journalistic spotlight onto so-called ‘funeral poverty’.

The cost of funerals is always enough to cause dark mutterings, calls for government enquiries and heated articles in the tabloids. But in a world now obsessed with labelling everything as a pressing social issue, amongst ‘Islamaphobia’ and ‘Trans-gender discrimination’ we find ‘Funeral Poverty’ being tucked in to the lexicon of contemporary social problems. As usual, the reality is complex and riddled with inconvenient truths and it takes a brave soul to try explaining it.

So here we go...

In recent years, the cost to local authorities of so-called ‘pauper funerals’ has risen almost 30% to £1.7m. Public health funerals, as they’re properly known, are carried out by local authorities for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay. Although historically the preserve of people who’d fallen through the social net, the increase in public health funerals can largely be traced to people living longer and thus more likely to die alone. But the ever-growing number of marital breakdowns and fractured family relationships is in turn why more people find themselves alone in the first place.

Local authorities carried out 2,580 public health funerals in the 12 months spanning 2013-14, representing still only a small fraction of the circa 500,000 UK deaths each year. A no-frills public health funeral will cost somewhere around £1500 and although attempts are made to recover some of the costs from the deceased’s assets, the total bill to local authorities was still £1,719,329 - an increase of 28% in the past four years. So there’s your newspaper headline.

But hanging on the coat tails of that story is the sequel: ‘funeral poverty’ – the inability to afford a funeral. The average funeral now costs approximately £3,163 nationally, (£4,836 in London). People receiving benefits can apply for assistance from the DWP Social Fund, which will cover the necessary third party costs of a simple burial or cremation and up to £700 towards funeral director's fees. But there’s no guarantee an application will succeed and because you need a funeral invoice to make a claim, families & funeral directors alike are exposed to unacceptable risk of debt right from the outset.

The £700 funding amount hasn’t changed for over a decade - while funeral director’s costs have gone up year on year (we have wages, electricity, fuel and business rates to pay, just like everyone else). Meanwhile, third-party costs have risen way above inflation. Cremation fee rises are largely due to EU regulations; burial fees are high because, with burials accounting for only 30% of deaths anyway, cemeteries are almost always run at a loss and require constant subsidy. Conversely, some cash-strapped local authorities are choosing to privatise their ‘bereavement services’ (crematorium/cemeteries), transforming them into cash cows for raising desperately-needed revenue to fund other services. They subcontract their management to private operators like the big funeral chains, but inevitably with little downward effect on the fees.

Bereavement is of course often unexpected and so for people on low incomes especially, funeral & associated costs will inevitably far exceed their financial means. As a result, there’s now some anecdotal evidence that struggling families are washing their hands of responsibility altogether, in the hope their local authority will provide a public health funeral.

But here’s the Katie Hopkins bit: the desire to offload responsibility onto the local authority and obtain a public health funeral actually represents, a more honest approach. There always seems to be a proportion of families who cannot afford an elaborate funeral but still want one anyway. Cheaper funeral options are readily available, without any loss of dignity, but they’re often shunned because the deceased “deserves better”. One result is an identifiable trend now for funerals – particularly for youngsters - being paid for by online crowd-funding appeals “because he/she deserves the best send-off”. That always strikes me as rather backward logic and once again it illustrates how the label ‘poverty’ is often relative to spending choices.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Funeral Celebrant | How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

How much does a funeral cost?
More than one Piggy Bank required!
These days a typical funeral using a funeral director costs around £3,600. However, you can pay much more or less than this, depending on how you want to remember the person who’s died, what you can organise yourself and how much you can afford to pay.

Taking the deceased’s wishes into account

Some people write in their wills what they want for their own funeral and this could affect the cost, depending on their wishes. If they didn’t make plans for what they wanted, you don’t have to follow these instructions if you can’t afford to pay for them.
Although it’s important to take the deceased wishes into account, you also need to work out what you can afford to spend on the funeral.
You may also have other immediate expenses or find that you suddenly have to manage on a lower household income, so it’s important to stick to a budget.
If you are on a low income and claiming certain benefits, you may be able to get help with the essential costs of the funeral from the Social Fund.
You could try to talking with family and friends to see if it’s possible to carry out the deceased’s wishes or if there are other more affordable ways to give them a fitting funeral. For example, how much it would matter if the deceased were to be cremated rather than buried?
Find out more about who is responsible for the costs of a funeral and help that may be available in Paying for a funeral.

Using a funeral director

Top Tip

Funeral costs can vary significantly. So while you may find it difficult at this time, it’s important to compare quotes from several funeral directors, caterers or florists to make sure you’re not paying too much.
Most people use a funeral director to arrange a funeral.
It can take away much of the administrative stress that comes with planning a funeral and can give you the time you need to deal with your grief.
When looking for a funeral director, choose one from either:
Funeral directors from these associations operate under a code of practice and have an established complaints procedure.
They should respect your choices, give you a full range of options and not put you under pressure to spend more than you can afford. If you feel this has happened, you should complain.

Typical costs for arranging the funeral

On average, funeral director services cost about £1,800. These costs include storing the body, providing the coffin, hearse and staff on the day of the funeral. Generally, they won’t cover disbursement costs.
Disbursement costs are fees for burial, cremation, doctors and ministers or celebrant services. They can add up to £1,600 onto the cost, depending on whether the deceased is buried or cremated.
Remember every aspect of the funeral is your decision, whether you use a funeral director or make some or all the arrangements yourself.
Don’t feel pressurised into spending more than you want to or can afford, simply because you feel you have to put on a show of respect. A simple funeral can be as dignified and fitting as one which costs a lot more money.
Some funeral service providers may offer a package price. This could be made up of some elements you have to pay for and some optional elements.
It’s worth asking for a detailed quote to find out what services are included in the package. If the quote includes services you don’t need, request a revised quote without them.
Before contacting a funeral director, you can use our table of costs below to find out how much you can expect to pay for a typical funeral.
The tables include items many people choose to include, such as a coffin or hearse, as well as optional items.

Typical costs of using a funeral director

ItemWays you could try to reduce the bill
Use of the chapel of rest for viewing the deceasedYou don’t have to make the body available for viewing.
Hygienic treatment of the body (known as ‘embalming’)If the body is to be viewed then it may be embalmed to preserve the deceased’s appearance. But it is not compulsory.
Administration – making all necessary arrangements and documentationIf you feel confident you could do this yourself or ask friends and family to help.
CoffinYou could request a lower priced coffin or opt for a shroud instead.
Hearse and limousineYou could ask for a more basic car or make arrangements to collect the body yourself.
Staff for the funeral, such as pall bearersYou could ask friends and family to help instead.

Disbursement costs

ItemAverage costWays you could try to reduce the bill
Doctor’s fees for death certification£165This fee only applies to a cremation, not for a burial. It also won’t apply if the deceased is in the hands of the coroner or a procurator fiscal in Scotland.
Cremation fees£660If the fee includes additional services such as an organist, you could ask for these to be removed.
Burial fees£1,750If the fee includes additional services such as an organist, you could ask for these to be removed.
Funeral Celebrant, religious or secular officiant – in other words the person who performs the funeral ceremony£165+

You could ask a close friend or relative to perform the ceremony.

Optional costs of a funeral

There are some additional services which you can add to a funeral. On average these can add another £1,800 to the bill.
Remember, these aren’t essential costs. But if you do want to include them, it’s important to get several quotes as costs can vary a lot.
This is one area where it’s easier to save money by making some of the arrangements yourself or asking family and friends to help you.
ItemAverage costWays you could try to reduce the bill
Funeral flowers£150These days many people opt for having a charity collection instead. Or if you do want flowers, you could opt for homemade arrangements.
Death notice announcing a death or an obituary£77You could ask close friends and family to help out by calling others on your behalf or with posting or emailing homemade death notices.
Funeral notice announcing the time and location of a funeral in a local newspaper£66You could ask close friends and family to help out with phone calls or by posting or emailing homemade funeral notices.
Additional limousine£230You could just ask friends and family to let you use their cars instead. Or meet at the church or crematorium.
Order of service/ celebration sheets£60You could make these at home and personalise them.
Catering for a wake/funeral reception£370This is one time when friends and family can really help out. Ask them to bring something each or help you make the food at home.
Venue hire for a wake/funeral reception£110You could use your home or the home of willing family or friends.
Memorial headstone or plaque£770These days many people opt to create an online memorial website instead, often with a link to a charity organisation supported by the deceased. This can be a much cheaper alternative.

Arranging a funeral without a funeral director

You can arrange a funeral yourself, or make some of the arrangements yourself. This can cost you a lot less than using a funeral director.
The Natural Death Centre gives advice on how you can save money on all aspects of the funeral, including the coffin and burial fees.
Find out more on the Natural Death Centre website.
You can also contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium department of your local council directly if you want to arrange a cremation or burial yourself and they will be able to guide you through the process.
Find your local council on the GOV.UK website.

Source: The data in this article has been provided by Sun Life Direct and is based on its annual Cost of Dying report 2014. The report is commissioned by Sun Life Direct and carried out by Mintel Research Consultancy.

Civil Celebrant | Indemnity Insurance

Hello All

Liability Insurance.
We have recently had a surge in activity on our Facebook Members Group discussing the need and availability of Liability Insurance for Civil Celebrants.

Thanks to a referral from Lisa Humphrys we have negotiated a good rate for ALL of our Members.

As our Membership include (our nomenclature) Family Celebrants, Funeral Celebrants & Civil Celebrants, rather than offer 3 different Liability Insurance Products we have negotiated just one policy to cover ALL Celebrant activities no matter where you are in the UK and at one price. The price has not yet been finalised but anticipated to be between £70 & £75 per annum for a £5million level of cover. Our non-UK Members can still be covered but will require an individual quotation.

This offer is for UKSOC Members only and you can purchase the plan via our site. You will each be contacted shortly will further details.

Thanks for your time.

James Convery
CEO - Lead Tutor

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Civil Celebrant | ‘I can’t get any clients’ and other business myths

Due to the amount of activity on your Celebrant Forum recently, our very own Lisa Johnson has written this piece which we think may interest many of your fellow members. 

"I can’t get any clients and other business myths"

Which way to go?
I’ve been having quite a lot of discussions with new planners and celebrants recently about the ‘business side’ of what we do. As creative people, I think most of us came into the wedding industry for the love of doing the actual planning/performing/writing rather than because it was a good business decision but what I quickly realised (I’ve only been in business for 2 years myself) is that the running of the business is what I do with 80% of my time. The other 20% I get to do the fun stuff – the actual planning and meeting couples – the thing that gets me excited to be a wedding planner! The rest of my time is spent on marketing, PR work, blog writing, networking, accounting, advertising, branding, social media and everything else that comes with owning your own business.

So I guess really I’m writing this blog as a friendly wake-up call – a little shake of your shoulders! Yes, running a business is hard and of course nobody wants to do the boring stuff but it’s got to be done in able to get to the good stuff!

Let’s start with setting up a business in the first place. You’ve done your training, you’ve got your name, you’ve even sorted out a pretty cool logo. You’ve really thought hard about your branding and who your ideal client is and your website and branding shows that you know this. It’s all set up and you’re open for business. So where are all the clients?

I’m afraid this is where the work comes in. There is no point at all having a website if nobody sees it. There is a lot more work to be done I’m afraid. You can’t sit there and wait for clients to come to you. I guarantee you that they won’t because there are thousands of other creatives just like you who have done exactly the same thing. You now need to get your ideal clients to find you rather than your competitors, so how exactly do you go about doing that? Here are a few ideas to start you off….

Social Media

Possibly the biggest advertising tool of our time – I’m not saying you have to be on all platforms; you don’t. Your ideal client won’t be so there’s no reason you need to be. Work out which platforms your ideal clients are on and when they look at them and then start posting from a new facebook account opened up specifically for your business (your clients do not want to see your lovely children and pictures of your dinner). Only post content that is in line with what your clients might want to read. There’s a lot of choice out there with the main platforms being facebook, twitter, snapchat, Instagram, pinterest and periscope. If you want to post on quite a few and write all of your posts in one go, I recommend you download Hootsuite – it allows you to schedule all of your posts at the times that give your potential clients the optimum chance of seeing them. It also means you can spend a Sunday writing them all, schedule them and then forget about it for the rest of the week!

I know that lots of us (including me) are holding down full time jobs and bringing up young children as well as running our creative businesses and that means there’s not much time. If time is at a premium, the best way to network is using facebook and twitter. Look up groups in your area that will be of interest – some will be for wedding suppliers only and some will be groups of brides in your area so that’s even better! Don’t go in with a selling post (nobody likes that) – become the expert in your area. Answer queries that people have, post different ideas that might interest the group and be generally helpful and informative. If there is no such group, make one – there will be other wedding suppliers that will be looking for one too. The more you chat to other suppliers in the industry, the more likely a referral will come your way. For celebrants, this means chatting to all suppliers – florists, photographers, planners, bakers and most importantly, venues (we’ll get on to that). There’s a weekly twitter chat on Wednesday evenings on twitter called WeddingHour (find it by searching for #weddinghour) where all sorts of wedding suppliers and even couples chat to each other – it’s a great way to start networking.

If you are lucky enough to have the time – get out there! People will remember you so much more if they meet you face to face. Make appointments with the suppliers in your area and just chat over coffee about your businesses. You’ll pick up ideas about other networking groups in your area from other suppliers and can then choose which ones are right for you. Not all will be and that’s ok too.

Venue Visiting
Maybe not - mid November in the UK!
This is important for all wedding businesses but even more important for celebrants as you have a big advantage – venue managers may not know you exist or how you can help their business. This is brilliant for you. It means you can go and have a coffee with the wedding coordinators at the venue and say “do you ever use that beautiful garden for weddings?” They will say no because the law in England requires there to be a licensed room to marry in. And that’s where you come in. You can tell them there’s a way round that and explain how using a celebrant means couples could get married in that garden/unlicensed room, giving the venue more options to offer to a client, which can only be good for them! Ask them if they are having a wedding fair and would they like you to come in and do a little talk/workshop on using a celebrant (they get a speaker for free that may interest potential brides – you get a captive audience who may decide to then book you when they book the venue). Make sure you ask if they have a recommended supplier list – if they do, they may not have a celebrant on it so get yourself added!

We all want to get to that first page and even that number one spot on Google right? Well one of the best ways to do this is by posting fresh content onto your website regularly. Blogging is the best way to do this. When I started planning I was on page 24 of Google when the words ‘Surrey Wedding Planner’ were typed in. I’m now consistently in positions 1-3 on page 1 (after the paid for ads). I’ve done this completely by blogging. Make sure your website has the right tags / labels in it (words that google will find if someone searches for them) and get blogging. You can blog about anything that you think potential clients might want to read about – what a celebrant is, latest wedding trends, how certain rituals came about, etc. Remember that blogs look better with pictures (this goes for your social media posts too) so ask photographers nicely if you can use their pictures on your blogs and make sure you credit them. Don’t ever use them without permission though as it’s against copyright law. Once you’ve done a blog post, make sure the world knows it’s there by posting about it on all of your chosen social media channels!

Write for a magazine
Get your name and service out there by writing for magazines. Write articles about what a celebrant is or find a twist such as ‘how to decorate an outdoor ceremony’ and then send it in with some photographs. Magazines and other supplier’s blogs need content and you can provide it. Make contact with the magazines in your local area – if they ever need a quote or an expert answer, they’ll come to you.

Valuing your service
I wanted to end with a quick note about valuing your service. I’ve heard way too many planners and celebrants lowering their fees to get more work or even doing it for free, especially in the early days. All this does is devalue your service. If you charge next to nothing, you are devaluing your service as well as the industry as a whole and you’ll attract only budget brides. Work out how much you want to earn per hour, add on marketing and insurance costs (yes you do have to have insurance) and then work out what you need to make at each wedding from these figures. Then stick to it. You will get clients that will pay for your service if you value it and they value it – you may get less clients but they will pay more and will more likely be your ideal client so it’s still worth it. A recent wedding planner told me she was charging £1,000 per full planning wedding. An average wedding takes 250 hours to plan and so she was working for much less than the minimum wage! You may love what you do but it’s a business at the end of the day. If you’re not making a profit, it’s not a business – it’s just a hobby.

I hope this blog has helped some of you with ideas about what you can do to get going with your business and to attract more of the kinds of clients that you want. It isn’t easy – it takes effort, time, patience and lots of work on the business side of things but you will succeed if you put the work in! I’d love to hear about other ways that you get yourselves out there to grow your business, so do let me know.

Lisa Johnson

Many thanks to Lisa for her valuable input.