Conversational Funeral – is this the ‘new black’ for small funeral services?


At a time when small and intimate funerals have become more popular, opting for a Conversational Funeral seems like a really warm and inclusive way to celebrate a loved one’s life. Let’s unpack it a bit further…

What is a Conversational Funeral?

Although there appears to be a fairly set structure for a funeral service, you can actually spend the time in any way that you choose. Your Funeral Director may have a strong view that you need three pieces of music, a eulogy, tributes and some poems or readings to fit into the 30-minute timeslot allowed in most crematoria. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If there is just a few of you attending the service who knew the person well, you might want something more relaxed. This is where Conversational Funerals come in. The time you would normally spend in a ‘service’ is instead filled with chatting about the person, relaying some of your favourite anecdotes and memories. By sitting together in a round or a horseshoe shape you’ll be inviting eye contact and encouraging conversation between you.

You can choose to have a celebrant assist you with the service. They can manage the time and ask questions to get the conversation rolling if needed. Such as “What was Donna like a school?” or “I gather Donna was a real sun worshipper, where did she go on holiday?”.

What should it include?

The short answer is, it can include anything you like. But setting a structure to the conversation can help get things going. It can also bring in everyone present who might have known the person at different times in their life. You could talk about childhood stories they used to relay, their working life, their family life, and their passions with each person adding their own nuggets of information. Or you may opt to just talk about the memories that come to mind when you think of them and let the conversation take its own course. Objects you associate with the person can be great conversation starters here. Try: “Whenever I think of Donna, sherry and Christmas dinner always comes to mind.”

You may want to include some music during the conversation and this can also invoke lots of memories if they were a music lover. And I’d probably still opt for some music at the start and end of the service. It sets the scene and cuts through the otherwise often silent moments. You might choose some of their favourite songs or a gentle instrumental as background music. Another idea is for everyone to choose a poem or reading that either reflects the person you are celebrating or you think they would have enjoyed.


Where could I have a Conversational Funeral in Surrey?

Generally a Conversational Funeral would replace a standard funeral service, so if the person is being cremated you could have the conversation in the chapel at the crematorium. However, some chapels have limitations on how you could arrange the furniture, particularly if they have pews. So you would need to check the suitability of the space first.

It might be nice to have your Conversational Funeral in a less traditional setting. You could choose somewhere like The Pavilion at Clandon Wood Natural Burial Ground in West Clandon, Surrey. Here you could place the coffin in The Pavilion and lay out the chairs as you choose. The conversation could either be followed by a burial or a direct cremation at a local crematorium. Or why not hold it at your loved one’s golf club, or even in a small function room in their favourite pub?


What do I need to consider?

Conversational Funerals really only work for small numbers of people, 15 would probably be the maximum. It’s lovely with just 3 or 4 people who knew the person well, while 6-8 is the ideal number. So, if you have lots of people planning to attend, I would recommend deferring the conversations. Wait until you are able to get together at a memorial service in the future and let the conversations flow.

If you do choose to hold the Conversational Funeral in a crematorium, you’ll be limited to their usual time allocation. This is generally 30 minutes including entrance and exit time. It would allow you around 20 mins for conversation. You can say a lot in this time but it may go quicker than you think! You could decide to take a double slot at the crematorium which would give you around 50 minutes. Or choose a venue that doesn’t have the same time constraints.

Finally, I would recommend you consider whether you are happy to manage the Conversation yourself. Often it’s helpful to have a Funeral Celebrant with you to lead you through the time together. They can also manage the music for you, and conduct a committal if you would like one.

If you would like to talk about arranging a Conversational Funeral further please do give me a call on 07786 268446. You can find out more about my services on my funerals page.