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.

Arranging a Memorial Service

The pandemic back in 2020 changed lots things about our lives, and introduced us to the idea of direct cremation. This means that you don’t have a service in a crematorium and your loved one is simply cremated, and you can then choose to celebrate their live with a memorial service. But how do you go about arranging a memorial service?

There is no right or wrong way to arrange a memorial service for someone you have loved, most of all you want to make it a celebration of their life and to reflect what was important to them. So here are a few suggestions on what you may need to consider to help you plan a personal and fitting memorial service.

Where should this be held?

Your memorial service can take anywhere you choose, so think about the places where your loved one enjoyed spending time and consider any of these for your memorial. Maybe at their golf club in one of the function rooms, their favourite pub, the day centre where they enjoyed meeting friends or at a natural beauty spot they loved such as in the grounds of Polesden Lacey in Bookham, Surrey or Richmond Park in London.

Any of these types of venue will help with catering and will probably be able to provide any audio visual equipment you might want for music or photos too. And they are great when you’re expecting lots of people. But if you are thinking of something more intimate you could always have the service at home, or at the remembrance gardens of your local crematoria and incorporate placing a memorial stone or planting a rose bush into your time together.

If they loved spending time in nature why not consider something outdoors along the banks of the Thames or at a venue such as Clandon Wood Nature Reserve in West Clandon, Surrey?

When is the right time?

Once again there is no right answer for this. You might decide that you’d like to arrange the memorial for a few months after the funeral or you may prefer to wait and hold this on the anniversary of their death but generally I would recommend you make it within six months.

Funerals are traditionally held on weekdays but your memorial can be any day of the week so if you’ve got lots of people attending who are generally working during the week you could hold the celebration on a weekend instead. Depending on the type of refreshments you’d like to offer guests you could time the service for early afternoon so everyone could share in afternoon tea and a glass of fizz, or maybe the person you are remembering loved a fish and chip supper, in which case a late afternoon service followed by fish and chips and a few drinks would be fab!

Although there are no time restrictions in the same way as there are for a funeral service, it’s best to set a time limit on the memorial. Two hours is about right but if the celebration is in full swing and people want to move on elsewhere after that time then all well and good.

What should the memorial include?

Your memorial service doesn’t have to have any formal elements, it could just be a party to celebrate the life of your loved one – and if they enjoyed a good party then why not?! But you may like to have some structure to the time you are spending together and there are lots of different ways you can do this from a full service led by a celebrant to some of your guests sharing their memories and favourite photos.


A celebrant led service might include any of the items listed below and is best held at the beginning of your memorial for up to 30 minutes, with time to socialise afterwards:

  • Words of welcome
  • Thoughts on life and death
  • Poems or readings
  • Music chosen in memory of your loved one
  • Eulogy
  • Tributes from family and friends
  • Quiet reflection or a symbolic gesture such as lighting a candle
  • Closing words and toast

You can also include visual tributes such as electronic photos projected onto a screen, prints placed on a large board or dotted around the room, or some video footage of your loved one if you are lucky enough to have this.

I hope this gives you a few pointers on how to create a fitting memorial service for your loved one. If you’d like me deliver the service for you, or you’d like to talk though some ideas please drop me a line at or give me a call on 07786 268446.

Are Virtual Ceremonies and Celebrations for You?

Lockdown has certainly made us more aware of connecting with our friends and family virtually – sharing dinner, quiz nights, and fun online – and this is something that we may well see playing a much larger role in celebrations and ceremonies going forward.

People have been taking part in virtual wedding ceremonies and live streaming funeral services to those who would ordinarily be there in person. No-one wants to miss these important life events, and we still need to celebrate the special moments in our lives, maybe now more than ever.

Virtual wedding ceremonies or funeral ceremonies are not for everyone but there are alternatives that mean you could still be part of these special moments with offerings like that from The Video Message Company. I love the idea that with their help you can create video messages for people anywhere. You just need to send your videos and messages that you’ve shot on your mobile, other photos you may have, a few details about the person or couple you are celebrating, and their favourite music and they pull it all together into a professional video!


It’s such a great way to surprise a wedding couple, maybe to cheer them up as their big day gets shelved, or to send a personal message to a member of your family or close friend you haven’t seen for 8 weeks and counting. And once we’re through with social distancing, it’s a perfect way to still be part of a wedding or naming ceremony if you can’t be there in person. 

Later this year we’ll be seeing lots of memorial services taking place to truly celebrate those who have died in recent months and a video message could be a lovely addition to memorial services, with messages to the family and anecdotes about the person being celebrated. I’m looking forward to embracing such fun and heartwarming technology into my ceremonies!

But if you’d rather wait until everyone can be together in person, that’s fine too, I’ll be here to help you celebrate when the time comes.  

Find out more about The Video Message Company here:

10 reasons to choose a Humanist funeral service

Here are my top reasons why a Humanist funeral service is a great choice to celebrate the life of your loved one, or if you are planning your own funeral.

  • Every service is especially created for the person who is being celebrated, so it’s truly personal in words and style
  • Humanist funerals don’t have to sombre affairs, they can be filled with fun, laughter and colour while being heartfelt too
  • Anything goes so if you want live music, poetry, a one act play, or a glass of champagne we’ll make it work for you
  • If you want to speak at the funeral service but don’t know if you’ll be able to find the right words, we can write something for you to say on the day
  • We’re experts at conducting funeral services in crematoria, cemeteries and natural burial grounds, and more unusual settings too, and will create a service to suit the surroundings
  • We love hearing all about people’s lives and piecing together your memories into a story that tells of their journey through life
  • Funeral services don’t have to be religious, Humanist services suit those without faith, but if you want a prayer or hymn included just in case, that’s fine
  • You’ll receive a draft copy of the full script to review before the ceremony so you can make sure everything is just as you want it to be, and that all of the details are correct
  • Your loved one’s memory can be kept alive by choosing for their funeral script to be entered into the Humanist Funeral Tribute Archive so future generations can read about and understand their life
  • All Humanist Celebrants are trained and fully accredited, and we are regularly reviewed too so you can rest easy knowing that the service quality will be great

If that hasn’t convinced you, check out more details on the Humanists UK website or visit my Funeral Ceremonies page