Funeral Questions

I've listed below some of the questions which people often ask me. To show an answer, click on the question, then click on the question once more to hide the answer again. Alternatively you can show all answers or hide all answers.



Are funerals only religious or humanist?

No, there is a third option. I take inspiration and comfort from a range of different sources, and I have found and respect that others do too. As an independent celebrant, I can compose and/or deliver a ceremony which includes religious, non religious or spiritual elements.


Are only certain types of funeral ceremonies personal?

Any sort of funeral service – religious, humanist or independent - can be personal. Whether it is or not is down to the beliefs and personality of the person who delivers the service, and what the organisation they represent allows.

As an independent funeral celebrant, I don't represent any organisation or its view of the world. It is you and your loved one who matter. My funerals reflect the beliefs and interests of the person who has died and what gives comfort to their family and friends.


Do I have to have hymns, do a line-up, have a reception, do a collection?

No, all of these are up to you. Just let me know how you feel about each of these when we meet.


Where are the services held?

Most ceremonies I do take place at a crematorium. Those that involve burials tend to be part of religious ceremonies and take place in churchyards. However, you may wish a woodland burial and I have experiences of services which begin in a funeral parlour and then move to a crematorium.


How long is a ceremony?

A ceremony usually lasts 25-35 minutes, depending on the time allowed by the particular crematorium or funeral parlour. You can check this with the Funeral Director and ask them to book a double time if you feel that the time allowed would not be long enough (please note this will usually involve a higher cost).


Where are you based?

I live and work in Edinburgh but will consider doing family visits and ceremonies further afield.


How much do you charge for a ceremony?

I charge £150 for a funeral ceremony (£185 for an extended e.g. double, or two-part service). This covers the family visit, preparation of the script, any additional research undertaken to find appropriate poems or readings, discussions about any additions or changes needed, delivery of the ceremony, and a copy of the final script.

I also charge travelling expenses of £6 for the cost of travel if the family visit and ceremony are held in Edinburgh (more if the visit and/or ceremony are outwith the city, depending on location – I charge 40p a mile mileage but will agree a reasonable maximum charge depending on the distance).


How much do you charge if I want to record advance wishes for my funeral?

I charge £50. This covers a visit and discussion with you, recording your wishes, agreeing a final version of them with you and providing copies for you and your family. If you want me to conduct the ceremony, I will retain a copy too and my fee for the funeral will be reduced by the fee you paid for your advance wishes. Please note that even though I help prepare the plans with you, you are under no obligation to choose me to conduct the ceremony.

If you live in Edinburgh, travelling expenses are included in the £50 charge. If you live outside Edinburgh, I charge 40p a mile mileage but will agree a reasonable maximum charge depending on the distance).

If you want me to do more than just record your advance wishes e.g. write any of the ceremony, then we would negotiate an appropriate fee depending on the work involved (and any reduction in the funeral fee if I conducted the funeral).


What will happen if you do a ceremony for me?

I will come to meet you and anyone else you think should be there to find out about the person who had died and what you want in the ceremony. I will ask about the person's family, life, character and achievements, and your memories of them. We'll discuss what themes, music, readings or poems you might want included - I can make suggestions or include examples in the draft script I prepare for you.

We'll also discuss if there’s anyone who would like to speak at the ceremony or any other requests that you have (e.g. for live music, about whether the coffin should be covered or not). I'll ask if you want to do a line-up after the ceremony (where you shake hands with those who have attended), if you are having a reception afterwards, and if you’d like a collection in aid of any charity or service.

I won’t usually see you again until the ceremony. But we will be in touch about any changes to the ceremony script and you can contact me at any time with any questions that you have.


Can I see a draft of the proposed service?

Absolutely. It’s important that you see how I pull together what you have shared with me so that you can check that you’re happy with it. You might say something when we meet that, afterwards, you feel you would not want shared publicly. Or you might want to change, add or delete something, or get contributions from other people. We'll work on the script together, and you can let me know what you want to see in draft before the ceremony - the full script, just the tribute, or none of it at all.


Can I get a copy of the final service?

Yes, if you would like one. I will bring a copy of the final ceremony script to the funeral and give you it after the service, or I can send it on afterwards.


What music can we have, and how do we organise it?

Within the service, there are usually three opportunities for music to be played – as you and everyone arrive, during the time for reflection and as everyone leaves. You choose the music you would like and then let the Funeral Director and me know. The Funeral Director will liaise with the crematorium or parlour staff about playing the music on the day. I will include the details of what is played in the ceremony script, together with any information about why you have chosen it. And I will liaise with the crematorium staff on the day to ensure that the music is cued in at the appropriate time.


Can we have live music?

Yes, depending on the venue. Just let me and the Funeral Director know well in advance and we can make the necessary arrangements with the crematorium or parlour staff.


What about poetry and readings?

You don’t have to include poetry but poems and readings often help capture the essence of the person, and how you might feel about their loss. You may have some ideas yourself or I can make some suggestions or try to find a poem or reading with a particular theme for you.

It would also be helpful if you let me know if you are including any poetry in the order of service sheet (if you have one). The Funeral Director organises the printing of these sheets direct with you and I do not see it till the day. It may be that I can make some reference or link to the poem in the ceremony script if this would be appropriate.


What if a friend or relative wants to speak?

That can easliy be arranged and included in the service. It's helpful to know in advance what others are going to say for a number of reasons – to avoid any duplication within the ceremony, to agree where best in the ceremony the person should speak, to ensure we can keep to the time available for the ceremony, and so I can read the contribution(s) if those who were going to speak become emotional on the day. Having advance copies of contributions also means I can include them in the copy of the final script I give you so you have a complete record of the ceremony.


What training have you had?

I originally trained and was approved as a humanist funeral celebrant, before going independent. The skills I need for funeral work are, however, also drawn from a lifetime of working with people and a range of experience and qualifications:

  • I am a qualified counsellor and counsel bereaved people, including those affected by murder and suicide
  • I hold the Cruse Scotland Specialist Module in Bereavement and Loss
  • I am used to working with a range of people in a range of situations (I was a personnel manager for 10 years and also spent 10 years working to improve support for victims and witnesses)
  • I did the eulogy (around a poem I wrote) at my mum’s funeral and know what a difference a personal and personally-tailored service can make
  • I have a lifelong love of words, music, poems and readings all of which lend themselves to composing funeral ceremonies
  • Public speaking was part of my job as a civil servant.

How long have you been doing funeral ceremonies?

I have been doing my own ceremonies since April 2014. Not long, I know, but I feel what people say about my ceremonies speaks for itself.


What if I don’t like you or what you have done?

Tell me! It's your service and you must be happy with it and with me. If your concern is about what I have written, we can amend that. If it's something I’ve done, just let me know. Or you might have said something when we met that, with hindsight, you would rather not have said in public - that’s fine, we will take it out.

If in the unlikely event that we can't sort things out and you need another celebrant, either I or the Funeral Director will help you find one. If I have done any work, I will make a charge for it as a proportion of the total fee but my focus will be on making sure you get the funeral you want.


Contact: 07814 847059 | funerals@sallypendreigh.com