How to decide on music for a funeral service (Part 1)

How to decide on music for a funeral service (Part 1)

Music plays a very important part of a funeral service.  It can be very emotive and it usually helps to set the tone of the ceremony.

There are no right or wrong music choices  – even if you think its not appropriate for a funeral, if it represents your loved one, then that’s all that matters.

Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant

But deciding on song choices can be very difficult.  Often families do not know where to even start to decide on the music.

Some of the things to consider which may help make the choices easier include?

  • Do you want recorded music or Live Musicians?

Live music can include from family members, musicians, bagpipes etc….

Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant

Some of the very talented musicians I have worked with at funerals over the years include.

Genevieve Bryant 

Connor Taylor Pianist 

Scottish Bag Piper

There are a number of other aspects to consider.  These include

  • The tone of the service.  Do you want the service to be uplifting and celebratory or more reflective as this will help determine the song choices.

Fiona Garrivan Funeral celebrant

  • What style of music did your loved one enjoy?   Was music important to them? Did they enjoy music from a particular era?  Who did they like listening to?

Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant


There are no rules and music can be played at any stage, but as a guide we usually use music during the following stages of the service.

  • Pre-ceremony – unless music was very important to your loved one, the Funeral Director or Celebrant will often have some music that can be used as background music.
  • Entrance music – usually used to signify that the service is about to start
  • Reflection music – this can be used with a slideshow of photos or quiet reflective time during the service
  • Farewell music – this piece of music can determine the mood on how you would like the service to end.


Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant


Should you need any inspiration, I have a comprehensive list of funeral songs available as a starting point.

Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant


3 years and counting…….

3 years and counting…….

Today marks 3 years since I conducted my first funeral.  I will always remember it as it was for a little beautiful baby girl who was born sleeping.

What an incredible 3 years it’s been.  I never imagined when I became a celebrant, that this career would take me on this path. 

It is the most rewarding and humbling experience to remember those who have died and support those who grieve. 

My families often remark that I don’t look like a someone who works in the funeral industry.   And thanks to the support of all the industry partners I work with, we are working together to do death differently and with dignity. 

I am fortunate enough to work with some of the best people in the industry – who do this job with real heart and compassion. 

And I feel eternally grateful to each and every family, I have the privilege of looking after during such a difficult time in their lives. 

Sleep peacefully baby Winter. 



What role does a funeral celebrant play?

What role does a funeral celebrant play?

Organising a funeral service may be a very difficult and daunting task.  You will want to be reassured that you are supported by the best team available, to create a fitting farewell for your loved one.

Until you are faced with the difficult task of organising a funeral, most people do not know what is involved, what a funeral celebrant is or what they actually do.

Fiona Garrivan Funeral celebrant Melbourne


Funeral Ceremonies involving a celebrant very often have a very different feel to religious ceremonies.

Funeral celebrants will work closely with families to create a beautiful ceremony with particular emphasis on personalising the ceremony through the use of words, rituals and music.

There is no set format with endless options to be able to create a very meaningful and special ceremony to honour a love one.

The celebrant can lead the service or play more of an MC role and this will be determined by how much you would like them involved.


Fiona Garrivan Melbourne Funeral Celebrant

Funeral celebrants are usually highly experienced, supportive and professional.  They are creative and have many ideas so you can avoid the service feeling like every other funeral you have been to.

Very often a Funeral director may suggest a recommended celebrant. However you are not obliged to use the celebrant suggested/offered by the funeral director.

It is very important that you find a celebrant that you trust to create the service that you and your family would like to work with.

So regardless of where you chose to conduct the service, you will want someone who you get on easily with and who can help you create a ceremony that truly reflects the personality of your loved one.


If you would like further details on what a funeral celebrant does please do not hesitate to contact me.


Fiona Garrivan Funeral Celebrant Melbourne 

Children & Funerals

Children & Funerals

Working with families at the time of a loved ones death, one the of the most common questions I am asked “ Should I take my children to the funeral?”.

The decision to take children to a funeral is an extremely personal one and can be a very difficult decision to make.  Every child and circumstance of the funeral is different including the age,  the emotional maturity of the child, the relationship to the deceased and whether the child wishes to attend or not.

And although there is no right or wrong answer and I am certainly not an expert – all the following advice is given based on my own personal experience.

Here are a couple of points to consider.

Nowadays we live in a culture where we want to protect our children. We tend to believe that children, particularly primary school children are too young to be exposed to the grief at a funeral.

However I am pretty sure that my positive association with funerals is thanks to my early exposure with death and dying from a young age. Growing up in a culture where death is normalised, resulted in a very positive experience where I felt involved and included in such a significant family occasions.

Children need to grieve too. I don’t believe that children are ever too young to attend a funeral and like adults a funeral may give a child an opportunity to reflect on a loved ones life and say goodbye.



However it is important that children are given the option to attend or not and respect their decision, whatever it may be.

Tell your child what to expect. Often children don’t know what it means to die or even what a funeral is and what to expect at one.

Prepare them that they may see adults crying and reassure them this isn’t a bad thing. It shows kids that it’s ok to express our emotions. But equally prepare them that there may also be laughter. And this is ok too.

Involve the children in the service, if they would like to be included.

They may want to write or draw something special to display on a memory table or place on the coffin


They may want to help choose some of their favourite photos for the slideshow or depending on the age of the child they may like to have some words on their behalf or even say them themselves.

Ask them to choose something to wear, their favourite dress-up or clothes. Be prepared it may a spiderman outfit and if this is the case, its ok.   Let them do what is comfortable.

Have a friend or relative who they are familiar with, but who is not quite affected by the death, available to take them out and distract them should they become restless or just want to leave.

Be prepared for children asking a lot of questions. They will want to know the Who, what, where, when and why.

Nothing will take away the sadness or grief but it may help give them an opportunity to mourn and say goodbye.

Should the child decide they do not want to attend there are many alternative ways to help say goodbye such as

Releasing Balloons,

Planting a special plant in memory.

Writing letters

Whatever the decision, speak to your celebrant or funeral director and let them know your children’s concerns as they can help make this a positive experience, under the circumstances.

There are alot of resources available on this sensitive topic.  Please let me know if you need any further recommendations.




What growing up in Ireland taught me about death

What growing up in Ireland taught me about death

People often ask, why I love funerals?  My ability to be a funeral celebrant is built on dealing with death from such a young age. Growing up in Ireland, I have been surrounded by the traditions and customs regarding death and funerals all my life.

I grew up in a small country town in Northern Ireland – a country that experienced a civil war, and has known a great deal about death – both violent and natural. It is also a country with a history of rich customs for honouring and mourning their dead. A lot of these traditions remain common practice today.

These traditions around death are very important, and create a deep sense of ritual. They give focus to the process of grieving, and are just as important as any other life events, such a birth and marriage.

The most well-known tradition in death is the Irish Wake.  A Wake is a social gathering, and is usually held for 3 days before the funeral. This allows people who may have to travel from far away to visit.

The traditional Wake has been a part of the Irish culture for generations. It came about because it was important to be sure that the deceased person did not wake up, and that no one got buried alive accidently. This custom of waiting for the person to “wake” soon became a time to celebrate and mourn together. This was an opportunity for friends and family to come together, to eat, drink and remember the deceased’s life.

Traditionally, a room is prepared and the deceased remains are usually placed near an open window. This is because the Irish believe this will let the spirit peacefully leave the house. All the curtains in the house are drawn. The body is prepared and laid out in a bed, or in an open coffin, and the body is never left unattended. Friends and family stay with the body in shifts throughout the day and night.

During the night they share wonderful stories of the deceased until morning. Out of respect, clocks are stopped at the time of death, and blankets placed over mirrors. Candles are lit and placed around the deceased.

Sometimes there is singing and card games, and it is customary to deal an extra hand for the person whose life is being celebrated.  Although the atmosphere at a wake may be sombre, you will often see people laughing through their tears, as they share memories of their loved ones.

As families prepare for the Wake, the house usually becomes a hive of activity. Soon after the death, word of mouth will spread, and close neighbours and friends will arrive at the house to volunteer to help in the kitchen, serving tea and sandwiches. As a young girl, I could be often found in the kitchen of a wake house washing dishes or serving tea.

People attending Wakes may not even know the deceased, however they may have a relationship with someone in the bereaved family, so they attend to show solidarity to the deceased’s family. People make a lot of sacrifices to attend the Wake or funeral, in support of those they care about. Visitors who come to the Wake are invited in to view the body. People will remain at the Wake anything from 10 minutes to a few of hours or days – depending on how well they know the deceased.

Typically, men often visit the Wake House late at night, and sit with the body during the night. Close neighbours and friends often volunteer to do this, so that the family can get some rest.

In the past, these customs meant that very often children were exposed to, and understood, the reality of death from an early age.  It was not unusual for children to attend a Wake, and death was considered a natural part of life, and they recognised grief was a natural response. In fact, I remember being at the Wake of my grandfather, and seeing my first dead body when I was around 4-5 years old. Nowadays, there is probably a lot more consideration given to the impact this may have on kids.

However, in my own personal experience, I feel very grateful for the exposure this had on me. In fact, I feel it gave me a healthy understanding of dying; and later in life, as I held the hands of two of my grandparents as they took their last breath, I had no fear, and although it was incredibly sad, I considered these moments as very important in my life.

At the end of the 3 days, the coffin is usually shouldered from the house – while the cortege follows closely behind.  Pallbearers are chosen by their relationship to the deceased.  The coffin is carried some distance towards the church, before it is transferred into a hearse. The cortege will usually pause outside the home, or place of work, and many people will bow their heads in respect of the dead as a hearse passes.

A month after someone dies (the “months mind”), and on every anniversary of their death, family and friends come together once again. This is time to remember their loved one, and to celebrate their life. Often a mass would be held to mark the occasion (remembering that a lot of funerals in Ireland are religious).

We can learn a lot from Irish funerals. The Irish do death very well.  There is something to be said about the way they are so open about death and dying. These traditions allow time for grieving, and are filled with love and help, to make the initial mourning process a little easier. They give a wonderful sense of community, and offer an outpouring of support, and an atmosphere where those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, can be surrounded by others. And although death is still an incredibly difficult time for all those involved, these rituals provide an environment for tears, laughter and stories.

I am extremely grateful that growing up in Ireland, has given me a rich understanding of the importance of rituals around death; and as a funeral celebrant, although I can’t heal their grief, I am comfortable in a space to allow them the opportunity to make their way through this difficult time.



Alternative Funeral venues around Melbourne

Alternative Funeral venues around Melbourne

It is not always possible to honour the life of a loved one in an hour time slot.
Many people do not realise that there are alternative options to farewelling a loved one that it does not have to be a chapel at a cementery or a Funeral Director’s chapel.
Melbourne offers endless options of alternative venues, that include some of the following beautiful venues.


Vue on Halcyon

Clarion on Canterbury

Inglewood chapel

Stones of the Yarra valley

The Gables

The Boulevard

Hawthorn Arts Centre

Port Melbourne Yacht Club

Family Home or backyard

Favourite Park

Golf Club/Local Rsl/Community hall

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like some help with finding a venue that is suitable to farewell your loved one in an alternative funeral venue.