Steven King, funeral and Marriage Celebrant is a people’s person. Steve brings life experiences, like his counselling role during the AIDS crises in the 1980s and his advocacy for marriage equality to his work.
Steven, tell us a little about your celebrant career.
I was initially just thinking about being a marriage celebrant, having fought for around a decade and a half for marriage equality.
I’ve always believed in equality, no matter if it’s race, gender, freedom, or who you love. When it looked like the law was going to change, I saw it as a chance to practice what I believed in. But having experienced first-hand, discrimination against members of the LGBTIQ+ community within the funeral industry many years ago, I was shocked to see that there is still a degree of discrimination still happening today. (I officiated a funeral of a gay man where his life was locked back into a closet). As a gay man, I feel I can offer something more heartfelt than others.
Why do you think you’re a great funeral celebrant?
I look at every life as unique and worth celebrating, remembering the special parts and the good times within that life, I believe doing this helps the loved ones left behind with their grieving process and provides a little comfort during a tough time.
What special skills do you have that make you a good funeral celebrant?
I listen… I say that in all honesty because we all know that if you’ve been doing something like this for long enough, you “turn off” and resort to what’s known as a “cookie cutter” style, where each ceremony is much like the previous dozen. It’s important to listen and care. Failure to listen is a total disservice to the deceased and their family and loved ones.
What are your thoughts about the funeral industry in general?
If possible, stay away from the bigger firms and deal with the smaller independent funeral homes.
At Tomorrow we concentrate on creating ‘dignified cremations & remarkable memorials’ in one simple package, what do you think of this model?
I really like the concept, but it’s not something that suites all clients. Some people prefer something more traditional, but that could just be due to lack of knowledge about what is available.
What changes would you like to see in the funeral industry?
Get rid of the sharks that prey on families when they are most vulnerable.
What advice would you give to a family who needs to organise a funeral?
Look around, don’t go with who the hospital/nursing home or whoever has contact with their “usual” funeral directors, find someone who “feels right” for you.
What’s one thing you wish every family knew?
You can use whoever you want, there is no right or wrong way, there is only the client’s way.
How do you suggest families choose a funeral provider?
From the moment we are born, the only certainty in life is that we will die, therefore preparation is valuable. I know it will be hard but choose your funeral director with care.
What’s the most important thing in planning a funeral for someone you love?
When it happens, take a deep breath, count to 10, there is no rush. Depending on the circumstances, call family members first so they have time to come and be there with you. There really is no rush. Again, depending on the circumstances, be with your person for as long as you need to. Grief will come later. Most importantly, when the time comes and if you have prepared a plan, call someone who can help with the next step and don’t be afraid to accept help if you feel overwhelmed.
What’s the most incredible memorial that you have ever been a part of?
Really hard question and I can only say which one I remember most. It was an outdoors ceremony held at The Garden of No Distant Place. The music was a single cellist playing (who was the deceased’s daughter). A simple mic on a stand, a table with champagne, the hearse parked on the road next to the table with the deceased, a few people outlining their stories followed by a dignified toast for a send-off. It was with great style and emotion.
What do you get out of being a funeral celebrant?
Helping people with the grief process – it’s very rewarding
Which funeral are you most proud of? Why?
The funeral of an old friend, with around 150 guests. Why this one? Because as emotionally charged as it was, I did get through it and gave him the send-off I know he would be proud of.
Have you planned your own funeral?
Oh yes, everything has been worked out so that my partner and I can have a worry-free ceremony. I’ve written the eulogy and created a photo tribute. (If you want to see part of the tribute, it’s on my website )
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