Celebrancy is a movement to provide agents to officiate at ceremonies often reserved in law to clergy or officers of the courts. These agents, generally referred to as "celebrants", perform weddings, funerals, and other life ceremonies for those who do not want a traditional religious ceremony.
In many countries, there is a division between the civil and religious aspects of marriages, and often one realm does not recognize the acts of the other. In the United States, however, clergy (and in some jurisdictions, the couple themselves, in a self-uniting marriage) perform legally binding weddings. However, in most states weddings not performed by such clergy must be performed by an officer of the court, such as a judge or a justice of the peace. These civil ceremonies typically are simple legal transactions.
In either case many couples felt the lack of the kind of ceremony more typically associated with religious services. In the same manner, funerals and rites of passage have been traditionally the province of the church or synagogue in western culture; those of a secular or unconventionally religious bent had in the past wanted for their own ceremonies.
To meet these needs, various groups arose to sponsor secular "ministers" to formulate and officiate at such rites. Existing humanist bodies (e.g. the Unitarian Universalist Association) provide ministers who act as clergy under the law and are thus empowered to perform legally binding marriages. The Celebrant USA Foundation and Institute also sponsors and coordinates celebrants separately from religious or ethical societies.
Celebrancy started in Australia and New Zealand, where a lack of religious attachments and the prevalence of cremation led to many people dying and being buried without any sort of ceremony. The movement spread to the United States, where in 2005 Richard Pryor was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in a non-religious service led by Pam Vetter, a secular celebrant trained at the Celebrant Institute.
- See for example "Arizona Revised Statutes: 25-124. Persons authorized to perform marriage ceremony; definition". Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- "About the Humanist Celebrant Program". The Humanist Society. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
- Birkbeck, Matt (2001-08-01). "Ceremonies For Any Occasion". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
- "Richard Pryor Got the Last Laugh at His Celebrant Funeral Service". newswise. Retrieved 2008-02-07.