Humanist funeral and memorial ceremonies

Latest news

The Government have introduced measures relating to social gathering with the aim of slowing down the spread of COVID-19 in the UK.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland a ‘modest’ number of friends and family are now able to attend funerals or memorials, though are asked to continue to respect social distancing guidelines. The regulations set out a maximum of 30 people, though individual venues will set their own maximum allowed number of attendees, which may be lower than 30.

Celebrants will still encourage mourners not to hug, kiss, or shake hands, and instead will ask them to show compassion by other methods such as the right hand over the heart or a nod of the head.

In England funeral ceremonies (including memorials) conducted by Humanists UK celebrants continue to be legal and are allowed in venues and public outdoor spaces with up to 30 people. The legislation makes clear that ‘significant event gathering[s]… of no more than 30 persons’ can go ahead in all venues and public outdoor spaces except ‘private dwelling[s]’. Humanist celebrants are allowed to conduct ceremonies under this legislation as the definition of ‘significant event gathering’ is conditional on ‘according to their religion or belief’. Wakes following funerals are subject to the “rule of six”. Although ceremonies in most areas with strict local lockdowns are unaffected, please contact one of our local celebrants to double check.

Humanist funeral and memorial ceremonies

Humanist funerals and memorials are non-religious ceremonies that support family and friends to mourn and to celebrate the person who has died. They focus on the life they led, the relationships they forged, and the legacy they left. They are based on the humanist perspective that every life is individual and valuable.

Ceremonies are conducted by humanist celebrants and are both a celebration of a life and a dignified, personal farewell. They’re the perfect option for families who want a sincere, personal reflection on the life of their loved one. This can be especially important if the person who died wasn’t particularly religious, meaning a religious funeral could feel inauthentic and not true to who they were in life.

Humanist funerals and memorial services offer a personal and fitting way to support families in saying goodbye to those who have lived without religion. Many thousands are conducted by our celebrants each year.

Arranging a funeral

While a funeral director is the professional most likely to deal with the practical arrangements of a funeral, what type of ceremony you choose is entirely up to you. If you are thinking about arranging your own funeral, you may like to use our pre-planned funeral ceremony service.

Working with a celebrant

Humanists UK funeral celebrants are sensitive people, empathetic to the experience of bereavement, and focused on providing a funeral ceremony that will be most fitting for the circumstances. They are familiar with cremation and burial procedures and will guide you through the whole process of arranging a funeral ceremony.

Funeral celebrants:

  •  Work with the family or friends most closely connected with the person who has died to learn more about that person and ensure that the funeral justly captures their life and personality. If this can’t be done in person, it can be done via a telephone or video call
  • Write a unique ceremony that’s absolutely fitting for the person who has died
  • Advise on practical matters, such as the amount of time available for the ceremony at the crematorium, or other ways of holding a ceremony if there can be no attendance at the crematorium
  • Listen to your ideas on music, readings, or symbolic gestures and can make  suggestions that they feel may work for your family within any circumstances
  • Talk to you about how to personalise the ceremony, sharing their ideas and drawing on their experience and expertise
  • Liaise with those involved in the ceremony, for example, anyone who will be reading a tribute, poem, or piece of prose, to ensure all goes smoothly. Act as a calm presence on the day, leading the ceremony with warmth and dignity.
  • Send you a presentation copy of the final script.

What people say about humanist ceremonies

‘You struck exactly the right tone and balance. Many people commented to me that they could not believe that you had never met her! People were also very interested to hear details of her life. For most it was the first time they had attended a humanist service of any description and I only received positive comments. They appreciated the honesty of the service and the fact that it was all about my mother with no other influences.’

‘Whilst still sad, people thought it was a beautiful and uplifting funeral and many commented that it was the most personal funeral they’d ever been to.’

Further information

We are proud to be associated with:

Download our funerals leaflet or, for more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

You can also see a sample structure of a funeral ceremony, or look for a funeral celebrant in your area.

If you are planning your own funeral, you can find some helpful resources here.

You may also like to buy a copy of Humanists UK’s book, Funerals Without God.