The Funeral Ceremony: History, Poetry and the Eulogy with Remi and Dally Messenger

Rituals honouring the dead have existed for millennia. In contemporary Australia, these farewells were mostly organized by religious groups, and had very little personal content about the deceased. They were reassuring to believers while almost irrelevant to those who had no heart connection to the church, the mosque or the temple.  In the late 1970s celebrant funerals began to happen in Australia and suddenly family was allowed to help create these ceremonies themselves for their loved ones.  Yet learning how to create authentic, meaningful ceremonies of depth and substance took time. Most did not really know what to do.  Even today, there is a wide disparity between those who embrace the planning of their own funeral or for their loved ones, and those who find the whole subject terrifying and repelling, the ones who say “no one should cry at my funeral.”

Remi and Dally Messenger will briefly review the history of modern death rites, and then introduce the elements of a memorable and beneficial funeral. Funeral ceremony planning can be exquisite relief to the dying and a thoughtful, deep ceremony can assist the grieving process with grace for survivors and friends. You will receive some guidelines and a chance to begin writing your own eulogy, perhaps a confronting task. 


Dally Messenger III is a writer, speaker and pioneer of the Civil Celebrant movement. He has performed thousands of ceremonies including weddings, funerals and namings. His book Ceremonies and Celebrations, now in its fourth edition, is the classic text for understanding and planning rites of passage. He has also written Murphy’s Law and the Pursuit of Happiness: A History of the Civil Celebrant Movement.

He is the grandson of Rugby League great Dally Messenger and author of The Master, first published history of League in Australia.

From 1979 to 1990 he was founding publisher/editor of Dance Australia – still the most successful independent performing arts magazine in Australia. In 2008, he won the Australian Dance Award for Services to Dance presented at the Melbourne Arts Centre.

 In 2000-2002, he was instrumental in beginning civil celebrancy in the United States where he met Remi.  He is currently Principal of the International College of Celebrancy based in Melbourne.

Remi Barclay Messenger was a founding member of three prominent professional theatre companies in the New York City area – The Performance Group (l967-70, Dionysus in 69), Whole Theatre (1971-1990) and Voices of Earth (1988-2000), the latter two with Olympia Dukakis. Before moving to Australia in 2003, Remi was full-time arts therapist (RDT) in Psychiatry at St. Barnabas Medical Center, New Jersey. Her theatre work included years of acting, directing and teaching as well as creating workshops for a wide spectrum of institutions, schools and universities.  She became a marriage and funeral celebrant working with her husband, Dally.