I have been a Civil Funeral celebrant since the end of 2005, when I completed my training. Initially, I was also a registrar of births, deaths and marriages but took the decision in April 2012 to leave the registration service and concentrate on funeral work.

The service I provide is driven entirely by the needs and wishes of the bereaved family. Following an introduction by the funeral director, I arrange to see the family to discuss the service, at a time and place convenient to them, with no limit placed on the length of the visit.

Many families ask 'What is usual?' or 'What is normal?. The answer is that, with a Civil Funeral, there is no usual or normal. Other than it should be dignified and in good taste, the main criteria is that it should completely meet the family's wishes and those of the deceased, where applicable. It may range from the simplest of services to one in which several people speak, there are readings and several pieces of music.

Music is also another part of the service where the family of the deceased has almost limitless choice. Unlike a Civil Wedding, where religious music is prohibited by law, families are welcome to choose one or two hymns and a prayer if they wish.

The tribute or eulogy to the deceased is an important part of a Civil Funeral service, being the opportunity to portray their life, character and personality. Sometimes a family member takes on this task to either read themselves or for me to read. However, more often, I am asked to write and read the tribute on their behalf. My commitment to the family is to talk to them about their loved one, to find out as much as they can and wish to tell me and to write the tribute in the way they would have done, if they felt able to. On completion, they have an opportunity to correct or change the words in any way they want to. It is important that the family are completely comfortable with what I say on their behalf.

My satisfaction comes from the words of appreciation from family and friends of the deceased after the service, in the form of emails, cards and phone calls, some of which are reproduced on the next page.