Penny McCarthy Independent Civil Funeral Celebrant
Serving bereaved families in Shropshire, Worcestershire and beyond 07849 208924
Frequently asked questions
What is a civil funeral celebrant?
A Civil Funeral is one which is driven by the wishes, beliefs and values of the deceased person and their family, not by the beliefs and ideology of the person conducting the funeral’ (Professor Tony Walter, Director of the Centre for Death and Society, Bath University). A Civil Funeral Celebrant is therefore someone who creates and leads such a ceremony.
Does that mean a Civil Funeral can’t have any religious content?
Not at all! While I’m very happy to create a funeral ceremony with no religious references at all, my experience is that many people have some kind of belief in God, or something beyond this physical life, even if they don’t accept all the teachings of a specific religious tradition. Within the framework of a Civil Funeral we can reflect whatever beliefs they did - or didn’t - hold. There is also space to acknowledge that among those attending there may be differing beliefs among those attending and to cater for their needs too, perhaps with a prayer, reading or specific wording.
You’re welcome to contact me direct by phoning me 07849 208924 or emailing . After an initial chat, and assuming you’re happy to go ahead and engage my services I’ll get in touch with your Funeral Director to liaise with them directly. However, unless you’re having a DIY funeral and not uisng one, the first person most families contact following a death is a Funeral Director. For this reason it’s often the Funeral Director who will recommend a celebrant or other officiant for the funeral. But it’s your right to choose the person who will conduct your loved one’s funeral, as well as the type of ceremony you would like for your loved one. If you would like me to officiate at the ceremony, please let the Funeral Director know as soon as possible, and ask them to check that I’m available before booking the venue for the funeral.
How can I book you to conduct my loved one’s funeral?
Where will we meet and who should be at the meeting?
In non-Covid times, I would normally come to your home. If this is not convenient it’s often possible to meet at your funeral director’s office, but I have met clients in a variety of non-conventional settings where appropriate. If you are at some distance it’s also possible to meet via Zoom or speak over the phone (although this last is not ideal). During Covid restrictions meetings are held by Zoom or phone only. The meeting is usually with the person who is responsible for organising the funeral or memorial service. You may wish to have a some close family members attend as well, although it is worth bearing in mind that it’s often easier to make the important decisions with the help of only a few key people.
How can I prepare for the meeting?
You may want to spend some time thinking about your favourite stories about your loved one and the qualities that made them special to you. Also what were the significant events in their life? The incidents or circumstances that made them the person they were. You could also talk to other family members, especially contemporaries, who will have memories of your loved one’s earlier life. Make some notes if it’s helpful but don’t feel you have to come to the meeting with all the information pre-prepared - I’m very good at helping people remember the most important aspects of someone’s life! You may also want to think about music that meant a lot to your loved one, or that expresses some idea or feeling that’s important to express, or poems or readings that you might want to use. But again, don’t worry if you can’t decide just yet - we’ll talk all these things through when we meet.
The law has very little to say about funerals. As long the death is registered and the body disposed of (for more information on this, consult the Natural Death Centre and Good Funeral Guild websites), you can hold a funeral anywhere you like. There’s no need for a Civil Funeral to take place in any specific location, and no requirement to have the ceremony at the same place or time as the burial or cremation. A funeral can be held in: a church a crematorium chapel a cemetery chapel a natural or woodland burial site a village hall/community centre a function room a barn on private land in your home or garden one of the modern Long Barrows that have been built in recent years to house cremation urns. Click here for more information
The advent of direct cremations, either unattended or attended by one just one or two family members allows even more flexibility around the timing and location of any ceremony. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like more information about this option
Where can a funeral be held?
Do you belong to a professional organisation?
I hold full membership of the Institute of Civil Funerals (IoCF), which upholds rigorous professional standards for Funeral Celebrants. The Institute has a rigorous Code of Practice and my work is regularly assessed by them. Every family for whom I conduct a funeral also has the opportunity to send confidential feedback to the Institute on the service they have received. I’m also a member of the Good Funeral Guild, the Natural Death Centre and have adopted the Funeral Celebrancy Council’s Celebrant Accord. All these organisations have excellent resources on their websites for anyone who is organising a funeral.
How do you protect my personal data?
Since 25th May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation has required every business that holds personal data about an information to have explicit consent to do so, and procedures in place to delete information on request (the right to be forgotten). P e r s o n a l da ta i n c l u d e s : n a m e , a d d r e s s , p o s t c o d e , t e l e p h o n e o r m o b i l e n u m b e r , e m a i l a dd r e s s , s o c i a l m e d i a post s an d an y o t h e r i n f o r m a t i o n t h a t c a n b e us ed t o i d e n t i f y , e i t h e r d i r ec t l y o r i n d i r e c t l y , a l i v i n g i nd i v i d u al. F o r a c op y o f my Privacy Policy p l ea s e c l i ck h e r e .
Are you insured?
I have Professional Indemnity and Public Liability insurance provided by SJL Lloyds of London through the Institute of Civil Funerals
How can I complain if I’m not happy with the service I received?
I take a great deal of pride in being approachable and open so that bereaved families feel able to be honest with me about their needs and wishes, and I very much hope that if you’re unhappy with any aspect of my serviceI very much hope you would feel able to tell me. However, as a last resort the Institute of Civil Funerals has a robust complaints procedure which you can access by phoning the Institute on 01480 860411 or emailing them at
Copyright Penny McCarthy 2022