Creative Funerals ~ is virtual the new reality?

Creative Funerals ~ is virtual the new reality?

In these times of uncertainty, it feels as if everything is up in the air and it is, but hasn’t adversity always been the instigator of innovation? Giving us the headspace to think about how we can do things differently for the greater good and in our own personal worlds. People are reaching out and helping others in ways that have been nothing less than selfless and inspirational. Necessity being the catalyst to change, creativity has always been at the very centre of my role as an independent celebrant. Clients are telling me about their worries and fears and I can feel their desperation, especially when it comes to funeral services.

The Impact of Coronavirus or Covid19

Because of the new Coronavirus we find ourselves in situations that we could never have imagined and things are changing daily. Funeral services are becoming shorter in time and smaller in other ways. In some cities direct cremation or burial being the only option with no relatives in attendance and without a service or words of farewell, which is heart breaking for all concerned. Families are able to attend funerals in Greater Manchester for example but the guidance on numbers changes from borough to Borough. Restricting the numbers of mourners to between 2 and 10 people depending on local regulations. It is necessary to social distancing but upsetting to see chairs spaced widely apart and pews cordoned off. Procedures are also changing, in some crematoria curtains have to be closed at the end of the service, people are not allowed to pause at the coffin to say a final farewell and because of increasing death rates funerals are already happening at weekends.

Creative Funerals and Fond Farewells

It is still possible to say a fitting farewell, but we do need to think differently, it was a conversation with Rosie Grant from Natural Endings Funeral Services about how we can support people just when they are at their most vulnerable that made me think about how we can reach out, instigating this blog. For a while now we have been breaking away from the ‘norm’ of traditional funeral services, leaning towards more personalised and creative ways to say goodbye. There is no reason why we can’t expand on this, if for whatever reason you find yourself in a situation in which you are unable to attend the funeral of a loved one, you can still be there in virtual reality.

Funeral services can be arranged electronically, by email, over the phone, on Skype and Zoom. Zoom is a great resource for inviting lots of people to a gathering and easily downloaded via an app. When the funeral service been written and agreed, it can be recorded or live streamed so that loved ones can be present, which means you can still honour your loved ones and say farewell. There is also scope for collaboration. Richard Brown, a Funeral Celebrant based in Italy has recently carried out a virtual funeral service in which people shared memories, colleagues read poems, someone was in charge of the playing the music and a photographic slideshow played in the background it was virtually the same as any other funeral. People attended in a Zoom room, which meant that they could see each other and hopefully feel comforted by friendly faces.  It was an uplifting and positive move towards facilitating a meaningful farewell in collaboration with like-minded colleagues. I have recently carried out a funeral service in which the Funeral Director filmed the service on his ipad and emailed it to the family.

Memorial Services and Celebrating Lives

You can never underestimate the value of human contact, a hug, the brief touch of a hand, a look that says, “I’m here for you, I know what you are going through” the sharing of memories, stories and anecdotes that encapsulate the very essence of your loved one. There will be those of you who have already said goodbye but families are telling us that they would like the opportunity to have a celebration of life or memorial service at a later date. Surrounded by those who would normally have been by their side at the funeral, without fear or separation, the people you feel comfortable with, bringing love and mutual support.

Find out more

If you would like to speak to me or Rosie about how to create a meaningful farewell, you can contact me by email at or Rosie Grant from Natural Endings Funeral Services on to arrange a time to talk,

for now, look after one another and please stay safe…

Hi, I’m Liz…

I am a family Celebrant based in Manchester and my aim is to help you create truly unique and personal ceremonies and services. I have arranged many a funeral service or ceremony over Zoom, Skype and email, more so with the outbreak of Coronavirus or Covid19 and want to stress that there is hope and we will find a way together to say meaningful farewells to our loved ones.  

Unity Candles

Unity Candles

Creating  a flame and opening a circle

Lighting Unity Candles during your wedding ceremony is a beautiful way to symbolize your lives joining together as one. Unity candles usually consist of three candles, two tapers and a pillar candle, but you can use be more.  The taper candles represent each of you in your uniqueness and are usually lit at the beginning of the ceremony, they can be lit by the each of you or a representative of each side of your family or friends, symbolic of their love and allegiance to you. The perfect way to symbolise your union and the pledge of unity between you and the merging of your families. Unity candles can be used in weddings, blessings, vow renewal and naming ceremonies.   


Closing the circle

Towards the end of the ceremony, you would each pick up a taper candle and light the centre pillar candle from your combined flames. A light has been shared, a bond has been created, the joining of two into one, blending your families and sets of friends and the circle has closed around your love, bringing the love and support of your familie’s fire and the brightness that will light the way and shine throughout your lives.

Gift of a Wedding 

Most of us have the time to save up and make plans for our wedding ceremonies, but just imagine how you would feel if you were in a relationship, happily planning for your wedding and a future together when suddenly life takes a turn that cannot be predicted. Diagnosis of a terminal illness is a shocking and terrifying event that stops you in your tracks and changes everything in a heartbeat. Everybody, no matter who they are should have the opportunity to have the wedding that they have always dreamed of.

Gift of a Wedding are a marvellous charity, who work tirelessly to pull together suppliers who give their services for free, giving the priceless gift of saying “I do” to the love of their life 

How Can I help?

Simply by offering the same service that I offer to any couple. A personalised, bespoke wedding ceremony. The couples in receipt of a wedding often don’t have the luxury of time, Patricia Harrison and her dedicated team of volunteers galvanise to make their wedding happen. In the course of my work I am invited into people’s homes and trusted with their most personal information which is an honour and a privilege and something that I never take for granted. Usually within the space of a week or two, I have met with the couple and have written the first draft. Faster than I usually work but time is of the essence here and a few late nights are not a problem. Their ceremonies contain everything their hearts desire, whether that be a simple traditional ceremony, weaving in all of the little personal stories and touches that make their relationship and family and friends so special and unique or including a symbolic ceremony too. Kaitlin and Nathan, wanted Unity Candles and wanted me to share that part of their ceremony with you.

Kaitlin and Nathan’s Unity Candle


Hello Liz, We are emailing to thank you for donating your time and services to our wedding on Friday. Thank you for the most incredible ceremony, and letting us have a printout we can keep. They are safe in my wedding memory box. I will never forget what you have created and you really made the ceremony as special as it could have been. Words cannot thank you enough x

The Williams’

How can you help?

It is an always an honour to meet people and to be part of their story, Gift of a Wedding rely heavily on the goodwill of others who donate their time and money, if you would like to help in any way at all, you will find all of the informatoon that you need on the Gift of a Wedding Website. 

Liz Thompson is a Family Celebrant based in Manchester in the UK and working across the North West of England, Liz creates unique and personal ceremonies and services for life events such as Weddings, Civil Partnerships, Baby naming, Vow Renewal and many more. 

Amanda and Dougie at Inglewood Manor

Amanda and Dougie at Inglewood Manor

Amanda and Dougie are a great couple who wanted a non-traditional ceremony, a re-imagining of the traditional ceremony format. Blending English and Celtic wedding traditions. As we got to know each other and talked about their dream wedding, I could see them beginning to get excited when the reaslisation dawned that their vision could become a reality and together we began to create a ceremony that celebrated their love and commitment to each other in ways that meant the most to them.

A Thoughtful Surprise

Waiting to marry the love of his life, proudly dressed in his traditional Scottish kilt and patiently waiting for his bride to appear when the strains of a Scottish piper playing The Skye Boat Song reaches his ears, as if he wasn’t emotional enough! Dougie had no idea that Amanda had booked a piper, in she walked on her dad’s arm, radiating happiness and stunning in a beautiful traditional wedding dress with veil.

Honouring a Proud Dad

Then it was Dad’s turn to be blown away and more than a little emotional, as Amanda had taken the opportunity, through me, to tell her Dad just how much he meant to her, “Amanda says that her dad Brian has been a solid, strong presence in her life, a wonderful Dad who is fun to be with, he looks after her when she is in need of support”. Lovely for him to hear and not a dry eye in the house.

Honouring Loved Ones

Wedding days are emotional occasions anyway and even more emotional when those we love cannot be with us for whatever reason. When parents are no longer with us, the emotion can feel extremely raw and it was very important to Dougie that we include his parents in some way. One way to honour people and to feel their presence is to light a candle, its flame casting a warm glow throughout the ceremony, symbolic of their presence and warming us with their love. It was a touching and beautiful way to remember the light that they brought to his life and to help him to feel that they were with him in spirit on his special day.  

A Beautiful Poem

Amanda’s Son Tom, proudly read an adaptation of Corinthians 13:4-8 for Amanda and Dougie on behalf of his family. Love is patient, Love is kind, it does not envy,   it does not boast,  it is not proud, it does not dishonour others,  it is not self-seeking,  it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth, It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails 

A Romantic Proposal

Everyone enjoyed listening to their story, especially the part where Dougie proposed. ‘In December last year the couple went on holiday to Iceland, and Dougie had been making plans… one of the places that he took her to was the Iceberg Lagoon, a magical place with a black volcanic beach that was scattered with chunks of ice that had broken from the glaciers. It was spectacular, the ice glinting against the black sand looked like diamonds in the night sky, ethereal and so beautiful.  Amanda sat on a piece of ice that had been sculpted by the lapping waves into the shape of a toadstool. It was the perfect moment, despite his nerves and the cold he got down on one knee in the wet volcanic sand and proposed, of course between her excited giggles it was most definitely a yes! Amanda says that it was an amazing feeling and what a place to be proposed to’. 

Unique Vows and Rings

When it comes to the most important part of the ceremony, the vows and promises that we make to each other  can be just as unique as the rest of your ceremony and you don’t have to both say them in the same way, Dougie said his to Amanda in the form of a poem. A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns, spoken softly with his Scottish accent was just perfection. Amanda wrote her own and spoke them to Dougie and hers were also meaningful, beautiful and heartfelt.  The rings had extra special meaning as Amanda’s has been made out of her Grandmas wedding and Engagement rings and Dougies has been made from his mother’s gold and some of Amanda’s. They each hold precious memories and echoes of each family’s heritage, their blending not only serves as a reminder of those they love but also the promise of a bright future and the merging of two families.  

The Ties That Bind

Dougie and Amanda wanted to honour their spiritual and ancestral roots. Both have Scottish and Irish ancestry, include English into the mix and we had the opportunity to craft a ceremony that inluded everyone’s heritage. Their cultural traditions were of the utmost importance, so we had the traditional English format for the ceremony, Rings, vows etc, blending with Celtic Customs in the handfasting and bagpipes. Their wedding stationery, which they had designed to include an English white rose, a Scottish thistle and some Irish shamrock, you don’t get much more inclusive than that… Amanda and Dougies handfasting fabric was the Scott family tartan. They joined hands and with their hands, their hearts…  looking into each others eyes, palm against palm, in a beautiful representation of their love and strength, I could almost feel them holding their breath, and holding my breath with them.

This was the moment that meant so much, the moment in which their hearts, already joined, became as one…  spoken words of love, commitment and devotion, souls joined for all time and beyond… their ceremony ended with cheers and congratultations as the piper piped them out to what else but Flower of Scotland.

Hi Liz, I’ve got a few comments for you from our guests, everyone thought the wedding was amazing !! They especially loved the service which had everyone in floods of tears! They loved “ our story “ part of the service and of course the beautiful hand fasting. Most people were unsure when I told them we were having a celebrant to conduct our service, even Dougie, but after they had seen it for themselves everyone said what a wonderful truly meaningful service it was, that was very personal and moving. My favourite part was Dougie reading his poem/vows and the hand fasting. Dougie of course enjoyed the piper which was the hardest secret I’ve ever kept.
I can’t thank you enough for conducting our service it was more than I could of ever imagined, and were both still over the moon with the whole beautiful day xxx
Amanda and Dougie Scott

Wedding Testimonial

Thank you

To Amanda and Dougie for being easy to work with, for opening their hearts and sharing their innermost dreams,

To Mark Lloyd – Pure Pictures for the fab photo’s

To Phil McConnell – Bag Piper

The team at Inglewood Manor for just being great

Liz Thompson is a Family Celebrant based in Manchester in the UK and working across the North West of England, Liz creates unique and personal ceremonies and services for life events such as Weddings, Civil Partnerships, Baby naming, Vow Renewal and many more. 

Alice and Ric at Bellefields Farm

Alice and Ric at Bellefields Farm

Alice and Ric are adventurous, open and friendly, they care about their world and the people in it, family and friends mean a lot to them, they are a diverse bunch of people and share very similar values. Their vision of the perfect wedding for them was to be among nature, surrounded by their loved ones, not stuffy or over formal, full of colour, fun and laughter. As we talked and planned their vision started to become a reality, and this is what we created together…

Love, best wishes, hopes and dreams

Family and friends gather to take their seats, as they arrive they place their hands on Alice and Ric’s wedding rings warming them with their love and hopes for their future, it was lovely to see them closing their eyes as they made their wishes and gave their blessings, this is a very much loved couple.

A Family Affair

Ric and Alice aren’t very traditional but they wanted their ceremony contained elements of tradition, with a twist… Alice walked in with her parents accompanied by a cover of Home – by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zero’s, sang and played by the band RumJig, we began the ceremony with some heartfelt words about Alice and Ric’s love for their family and friends, and how happy they were there to celebrate their relationship with them. When I asked  the question “who is supporting Alice and Ric in their marriage to one another”? I was met with a resounding, “We are”!  and so, their perfect ceremony had begun. 

Their story

A little bit of humour goes a long way when creating a ceremony ‘Who would have thought that when Alice was on a night out with Corrinne in Tiger lounge that their lives were about to take a turn that neither had expected. Both on the dance floor, the Black Keys song Your Touch began to reverberate throughout the club. Alice was dancing with Corrine and Ric manoeuvred his way over whilst shaking his wedges and stomping his feet, quite a sight to behold! It wasn’t long before they were shouting over the music, discussing their mutual appreciation for the band. Ric persuaded her give him her number, and she gave him the real one’!  

A Perfectly Imperfect, Proposal

Everyone loved the proposal story – ‘Ric had already been hatching a plan… one that saw him becoming increasingly nervous as time went by. He was confident that she would say yes but still his nerves were building… He intended to propose in a secluded and scenic spot in Central Park. However things never go according to plan do they You can just imagine it… as they walked he was looking for a quiet space, little did he realise how difficult it would be to find such a spot.  Everywhere he looked something was going on, a man doing Kung Fu moves randomly against a tree, a homeless lady set up camp and then began stripping off’! 

A Heartfelt Reading

Alice’s dad chose and read beautifully a reading by Luke K Freeman, inspired by Carl Sagan’s Cosmos,

…’May these partners build a better wold for the next generation to come. 

May this union bring a new light to the sunshine, a new fragrance to the flowers, 

a new beauty to the earth, and a new mystery to life’… 


Vows and Promises – Uniquely Said

Ric and Alice share most things including the writing of their vows. They spoke each line alternately, finishing by repeating the same promise to each other, one of everlasting love, walking life’s path hand in hand while carving out new adventures. Then it was time to exchange rings and that Kiss!


It was a wonderful ceremony, made so much better by all of the little personal touches, their personal story, writing their own vows, including people. They made their own wedding decorations for the Tipi, as bright and vibrant as the two of them. Their transport was unique and so very them. They had thought of everything and it showed. I wish them so much love, laughter and happiness in their lives. So more of the same really!

Get me to the Beer Tent!

Thank You’s

To Alice and Ric of course for working with me to creat your perfect ceremony and for trusting me with your innermost feelings and most precious memories, it was a pleasure working with you. To Ayesha Photography for the amazing images, to RumJig for being a fantastic band and lovely people too! and last but most definitely not least to Bellefields Farm Weddings for being great hosts as always.

Just to say thank you again for everything on Saturday, you were amazing and everyone commented on the ceremony and how indidvidual it was and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.
Alice and Ric

Wedding Testimonial

Liz Thompson is a Family Celebrant based in Manchester in the UK and working across the North West of England, Liz creates unique and personal ceremonies and services for life events such as Weddings, Civil Partnerships, Baby naming, Vow Renewal and many more. 

Eleanor and Lucy at Didsbury House Hotel

Eleanor and Lucy at Didsbury House Hotel

Something you can never accuse Ellie and Lucy of is being ordinary, their vision of the perfect wedding was potentially problematic as they are very different and both wanted a ceremony that reflected their individual personalities, Ellie is calm, elegant and confident and Lucy is exuberant, boisterous and also quite shy. This in mind, they were struggling to see how to make it work for both of them. They found me on the Canal Street Website and by the time they contacted me neither were really holding out much hope that they could have a ceremony that they could be completely happy with.

A Sense of Completeness

When we met, both women were completely honest about their desire for a ceremony that would celebrate their different identities, and I could sense they were becoming despondent. As we chatted it was easy for me as an outsider to see how they actually blend well together and as our conversation turned to their relationship, I was getting a clear idea of how I was going to write their ceremony and I felt honoured that they had asked me to be a part of this most important rite of passage.

Embracing their Uniqueness

New Years’ Eve is the perfect wedding date as it is a time that you can celebrate new beginnings and make promises that will last not just for a year, but your whole lifetime through. The ceremony began to the tranquil and beautiful strains of ‘Everybody’s free, (to feel good)’ Lucy entered on the arm of her dad Rick, followed by Eleanor supported by her dad, Philip. As they stood in front of me, there was an almost tangible sense of calm as both women began to relax, their guests settled into the quietness that only comes with anticipation, this was no ordinary wedding. This super cool twosome broke with tradition by wearing black and gold, each of them had chosen wedding outfits that suited their personalities and they looked stunning.

Opening the Circle

Symbolic elements such as Unity Candles are a beautiful way to symbolise not only Eleanor and Lucy in their uniqueness but also of each of their families and friends,  honouring those past and present. Their mums Sarah and Madeleine, lit a taper candle each, followed by Lucy and Eleanor. The candles burned throughout the ceremony casting the warm glow of their love as they celebrated their relationship in front of the people who mean the most to them.

O Mistress Mine

There are many ways to include your family in the ceremony, another way is for them to read a poem or a reading, before I shared Eleanor and Lucy’s love story, Lucy’s sister Hanna, read Shakespear’s O Mistress Mine, which has deep significance in their relationship. Another way is to bring the dog, And why not, Eddie is part of the family, a team of three.

Lucy and Eleanor’s Love Story

When they met, Eleanor was in full throttle in life spending time between work, playing rugby, and in the pub socialising. Lucy was in party mode and not necessarily looking for a life partner, so when their worlds collided it was a big eye opener for both of them. They say that their first date was the world’s best first date ever, they met in London, and planned to go to the opening night of the Flat Iron restaurant and it didn’t take them long to work out that they had a lot in common and saw the world in the same way. Shortly after Eleanor had to go on holiday and you know how it is…., that thrill of sending texts and the anticipation of waiting for a reply, the long phone calls that you never want to end… something was definitely happening here…

Creating a ceremony by the telling of a story is a wonderful way to celebrate, and for families and friends to hear their story, (there is always something we don’t know) and just the same as in any other romance, they have worked hard on this relationship and themselves, it has been a time of learning and growth, they spend a lot of time together and miss each other when they are apart, the times of separation make them stronger, they are good at being a partnership but not needing to do everything together, their independence is never an issue and between them there is unquestioned trust and loyalty. Their family has grown with the introduction of their dog, the gorgeous Eddie, (and doesn’t he know it!) and rest of their story is their business.

Personal Vows and Heartfelt Promises

The women had written their own vows and took turns in making their promises to each other, hankies were in abundance! Their brothers Tom and Chris handed them their wedding rings and they sealed their vows with a simple and beautiful statement of their love and unity before signing the certificate that testified to the celebration of their relationship as ‘Satisfied’ by Hamilton played out in the background. 

The Kiss ~ Mwah!

What better way to seal your vows than with a kiss, after which Eleanor’s brother Chris read ‘Oh the places you’ll go’ by Dr Zeuss.

Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself  any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the ones who’ll decide where to go’. 

Closing the Circle

They each pick up a taper candle and light the centre candle to show the world that they are indeed, one light burning brightly in the darkness. Their ceremony ended in a huge round of applause and by Lucy making the most of the confetti, not so shy now!

It was a beautifully unique ceremony, no doubt followed by a wondeful night of dancing and having fun (debauchery) as only Lucy and Eleanor can do, I’m sure their lives will be filled with love, laughter and lots cuddles from the lovely Eddie.

Thank you Lucy and Eleanor for a fantastic testimonial

Credit to the Team

Jenny and her fantastic team at Didsbury House Hotel as always made sure everything ran like clockwork, thank you!

A massive thank you Andy and Jo from Drew Findlay Photography for being great to work with and for the amazing image

You do meet some lovely people in this work xx

Liz Thompson is a Family Celebrant based in Manchester in the UK and working across the North West of England, Liz creates unique and personal ceremonies and services for life events such as Weddings, Civil Partnerships, Baby naming, Vow Renewal and many more.