Love, Life and Loss – what does an Independent Celebrant do?

By bellmannews / February 18, 2021
Fiona before a stained glass window holding a service sheet

From Fiona Beeley –

In the midst of this pandemic that has had a significant impact on everyone, the natural rhythms of life continue and people want to mark these with either joy or sadness.

Long before the current pandemic, I decided that I wanted to change direction from my career in teaching. After some research, I felt that as a guidance teacher with an extensive experience supporting young people and their families and as a naturally sociable and empathetic person, I wanted to become an independent celebrant. So I left my post at Mackie Academy in the summer and trained with the Institute of Professional Celebrants in the Autumn of 2020.

I now create and deliver ceremonies to celebrate and commemorate  significant life events such as: births, coming of age, weddings, vow renewals, celebrations of life, funerals and memorials.

When I tell people that I have retrained as an independent celebrant, they generally look puzzled. “Are you a Humanist?”, they ask. “Not quite,” is my reply.

An independent celebrant has no specific affiliation to any official belief system and that includes Humanism. The beauty of this is that I can embrace all types of belief, culture and spirituality in my ceremonies or none at all if this is the wish of the people commissioning the service.

Creative and meaningful services

I want people to feel that I have listened to them, thought deeply about their stories and worked hard to create a meaningful ceremony reflecting their tastes, beliefs and personality. I hope to build a reputation as a creative and innovative local independent celebrant in the Stonehaven area.

As a community we naturally support each other with congratulations or commiserations when life changing events take place. Living in the area, I am invested in the people living within it. I often see clients in town or when I’m walking the dog, and my personal connection continues long after the ceremony.

Starting a new business venture in the midst of a pandemic has been an interesting challenge. To date I have been working on funerals. We are lucky to have three funeral directors in Stonehaven and many more in the surrounding towns and villages.  Some of these have lovely chapels attached to their premises where a funeral can take place. We also have a choice of places for either a cremation or a burial, including green burial grounds. These choices are really important as it means that families are able to respect the wishes of their loved ones when planning their final farewells.

I had anticipated that working with bereaved families would be distressing, and there are times when I do have to put on a professional front to avoid weeping along with people.

However, when I do meet up with family members to chat about the story of a loved one’s life, the stories are so fascinating it feels as if I am sharing in their life story too. Every life is precious and unique and I work hard along with the family to reflect this by listening to everyone – and then writing an appropriate eulogy, combined with: music, readings, pictures and sometimes prayers, blessings and rituals. People have eclectic tastes and in planning the services I have been introduced to some inspirational poetry and wonderful music.

Help to navigate your options for the best possible funeral

At the moment only twenty people are allowed to attend a funeral service. The staff attending funerals work hard to make the mourners as comfortable as possible and the safety procedures in place due to the pandemic are imposed in a non-invasive way. Due to the restricted numbers allowed and the restrictions on travel, the services are very intimate. The aim of a funeral is to mark and celebrate the life of the deceased, express sorrow at their passing and provide some comfort to those left behind. The services that I have delivered over the past few months have been conducted with these core aims in mind.

As I mentioned, you have choices when you are planning a funeral. Most people still go to a funeral director. They are all lovely approachable people who will work hard to make sure that you are fully informed and can make appropriate choices about all aspects of the funeral.

Choosing your officiant is part of this decision-making process. If you do decide to ask for an independent celebrant, such as myself, the funeral director will make the initial contact on your behalf and then I would get in touch to start the process of getting to know each other and planning the best funeral service possible.

This pandemic has highlighted the importance of local community and as the year progresses, through my ceremonies, I hope to be able to serve my community and help local people celebrate love, life, loss and the events that make us human.

Fiona Beeley.  Independent Celebrant

Member of: The Institute of Professional Celebrants, Funeral Celebrant Accord and Stonehaven Business Association

Contact me at: or on 07714619668