Funeral officiants oversee most, if not all, aspects of the funeral. You plan, oversee and steer a funeral service. Your primarily responsibility is making sure family members and friends have a chance to honor the deceased and say goodbye.
You may be asked to give a eulogy about the deceased. A eulogy can include stories about the person that you learn while talking to her family. Keep in mind that family members and guests may want to speak as well. Invite anyone who wants to speak to do so. If a family member or friend wants to deliver the eulogy, then you may only need to introduce her during this part of the service.
Music and Readings
In planning the service, you need to decide if there will be music or readings. You may want to include music the deceased particularly liked. If the deceased had a religious affiliation, or if the family wishes, you may opt to include religious music, such as hymns or spirituals. Similarly, you should talk to family members or friends in advance about any readings they want to give during the service, such as from a Bible or collection of poetry. Inviting people to share a reading allows them to take part in the service without overwhelming them with the responsibility of planning or overseeing it.
Funeral officiants arrive early, greet and comfort family members and other guests, arrange any necessary seating, such as at a graveside service, and stay until the last guest has left. You also design, print and distribute a program that outlines the service, if the family wants one. The program can include a photograph of the deceased, favorite or inspirational quotes and a schedule of event. If a graveside service follows in a separate location, the program can include its address and directions to it.
No Experience Necessary
You do not need any special training, education or even experience to officiate at a funeral. If you have never presided over a funeral before, you should research the elements of a funeral. The personal nature of a funeral means there is no standard way of overseeing one.
A family may want an officiant to oversee the service, even if the deceased has been cremated. An officiant who presides over a cremation service will have the same duties as one who presides over a standard funeral. Most cremation services take place in a crematorium, so you should arrive early to make sure any necessary seating has been arranged. You should also make sure any floral tribute the family wants has been set up. Such a tribute is usually arranged outside the crematorium.
For faith-based funerals, the funeral officiant may be the minister or other spiritual leader of the deceased, or may not know the deceased at all. During faith-based services, your officiant duties remain largely the same as those during a non-faith-based service. A key difference is the inclusion of prayer, scripture or other religious aspects during the service or eulogy.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.