The Ceremony Matters


Diversity and Inclusion for Funeral Professionals: Working with Mental Health and Disability

5 and 19 July 2021

8 hours of webinars, plus networking, discussions and an exclusive online community

up to 12 hours CPD

for only £167

Mental Health and Disability – Visible and Invisible Difference

5 and 19 July 2021, 4-6pm and 7-9pm, programme through August 2021

with Emma Curtis, plus guest speakers – filmmaker and actor Ngozi Ugochukwu, and Celebrants David Miles and Nick Laurie, together with funeral professional Ash Hayhurst

“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”

– Jimmy Carter

Considering how we approach serving clients and families affected by issues that have often been stigmatised in our culture: alcoholism and addiction, disability, mental health issues, neurobiological differences and suicide.

Nick Laurie and David Miles, both funeral celebrants for many years, will be presenting their areas of expertise which have informed their celebrancy practices. Nick is a Somerset based celebrant, specialist in working with families affected by addiction. David, a winner of The Good Funeral Award for Celebrant of the Year, will talk about Approaches to Disability. We will discuss working with families affected by disability and mental health issues, and how we approach ceremony writing and facilitation in exceptional circumstances.

1. Just finding a poem is not enough

Does our own discomfort lead us to provide a less meaningful service? We look at how we can learn to encounter both physical and psychological pain and difficulty without awkwardness or making unhelpful assumptions to up-level our service.

2. Disability… how you see me

We learn how it is to experience and live with disability from  experienced, award-winning funeral professional, David Miles and discover how we can work to ensure that our services are inclusive and offer an equitable opportunity to benefit from a good funeral service.

3. Perspectives on mental health and addiction

There are many forms of addiction from behaviours to substance abuse and a spectrum of mental health issues, all of which can impact on the friends and family of a person. Nick Laurie shares with us his personal and professional reflections on the whys and wherefores of alcoholism and on creating ceremonies for people whose issues have caused suffering for others.

4. Creating meaning, even when it’s complicated

A funeral ceremony has the potential to be healing. The words we use cannot be underestimated in their ability to impact clients and mourners in both positive and negative ways. In this final segment of the Super Conference we polish our interview skills to make sure that every service, however challenging the circumstances, fits the person who has died and our grieving clients.

Learning Objectives:

  • Consider how being more flexible to the needs of our clients can also benefit us as we work
  • Understand how we can be more aware of the diversity of mourners listening to our service
  • Learn how to navigate difficult family dynamics without resorting to generic poetry
  • Discover a social approach to disability
  • Learn about the unique difficulties facing a funeral celebrant in the preparation of a ceremony for someone who died by suicide
  • Learn how to make everyone feel included and no one feel excluded by the ceremony we’ve prepared and the service we provide
  • Observe how we can find paths between simply good and bad, right and wrong, success and failure as we develop trust with our clients and families


  • Having opportunities to ask questions in a judgement-free space
  • Finding our confidence as professionals and managing the fear of “putting our foot in it”


for just


Online Community

Discover what it’s like to be part of a community of funeral professionals who are all dedicated to a person-centred approach to creating funerals, one that benefits the clients and families we serve. Share your stories and your experience, and discover that we can be more resilient and confident when we support each other.

The funeral industry is becoming more competitive with new entrants at all levels, but supportive alliances can help us stay strong and doing our best work.  

JOIN US to explore how to work with your clients to provide meaningful and person-centred services that help them.

This conference is for anyone who works with people planning and facilitating funeral services, whether you are a celebrant or minister, a funeral director or any member of staff representing them, a doula, or a chapel or burial ground attendant. We welcome funeral professionals from any association, fellowship, belief system or training organisations for seminars, networking, discussions and talks that will leave you inspired and ready to take your business to the next level.

Meet The Presenters

Emma Curtis is an award-winning influencer in funeral celebrancy working to raise the standards of funeral celebrancy throughout the profession and to gain recognition for the valuable work that celebrants do in the service of the bereaved. In March of this year she founded the Funeral Celebrants Support Network for peer-2-peer support during the pandemic. She has become well respected for her support of funeral celebrants and her creative writing workshops. Emma is the CEO of Ceremony Matters which provides further trainings, support and mentoring for funeral celebrants and funeral professionals, and now offers this SUPER CONFERENCE for Diversity and Inclusion to Funeral Professionals who wish to offer services that really make a lasting difference to their clients, and that build their reputation. Emma is a founder representative on the Funeral Celebrancy Council. She is the representative of independent celebrants and proud to have been part of the team that drafted the Funeral Celebrant Accord. Pronouns are she/her.

As well as being a celebrant, Emma is a certified Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist, Pastoral Counsellor, Grief and Resilience Specialist with a therapy practice on the corner of Harley Street and Cavendish Square, W1 and an award-winning Opera Singer, bringing that wealth of experience not only to her clients, but to supporting celebrants through mentoring, supervision and further training. 

Guest speakers

Ngozi Ugochukwu is a photographer a filmmaker, and performer (actor and stand-up comic). Her work has been shown at HOME Manchester – a centre for international contemporary art; Disability Arts Online; and has been part of a British Council conference in Hong Kong looking at the arts and its importance for, and impact on three groups: old, young, and disabled people. Ngozi trained as a video editor, studying in Central America. She then went on to produce, direct and edit an award-winning documentary about her travels and experience in Cuba, which was shown in film festivals internationally. Currently, Ngozi sits on the board of the Manchester International Festival and the advisory board of Documental Theatre based in the South West of England. She believes that art, imagery and performance can challenge people’s perceptions and encourage debate about the way they see and shape the world. Her ambition is to see her work in galleries worldwide.

David Miles is an award-winning funeral celebrant. He is passionate about recognising, respecting and responding to equality and diversity principles, seeing these values as essential to his role. As a deaf Disabled person he promotes Disability Equality as a Trainer.  Having been a Nurse and Social Worker David has supported people with learning difficulties for many years.

Nick Laurie is an independent celebrant. He has worked and played with alcoholics and addicts for many years and after 23 years of sobriety can still remember the whats, whys and wherefores of alcoholism. He has conducted funerals for many addicts both recovering and those still in the throes of their illness. He hopes to show you that an addict is a human being too.

Ash Hayhurst is a relatively new kid on the block and has been a part-time Funeral Arranger in London since April 2019. He is the author of ‘Making informed choices when planning a funeral – a guide for queer people’, and has written articles for the Funeral Service Journal and the ICCM journal. Before joining the funeral profession, Ash volunteered with LGBT+ charities Stonewall Housing ( and Educate & Celebrate ( helping to develop workshops and resources for young people. He has a degree in Popular Music Composition and is a qualified secondary school music teacher. Ash is a bisexual transgender man, and his pronouns are he/him.

Photo: Fox Fisher

What people say about Emma and her conferences

“You delivered the right amount of helpful information whilst still allowing it to be a discussion between us with plenty of time to take on board our thoughts too. Rather than it being lectures it was lovely that it included so much ‘audience participation’ in a very relaxed informative manner. So thank you once again for what I felt was a very enjoyable conference. Looking forward to the next one.”

Marion Lambshead

Independent Funeral Celebrant

“Emma is leading the rebellion against the generic template celebrant. She begins each ceremony with a blank piece of paper. She actually listens to families, facilitates difficult conversations and puts together ceremonies that do what they need to do. She also does the difficult thing that most celebrants avoid – goes the emotional distance with the bereaved and doesn’t just give them what they think they need (ie just going with a celebration of life for a young person who died by suicide but actually making the bereaved think about what it is they need from the funeral).

She has played a huge role in developing the philosophy and approach behind Poetic Endings, where ceremony is front and foremost of the work we do as funeral directors.

Emma also held space for me, whilst I learnt to hold space for others.

When I imagine the celebrancy profession of the future, I’d like to think that Emma has been able to contribute to it with her dedication to improving standards, offering proper training and providing actual emotional support to the people who are doing this work.

Poetic Endings wouldn’t be what it is without Emma Curtis. “

Louise Winter

Funeral Director, Poetic Endings

Emma delivered with sensitivity, passion and fun, keeping everyone fully engaged from start to finish.
The practical exercises that she gave the celebrants to do were stimulating, thought provoking and challenged them to think outside of the box and stretched their creative writing skills to new levels, with those present even saying that they produced levels of writing which they didn’t know they could deliver.

Terri Shanks

Founder and CEO, Fellowship of Professional Celebrants

“Thank you Emma Curtis for your wonderful and inspiring creative writing session at the Conference. It encouraged me to try a new opening today, slightly out of my comfort/safe zone and ‘stretch myself’. At the funeral today it worked so well… The widow said that service was ‘brilliant’ and it was as if her husband was actually there.”

Bev Symonds

Fellowship of Professional Celebrants, Beverley Symonds, Independent Funeral Celebrant

“Overall it gave me confidence in what I am doing already which was needed. it also gave me inspiration and ideas for some new approaches. Plus the rare opportunity to talk with other celebrants – bringing us together for collaboration rather than competition.”

Becky Lee-Wale

Daisy Chain Celebrant

Funeral director Carrie Weekes speaks at our ‘Focused On Funerals’ conference 2019

“Can’t rate the day high enough”

This Ceremony Matters online super conference is open to all funeral professionals who are dedicated to raising the bar and offering the best service possible to their clients and families.
As always there will be an emphasis on the value of a meaningful funeral ceremony, together with opportunities for networking, sharing resources and support, benefiting each of us individually, and the profession as a whole.

What's included in the SUPER CONFERENCE?

12 Deep dive webinars over 3 conferences with Emma and presenters

Guest presenters with lived experience and understanding of the funeral industry

Live Zoom discussions and Q+A sessions for your questions

Book clubs with a chosen book for each conference and extra suggestions for avid readers

Recordings to catch up with some of the content you may have missed

Supplemental materials

Online Facebook Community

How long is this programme?

The conferences together with the follow-up programmes spread from October 2020 to May 2021.

The conferences take place on 3 weekends, with webinars for 4 hours on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday – afternoon and early evening with a good break in the middle for a walk or dinner or whatever you need to do, plus networking if you wish.

The follow-up discussions and book clubs will take place over a month following each conference.

If you can’t make any of the webinars or book clubs live there will be recordings for catch-up. If you want you can do all the webinars and book clubs at your leisure, but you might find that you are not up to speed in the online community. Up to you.

Is there support available?

You will be supported by the discussions and online community. The online Facebook community is there to support you, and Emma will be popping in there every day to make sure that everyone has what they need to feel supported with this programme. You can post questions, concerns, ideas and discoveries in the group. 

Emma is also available for individual supervision and support but that does not come as part of this programme. 

I'm worried I'll say the wrong thing and be embarrassed...

We may all mis-step at some point. In the SUPER CONFERENCE we get to have real discussions in a learning environment where we can ask questions, be up front about any awkwardness or confusion, and where we can practice making amends amongst friends. These are challenging topics. There is no perfection here, only learning and understanding, so that we are prepared to meet our clients and families with openness, kindness and self-awareness, working to offer inclusive and equitable services. Growth always comes with a little discomfort. Without taking the step to learn and develop, you’ll stay in your comfort zone, but restrict the growth of your business.

Can I join if the programme has already started?

You can join the SUPER CONFERENCE at any time before 25 April 2021 and catchup through recorded materials. There are webinars available for review.

If I join just the first conference for now can I have the early bird price for the SUPER CONFERENCE later?

You are, of course, welcome to join just one conference at a time. Unfortunately once the early bird on the SUPER CONFERENCE is gone if you decide to take the rest of the Super Conference later you would need to pay the current Super Conference price at the time you decide to continue. 

What's your refund policy?

As with most educational organisations, we are not able to offer refunds for online workshops, classes and courses.

If you unsure whether this programme is right for you and would like to talk through your decision to enroll, please feel free to request a discovery call by emailing

We cannot give refunds for missed sessions or dropped internet connections. You will always be able to catch up through the conference recordings. 

What if I can't make the webinars?

If you can’t make the webinars or your internet connection is a problem and you miss something, don’t worry. We will be recording webinars, Q&A and book clubs so you needn’t miss a thing. Just catch up on your own time.

How will the networking work?

We will run our networking sessions on Zoom.

You can get a cuppa or a snack, or eat your dinner if you wish and get to know your colleagues.

There will be a facilitator who can manage break out rooms so that you can chat in smaller groups if they are appropriate for the gathering.

It’s basically a coffee break or after session chat online, and a great way to get to know people.

The SUPER CONFERENCE 2020/21 is for anyone COMMITTED to serving bereaved and grieving people with respect and kindness.

Join us for our 3rd conference for funeral professionals – Working with Mental Health and Disability

By understanding individual and cultural diversity we are better equipped to offer funeral services that make the difference allowing people to mourn and begin to heal in a safe space.

What this conference is not…

This conference is not just going to be directly about marketing and making money. Of course we all want to be financially successful in our work, however, there are plenty of other such offerings to help you promote your business through social media and advertising. Those skills alone wont help you sustain your business, your reputation is based on the quality of your service.

This conference is about providing the very best quality of service possible to our clients and ‘families’. That is the core of a successful funeral business, whether you are a celebrant or a funeral director. The growth and sustainability of our businesses depend upon our skills, our relationships and the quality of personalisation that we offer.

We can make new contacts and let people get to know us through our media presence, but in the end it is the service that we provide that is meaningful and memorable.

Emma Curtis has become well respected for her engaging, creative and thought provoking CPD workshops as well as a champion for independent celebrants striving to make each service special and meaningful.

This is the best time to try changing your perspective and considering ceremony in a more incusive way. You’ll have a supportive, creative environment with no ‘real’ client to answer to. There will be plenty of support for anyone who is abandoning old ways of working that now seem out-of-date. You’ll be inspired to put your client/family right at the centre and create something especially beneficial and beautiful for them.

“Well worth the 2 days”,

“Fantastic. I feel inspired”

5 stars

100% of last year’s feedback said celebrants recommend Ceremony Matters workshops to their colleagues!

You can’t beat this for value or quality CPD

“I very much hope that you will join me and an inspiring group of colleagues who see this SUPER CONFERENCE as an invaluable investment in their skills, their personal growth and their business development. 

See you soon!” 
Emma Curtis, Ceremony Matters