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

At a time when small and intimate funerals are unfortunately a necessity, 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 (socially distanced) 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.

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:

Should you choose a Naming Ceremony or Christening for your child?

If you are wondering what a naming ceremony is, don’t worry you’re not alone! Although they are rising in popularity lots of people haven’t heard the term and most have yet to experience one.

I could quite simply say it’s like a non-religious christening, when the parents formally name their child and ask close friends or family members to take a special role in their child’s life as guide parents. But is it so much more than that.

Firstly a naming ceremony involves just those people that you invite to the service. It’s just for you and your family and friends whether that’s a small gathering of 10 people or over 100, whereas a religious service normally takes place as part of a Sunday service with the congregation and there will often be other families having their child christened too.

The service can also take place anywhere you choose whether that’s at home, at the top of Box Hill in Dorking, Surrey, your local community hall or your favourite hotel. And you can have your naming ceremony and the after ‘party’ all in the same place.

Naming ceremony Surrey
Claire and Matt with their gorgeous Edward!

The most important difference for me is that a naming ceremony is personal to your family and your child. Each service is written just for your little one and draws on details about their personality and your family values to create a unique script. Poems and songs are a great addition to a ceremony too and enable you to involve close family and friends in the proceedings.

You can appoint guide parents, instead of god parents, and I love to talk about why you’ve chosen each guide parent and what influences and learning they will bring to your child – whether that is to ensure they learn the value of giving to others, to develop an adventurous streak, or to become a life long Chelsea fan! The guide parents you choose make promises to your child that are meaningful to you all, rather than the standard promises you make at a christening.

And if you’d like a keepsake from the day, we can ask your guests to add their contribution to a finger print tree or wishes box as part of the ceremony, in addition to the guide parents and child receiving a signed certificate.

Finger Print Tree for Maisie

So, if you are worried about what your family may say I suggest you give a naming ceremony a go and I guarantee they will enjoy the experience! You can always arrange for one of your great aunts to read a prayer as part of the service if that will help smooth the waters.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s what one of my families told me: “Stephanie was able to provide us with such a special day for our beautiful baby boy at his naming ceremony. Her kind nature and loving personality made Hudson’s day very special and we will never forget it. After having two christenings for our two older children we found Hudson’s naming ceremony so much more laid back and a lot more personal and memorable. Everyone commenting on what a lovely service Stephanie provided us.” Kate and Martin, July 2019, Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey

Find out more about these fab occasions on my Naming Ceremonies page.