We know you’re likely to have lots of questions. Have a look at what we’ve been asked before, and do contact us if there’s something we haven’t covered.
“…I cannot let another day pass before I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the beautiful way you conducted Patrick’s funeral. It was truly so lovely and comforting. I know many, many people were deeply affected by the service, especially some who were a bit sceptical about a non-religious service. As I knew from a previous humanist funeral I’d attended, it is all about the person and reflects very much what they would have wanted…”
A humanist funeral is a non-religious service that is both a dignified farewell and a celebration of a life. It recognises the profound sadness of saying goodbye whilst celebrating the life and legacy of a loved one.
The celebrant will work closely with the family to create a unique and personal ceremony.
A typical funeral often includes pieces of music and readings. But the heart of the ceremony is the tribute section, which lasts up to 15 minutes and might be written by the celebrant and/or include a variety of tributes paid by family and friends. Time for reflection follows, then the committal, and the funeral is drawn to a close with final words of thanks. You may want to have a look at a typical structure of a humanist funeral.
Funeral ceremonies have no legal status in themselves so you are free to hold one wherever you choose. That said, most humanist funerals are held at crematoria, cemeteries or woodland burial sites.
When are humanist funerals considered to be ‘funerals’ in the eyes of the law?
Under the law, only ‘a funeral’ are allowed up to 30 attendees, while ‘a commemorative event to celebrate the life of a person who has died (for example, a wake or stone setting ceremony)’ is only allowed up to six. This has led some to some questions as to what types of ceremony fall under what limit.
We have been in contact with the Government about this and they have clarified for us that a humanist funeral does not need to be a burial or cremation to have up to 30 in attendance – it just has to be the main ceremony. Many humanists are opting to have a direct cremation (especially during the Covid pandemic) and to hold the funeral ceremony with the ashes at the centre, or even with no remains at all. A humanist funeral is about celebrating the life of the person who lived; the ceremony and the chance to say goodbye is what matters.
Our celebrants will meet key members of the family, often for several hours, to find out about the person that has died and discuss options for the ceremony. They then write a unique script based on this information and the family’s preferences.
Absolutely not. We are proud that each funeral ceremony we help to create is unique and crafted to reflect the individual concerned, so as to ensure a fitting and sincere way of remembering them.
You can do this one of two ways. Often, your funeral director will be able to recommend someone, but do check that they are accredited by Humanists UK.
Alternatively, you can contact a celebrant directly and tell the funeral director (if you are using one) who will be conducting the ceremony. Our find-a-celebrant search facility enables you to search for all Humanists UK accredited celebrants working in your area: just enter your postcode and you’ll be given a list of people you can contact. You can then select one or more people to contact to ask about their availability, etc.
Absolutely. In fact, only a small number of our funerals are held for people who would have described themselves as a ‘humanist’ – the vast majority are for people who lived their lives without religion because they didn’t believe in God or weren’t clear about their beliefs.
Time and time again we are told that our clients chose a humanist funeral because they had been to one previously and were impressed by how meaningful and personal it was. People also choose a humanist funeral because they feel it will most accurately reflect the personality and outlook of their loved one, saying a religious service would have felt hypocritical or inappropriate for the person involved.
Yes – and we know that religious people find humanist funerals just as moving and meaningful as those who aren’t religious.
“I am a Christian but have to say that the funeral for my husband was to his wishes and was a beautiful celebration of his life. The celebrant made it all so comfortable.”
We recognise that every funeral will be attended by guests of different faiths and of none, and feel that everyone present should feel comfortable and involved. In particular, we always include a time for personal reflection which is an opportunity for those who wish to do so to pray.
You don’t have to include anything in the funeral that you aren’t comfortable with and that certainly includes readings. That said, there are a surprising number of great readings and poems that are suitable for non-religious ceremonies. Your celebrant can advise you on this and perhaps make some suggestions, and will be happy to read anything themselves if you do wish to include something.
This depends on the time available (crematoria run to strict schedules, for example) but on average around 20 minutes to half an hour. If you want a longer ceremony at a crematorium you can book a double appointment – your funeral director will advise on this.
Humanist funerals are priced very similarly to other funeral ceremony providers. Our recommended fees are £150-£280 but you can check the exact fee with the celebrant beforehand.
Whilst our ceremonies are non-religious, we recognise that there are aspects of religious reference embedded in our culture and day-to-day experiences. For example, certain hymns can remind people of their youth or even of their favourite rugby team. We are happy to include such content where they help reflect the person, but not as an act of worship.
Yes. Please see our page about this here.
Each one of our accredited celebrants is a part of a growing national network covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland. All are insured and have professional indemnity. Our celebrants are rigorously trained, accredited, quality assured and regulated by a code of conduct.
Celebrants also undergo continued professional development to ensure they uphold the highest standards, undertaking their work with compassion and dignity.
Yes. We conduct a growing number of memorial services held at a variety of venues. Sometimes this is for practical reasons; perhaps the person died overseas or a very intimate funeral was requested. But whatever the reason, a memorial service can give a family more flexibility about how, when and where they say goodbye to their loved one.
Got a question that’s not answered here? Send us an email and we’ll get back to you.