Non-Religious Funerals and Memorials

The death of anyone we have known and loved, whether someone in our extended family, a friend or colleague, an elderly person, a parent, sibling, child or baby, is no less sad, shocking or painful for those of us who choose to live without religion.

A funeral director is the professional most likely to deal with all the practical arrangements of a funeral, but we are all entitled to specify the kind of funeral ceremony we want.

A Humanist, non-religious funeral or memorial ceremony will:

  • focus sincerely and affectionately on the person who has died
  • allow friends, relatives and acquaintances to express their feelings and to share their memories
  • have warmth and sincerity: many bereaved people find them helpful and are pleased to have provided a ceremony their loved ones would have wanted
  • celebrate the life of the person who has died by paying tribute to them, to the life they lived, the connections they made and left behind
  • be simply more appropriate for those who have not lived according to religious principles, or accepted religious views of life or death.

Funeral celebrants in the BHA’s Humanist Ceremonies™ network are friendly, trained and experienced. They will usually meet with the family or friends who are most closely connected with the person who has died. They will want to learn as much about the person as possible, so that the funeral or memorial tribute justly captures the life and personality of that person.

Humanist funeral celebrants will be sensitive to your wishes yet ready to give clear guidance and to answer questions when required.  They are familiar with cremation and burial procedures.  They will welcome your ideas for readings and music and, if required, will be ready with suggestions suitable for the kind of ceremony you want.  They empathise with the experience of bereavement but will get on with preparing the ceremony you want and will be ready to lead it on the day.

Funerals Without God: a BHA publication, includes some sample Humanist funeral ceremonies, ideas and suggestions for readings which many non-religious people have found helpful.

Related links

  • Find a Humanist funeral celebrant
  • Fees for Humanist funerals and memorials

Preparing Your Own Humanist Funeral

Like many non-religious people you may want to make advance plans for your own funeral or memorial ceremony. Why not?

It takes a great deal of pressure off friends and family at a stressful time if you leave clear instructions regarding your wishes in this area. There’s no set way of doing this, but it is important that you write down what you would like to happen and very important that you give a copy of your plans to a close family member or friend who is likely to take charge of the event. We do not recommend lodging a copy of your funeral plans with your solicitor, because by the time your will is read your funeral will probably be over.

You might like to think about the music you would like played and the poems or texts you would like to be read. You might consider writing a short personal history, mentioning the people and events that have been important to you. This can help make the funeral more meaningful for those who attend. If you want to have a non-religious funeral or memorial ceremony conducted by a Humanist funeral celebrant, you should specify this. Many of our celebrants can assist with making such plans.

Please click here to download our information leaflet on Humanist Funerals.