When a loved one dies, the surviving family quickly finds themselves having to make dozens of decisions. Many of these decisions center around where and when to schedule the funeral and burial service, and who will act as officiant for the services. If the surviving family actively practices their faith and want a religious service for their loved one, their clergyman is asked to officiate at the funeral and deliver a eulogy for the deceased. However, families who are agnostic, atheist, or simply don’t subscribe to any particular faith may prefer not having a minister lead the service at all.
Can you have a legal burial without a minister?
For the 30% of the country who don’t practice any particular faith, it’s perhaps a relief to learn that it is perfectly legal for a non-minister to preside at a funeral or burial service. Contrary to popular belief, a minister-less service doesn’t revoke the death certificate or make the burial illegal or invalid; it just means that the family preferred a non-religious ceremony instead of a religious one.
Who can officiate?
What you will need however is someone to preside over the memorial service. Presiding over a funeral is to assume responsibility of running the funeral service, a bit like how a master of ceremonies might officiate at a meeting of the Toastmasters. For families planning a secular service, the funeral home director (or his assistant) are prepared to step into this position. This is such common practice that of the many secular funerals I’ve attended in the past, all but one relied upon a Funeral Home representative to act as officiant while friends and family delivered a eulogy.
But, worth remembering is that those somber faced morticians aren’t your only options. Anyone can preside over a funeral, in any order and in any fashion. The best choice of officiant is one who was personally acquainted with the deceased and his family, such as a distant relative, a good friend of the deceased, or the deceased’s boss or superior officer.
It’s important to keep in mind that funeral and burial services tend to be very emotional events and whomever the family selects for officiant must be up to the task. The officiant must have the ability to keep the service moving along without bursting into tears himself.