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Secular Celebrant Services

Blue painted wood with a heart cut out of it like a door with a hinge. We see the hole on the left where the heart of wood was and on the right the unpainted white underside of the heart-shaped wooden door
Photograph of mostly white lilies with some light purple flowers in the top right corner.
Image of an acoustic guitar laying on the ground in the tumbleweeds around dusk or dawn, on a hill right by the ocean.

The ceremony I write for you could be called a “Funeral”, “Memorial Service”, “Celebration of Life”, or anything else you would like to call it. I will be carefully attuned to your requests of what you specifically hope the ceremony will be, as well as any elements that you specifically request not be included.

Every person has a life story. I’ll learn your loved one’s story through the in-depth family interview I’ll conduct.

I am happy to assist people with ceremonies that will take place within approximately a 2 hour drive of where I live in Potomac, Maryland. This can include parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia, as well as northern Virginia, Washington DC, and most of Maryland. See the map below. If you wish me to travel further, please contact me so we can discuss the possibility!

If you are interested in an exclusively Zoom-based service, I could work with people located anywhere geographically.

Your ceremony takes place any location you choose. I am your officiant and the person who crafts the ceremony.

You will be able to influence as much about the ceremony as you’d like, though! None of the following elements are set in stone.

The elements usually included in the ceremony would be:

• Main Eulogy

A “soul sketch” that highlights bright moments in your loved one’s life, what mattered to them, and who they were. I weave together anecdotes and moments that exemplified who the person was. I’m well aware of common eulogy pitfalls at other funerals, where they end up being a dry list of biographical details, and my goal is to write a vibrant eulogy that fits what really mattered and what really made your loved one who they are. Most of the time, the officiant reads this part of the ceremony.

• Symbols

An actual object that may have been significant to this person can sometimes be incorporated into the ceremony physically – such as a musical instrument they were skilled at could sit on the stage at the front of the ceremony.

Symbolism can be used in ceremonies in more abstract or metaphorical ways as well – in the eulogy, rituals, or elsewhere. There are many creative and personalized directions to take with symbols.

• Rituals

Little actions can be much more impactful than many people realize. A few examples include:

Every attendee writing down or speaking aloud an answer to a question, like “What are some words that come to mind to describe this person?”, can be powerful.

People touching soil and dropping it gently onto a casket can feel viscerally cathartic.

A communal toast to a person’s memory can make the attendees feel included and actually saying the person’s name can be hard for some mourners, and nice to do in a community of others who also miss this person.

• Music

Music that this person enjoyed can be such a wonderful element of a Celebration of Life ceremony. The music doesn’t have to be sad or somber, although it can be. There is often a balance to be found, like a favorite band of theirs does have a song about loss or death. On the other hand, it’s possible you might want to lean into fitting upbeat or even humorous music that captures who this person was. Music can change or set the tone of the event. It can trigger so many different emotions and it is a wonderful element to incorporate for most ceremonies.

• Poetry and/or Prose Readings

You are welcome to select particular readings that would be fitting for the ceremony, but if you have no idea which ones you’d like included, I can offer up some options of readings that may work nicely at this honoree’s ceremony.

Some specific readings are selected in order to remind attendees of an aspect of who this person was in their life, and other readings are meant to be more universal reflections about life and death, or love and loss.

• Selected Friends & Family Share Memories

Sometimes people want to open the microphone to anyone who wishes to speak, which can certainly work well, especially at ceremonies with fewer attendees. However, it is often easier for everyone if they have time in advance to prepare, and if people are given a time limit (such as 3 or 5 min) to aim for in the remarks they plan to say. Also, if someone wishes to write something for a different family member or friend to read out on their behalf, that is a wonderful and perfectly fine option. If the microphone is opened up to anyone else who wishes to share, a time limit on the time the microphone will be open for often helps keep the flow of the event on track.

You will get full approval of the written ceremony script prior to the ceremony, and I will make revisions as requested.

At the end, you will be provided a keepsake copy of this ceremony script.

You are welcome to contact me via the Client Interest Form, which is my preference. You may also contact me by email at emily.karp@griefpictured.com or by phone at (571) 363-9012 and leave a voicemail. We’ll set up a no-fee consultation about potentially hiring me to craft a personalized and meaningful funeral or celebration of life or to create memorial slideshow that honors your loved one’s life.