A funeral officiant is often a clergy person who has known and counseled the family of the deceased person in the past. However, sometimes mourners ask a loved one to be the funeral officiant. If you find yourself in the position of officiating a funeral, be sure to learn all about the duties that come with the position, and be sure to avoid these mistakes.
Stop! Don't Try to Get Personally Involved in Funeral Decisions
Some funeral officiants mistakenly assume that the family wants their expertise in decisions about the funeral. After all, they're in charge of so much of the service itself. However, when it comes to decisions like choosing between caskets that the deceased person should be buried in or what the gravestone should say, all those decisions should be left to the family.
Stop! Don't Write a Eulogy Without Speaking to the Person's Closest Loved Ones
Some officiants think that a eulogy based on the obituary or another biography of the deceased person is sufficient. However, the eulogy should really be more personal than an obituary, and it should be more detailed and effective at communicating exactly who the person was beyond the mundane facts of their life. For that, you need to speak to the person's closest loved ones.
Stop! Don't Try to Crack Jokes at the Memorial Service Unless Instructed to Do So
The social atmosphere at a funeral may be strained and enormously sad as mourners come together to grieve the immense loss of the person. In that kind of environment, it can be tempting to crack a joke or two to try to lighten the mood and help alleviate some of the tension. However, that's one of the worst things you can do at a funeral unless the family specifically wants to include jokes in the funeral service.
Stop! Don't Guess at the Family's Preferences or Make Assumptions on Religion
If you knew the deceased person well, you may feel comfortable making assumptions on how you should handle religion within the funeral. However, sometimes there can be unexpressed preferences about religion at the end of one's life, and it's very important to make sure you know specifically how much religion, if any, the family wants to be included in the funeral.
Stop! Don't Create Any Rules for Mourners Unless the Family Requests Them
As the funeral officiant, you may see people doing things that you don't like, so it can be tempting to try to tell the people to refrain from certain activities at the funeral. However, that is not your responsibility. Unless the family specifically requests that you make and enforce certain rules, try to look the other way when you're tempted to make rules and requests of mourners.
Finally, keep in mind that being a funeral officiant is an honor, and it's also a chance to give back to a lost loved one's family in their time of need. Be sure that you know all the duties and protocol for an officiant before taking on the responsibility. When in doubt, speak to the funeral director or ask the family directly about what they need from you.