Coronavirus and funerals in the UK

Planning a funeral for a loved one is emotional and potentially stressful at any time, but with coronavirus (COVID-19) now classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are additional factors to take into consideration. You’ll want to know how the virus may affect the funeral ceremony and what steps you can take to limit its effect.

Humanist funeral celebrant, Kate Hobson.

What happens if a celebrant is too ill to conduct the ceremony?

Funeral celebrants tend to be self-employed, each finding their own clients, then writing and conducting the agreed ceremony. But what happens if the celebrant falls ill and is unable to conduct the ceremony?

At Humanist CeremoniesTM, we have a network of celebrants who are all trained to the same high standards to deliver personal, meaningful non-religious funeral ceremonies. If one celebrant is unable to deliver a ceremony, another accredited celebrant will step in to make sure that the funeral is delivered as planned.

Humanists UK has provided thousands of humanist funerals since the 1890s, when our members pioneered the concept of the non-religious funeral.

Back-up plan

When a Humanist Ceremonies celebrant has agreed a script, it is stored safely on a shared cloud storage so it can be accessed by colleagues in their local area, meaning someone can easily step in and deliver the ceremony as planned.

Each humanist funeral is unique and, by sharing scripts, we can ensure that the unique tribute is delivered on the day.

Before engaging a celebrant, check if they are a member of the Humanist Ceremonies network and ask what plans are in place in the event of them being unable to conduct the ceremony due to illness or emergency.

The value of the network

Experienced humanist celebrant, Steve Emmett says:

‘If I travel away from home I make sure I have a colleague on stand-by in case my return is delayed.

‘The one time I needed to call on colleagues was when I was ‘blue-lighted’ into hospital. I had four or five ceremonies coming up, all of which were written, and with the help of the local Humanist Ceremonies network coordinator, all the ceremonies were delivered by different network members. It is at times like that when the value of the network is really clear.’

Live stream the funeral ceremony

If friends and family are unable to attend the funeral because they’re displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or they are self-isolating, you could put plans in place to live stream the ceremony.

You could ask someone to film the ceremony on their phone or tablet and use an app such as Periscope, Facebook Live, or Instagram Live Stories to stream the wedding. You will need to ensure the venue has an internet connection you can use.

Live streaming of funerals is becoming increasingly popular, as it provides a way for family and friends around the world to take part.

The Humanist Funeral Tribute Archive

Mourners who are unable to attend the funeral in person or online may welcome the opportunity to read the full script as it was delivered on the day. This is possible thanks to The Humanist Funeral Tribute Archive – an online record of humanist tributes. (The tribute is sometimes called a ‘eulogy’ and it is the part of a humanist funeral where the life story of the deceased is shared and celebrated. They are written by the celebrant in conjunction with the family.)

Once published, the tribute is publicly available. It’s a wonderful way to keep someone’s memory alive and there is the opportunity to add photographs and other information to an archive entry.

Keeping up to date with the latest news and medical advice

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak via the WHO or NHS websites. The situation is unpredictable so check regularly for the latest news.

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions and asking other mourners to do the same.

The latest advice is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or to use an alcohol-based hand rub because this kills viruses that may be on your hands.

WHO advises that you should maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing because when someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

If one of the mourners has a fever or cough, the advice is to stay at home. If the illness develops and causes difficulty breathing, they should seek medical attention by calling 111. Calling will enable their health care provider to quickly direct them to the right health facility. This will also protect them and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Find a celebrant

If you would like to discuss a funeral, you can find your local humanist funeral celebrant via our website.

Further information

For more information about humanist funerals, visit our FAQ page or watch this short video.

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