Funerals & Memorials

The death of someone 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 have chosen 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 funeral is increasingly common. It’s simply more appropriate for those who neither lived according to religious principles, nor accepted religious views of life or death.  A Humanist Funeral or memorial ceremony recognises no ‘after-life’, but instead uniquely and affectionately celebrates the life of the person who has died. Proper tribute is paid to them, to the life they lived, the connections they made and have left behind.

Nothing in a Humanist funeral or memorial ceremony should be offensive to those who are religious.  It will focus sincerely and affectionately on the person who has died.  Humanist funerals, or memorials, allow friends, relatives and acquaintances to express their feelings and to share their memories.  They have warmth and sincerity.  Many bereaved people find them helpful and are pleased to have provided a ceremony their loved ones would have wanted.

Celebrants in the BHA’s Humanist Ceremonies™ network accredited to conduct funerals 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. Whatever the circumstances of the person’s life and death, the celebrant is there to be understanding and compassionate, not to moralise, nor to judge.

Humanist 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 funeral ceremonies, ideas and suggestions for readings which many non-religious people have found helpful. Funerals Without God, Humanist literature

Related links

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?  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.  There’s no point in lodging a copy of your funeral plans with your solicitor. 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, 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.  If you want to have a Humanist funeral or memorial ceremony conducted by a Humanist celebrant, you should specify this. Many of our celebrants can assist with making such plans.



0 #1 Pete Watson 2015-10-15 15:02
Hello please would or could you tell me do you have female humanists as celebrants for the service at someones demise.
I would like to know how to get a list or how my children can get this list.

I am planing my own funeral


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Remembrance Sunday Campaign

The Chichester Observer made a video and wrote an article covering the laying of a Humanist wreath after the main religious ceremony. A transcript of the speech can be downloaded here.

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