Frequently asked questions about funerals in France
What do I do if someone dies?
When a family member dies in France, you should first contact the local doctor to certify the death and issue a medical certificate of death. If the person has died in hospital, the hospital will do this.
You’ll need to contact a Funeral Director who will take care of the body and make arrangements for a funeral. If you would like me to officiate, you should tell them straight away – and before you agree a time and date. However, note that French Law requires that a funeral take place within a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of six days (Sundays and bank holidays are not counted), although this may be extended in exceptional circumstances.
The death must be reported to the local Mairie within 24 hours. A relative or formally appointed representative usually registers the death. This can also be carried out by undertakers.
I’d like someone to create and lead a funeral ceremony in English – can you help?
Yes, that is exactly what I do. I have a wealth of experience of delivering funeral services in the UK and I can work in exactly the same way with your family in France. I am based in the South Charente for several months of the year and am able to deliver at Periguex, Angouleme or Bordeaux Crematoriums.
If I am not in France at the time that you need me, I may well be able to recommend another Celebrant who can help you.
What do I do next?
To start with, simply give me a call or drop me an email, I always aim to respond within an hour or so.
If I’m available, I will then arrange to come and visit you in your home, or you can come to me. Alternatively, you may prefer a Skype video call or to arrange everything over the phone. A meeting in person is always best though, as I can then spend a couple of hours really getting to understand the story of your loved one’s life and the sort of ceremony you’d like for them.
I then go away and write a completely bespoke ceremony of 3-4000 words, which will be written to accurately reflect the wishes, values and beliefs of the person. My ceremonies are often described as a Celebration of Life as they are focussed entirely on the life of the deceased and express what was important in their lives; no two ceremonies are ever the same. There is also usually a smidgen of humour thrown in too, in order to keep the occasion as positive and as uplifting as possible.
Although I rarely know the person who has died, attendees at all my ceremonies have said that the essence of the person had been so well captured that it sounded as though I had known them personally. Feedback like this always assures me that I am doing my job right!
What elements can we include in a funeral ceremony?
Anything you like – as long as it suits you, and is being kind and respectful to others. Traditional elements – readings, poetry, music etc are all possible, but so are other elements. You can sing, perform music or dance, wave flags; you really can give your loved one the sort of send-off that is most fitting for them, and one that they themselves would have approved of.
Can we have a prayer, a reading or a hymn?
Yes, of course. I have a large collection of resources which contains hundreds of poems, blessings and hymns which you can select from, or I can suggest suitable.
Do we have to include a religious element?
Not at all, in fact most of my clients ask for very little or no religious content. The service needs to be true to you as a family and to the memory of the person, so the choice is entirely up to you.
Do we have to go to the crematorium?
No. Unlike the UK, your local crematorium could be over an hour’s drive away. For that reason, and others, some families choose to ask the Funeral Directors to perform a direct cremation whilst we can enjoy an unhurried, more local, ceremony at a venue of your choice.
There are also options other than cremation, including burial in private grounds and repatriating the body.
I can deliver a beautiful Celebration of Life service at another suitable venue; in a hotel, your local community hall or in your own home or garden.
If you do choose one of these options, I will still be able to create and perform a meaningful ceremony to pay tribute to your loved, and to give all their friends and family the opportunity to say goodbye in the most fitting and appropriate way.
Any other questions?
If there is anything else you wish to know about how I can work with you, please get in touch. I’d be very happy to help you and your family through this difficult time.