Planning a Humanist Funeral can be easy & uncomplicated. This kind of non religious funeral ceremony is suitable for a Humanist, Atheist or Non-believer.
Planning a Humanist Funeral: Nine Steps to creating a Non Religious Funeral
If you have lost a loved one who lived as a humanist, atheist or non-believer, then a Humanist funeral may be the right choice for you and your family. The Humanist philosophy relies on scientific knowledge to make sense of the world. Humanists accept that individuals can lead fulfilling and ethical lives, without the need for religion. When planning a Humanist funeral, this core humanist belief system can offer you a guiding structure.
What is a Humanist funeral?
A Humanist Funeral is a secular ceremony to honor and celebrate the life of a loved one. The funeral service provides an opportunity for family and friends to pay their respects. It is an opportunity to say goodbye, without the rituals of any specific spiritual belief system.
What is the difference between a Humanist funeral and a non religious funeral?
By design, a Humanist ceremony is non-religious ceremony. A humanist follows the philosophy that humans have the ability and responsibility to live ethical lives, without theism or other supernatural beliefs. As such, a Humanist funeral is appropriate for a person who:
- lived as a self-identified humanist
- has led a non-religious or atheistic life
- did not identify with any particular spiritual traditions
- was unclear about their beliefs in life
The Humanist perspective celebrates each life as individual and valuable. As such, there are no restrictions on who may have a Humanist funeral.
What happens at a Humanist funeral?
As there are no set rules or traditions, each humanist ceremony can take on a unique form. Typically a celebrant will lead the funeral service, with readings presented by close family or friends.
Other funeral components can include:
- music played or songs sung
- a tribute section (containing eulogies, stories of the deceased’s life, and memories from friends and family)
- a moment of silence for reflection or contemplation.
This could be followed by the committal (when the funeral is removed), and any closing words.
Where can you hold a Humanist funeral?
Most Secular Funeral services in the UK are held at a cemetery, a crematorium or green burial site. Some families may choose to conduct a service in a location that holds special significance to the deceased. Another option is to hold a memorial service at the family home, after a private cremation. As a Humanist ceremony has no legal status, you are free to hold the funeral service at any location you choose.
How to plan and arrange a Humanist funeral?
Planning a non-religious funeral for a loved-one is made easier if the deceased outlined their wishes in a last will and testament. If not, it falls to the closest friends and family to create a unique ceremony that reflects the personality and life of the deceased.
Important things to consider:
- choice regarding burial, embalming, cremation, green burial
- whether to have an open or closed casket, an urn, or a photograph of the deceased
- the location of the funeral service
- any songs, readings, poems or symbolic gestures to honor the deceased
Non-religious funerals are usually very personalized. Even so, it can be helpful to follow a basic outline as a starting point.
A Humanist Funeral Service Example:
- opening music
- words of welcome
- non-religious thoughts on life and death
- tributes, memories and stories about the deceased
- readings, poetry, or music
- a moment of silent reflection
- the committal (either coffin is lowered or curtains closed)
- closing words of thanks
Humanist funeral readings and non-religious funeral songs:
It is not common for religious hymns to be sung, or prayers so be said, during a Humanist funeral. More often, short philosophical readings and non-religious poems are read. These texts are usually comforting and emotive, without reference to spirituality, afterlife, or deities. Some well-loved humanist funeral poems are listed below:
- I carry your heart by E E Cummings
- Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
- She is gone (He is gone) by David Harkins
- Let me go by Christina Rossetti
Appropriate Humanist funeral songs will typically have special significance to the deceased, without religious connotations. These could be songs that mourners sing together, or emotive music that is played as part of the ceremony.
How to find a Humanist celebrant?
A Humanist celebrant is someone who is sensitive to the experience of bereavement. They would also understand the procedures of burial and cremation. Most funeral directors in the UK would have experience arranging a Humanist or Atheist funeral. Your funeral director should be able to recommend a suitable Humanist celebrant. Alternatively, you can contact a celebrant directly and inform your funeral home.
What does a Humanist funeral celebrant do?
Your Humanist celebrant can provide guidance and can assist with:
- the format and ersonalization of the service
- practical decisions like timing and scheduling
- being a calm presence on the day, alleviating pressure from the bereaved
- leading the ceremony with warmth and dignity
- co-ordinating the people doing readings, songs or poems
How much does a Humanist funeral cost?
A Humanist celebrant can charge between £150 – 350 for a service. Price is usually dependent on the length of the ceremony, and whether it is a cremation or a burial.
The full cost of a Humanist funeral (sometimes referred to as a Humanitarian funeral) should be under £5000 for a conventional burial, and under £4000 for a cremation. Green Burials are the most environmentally friendly option. They are a reasonably-cheap funeral plan as there is no cost for embalming. For a Green Burial, the deceased is wrapped in a natural cotton shroud or placed in a very simple biodegradable casket. Your funeral operative would be able to advise on the most cost-effective funeral plan.
What is the etiquette at a Humanist funeral?
A non-religious funeral relies less on tradition and history than a religious funeral would. Often the event is more personalised, and the etiquette of mourners should reflect the wishes of the family.
Though the general mood may be one of mourning and contemplation, some families may wish to focus on the celebration of life. The music may sometimes be contemporary or uplifting. In some cases, there may be an atmosphere of joy as the deceased’s life is celebrated and remembered with humour and love.
What to wear to a Humanist funeral?
The dress-code for a Humanist funeral can take many forms, depending on the wishes of the family:
- it may be formal funeral attire, with black or dark colours and conservative style
- more common is an informal ceremony, with mourners wearing casual clothes
- sometimes the dress code is celebratory, with mourners encouraged to wear bright colours
How long are Humanist funerals?
Humanist funerals range in length but are usually around half an hour long. If the ceremony is at a crematorium, the time slots can be around 20 minutes each. If you wish to hold a longer service, your funeral director can advise on how to book a double appointment. At Fenix Funeral Directors, we would work closely with you on every aspect of the ceremony, so that you can create the right feeling for the occasion and honour your loved one exactly as you wish.
How will Corona Virus Regulations affect our Humanist funeral plan?
Your plans may be restricted by national coronavirus regulations. These regulations may:
- affect your location choice
- restrict the number of people allowed to attend
- specify hygiene protocols to follow
Please refer here (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic) to the government website, as these regulations are subject to change and depend on which region of the UK the funeral service is held.
Will a Humanist funeral be uncomfortable for religious family and friends?
A Humanist funeral is a moving and meaningful experience for all those in attendance. The focus is on the life of the deceased, and it is an opportunity to pay final respects. Though Humanist funerals do not reference religion, there is often an opportunity for quiet contemplation. Those who wish to, may use that time for their own silent prayers.
Can a Humanist funeral be held in a church?
Humanist funerals can be held at any venue the family choose, including a religious venue. However, this may not be in keeping with the values and beliefs of the deceased. In most cases, a secular venue would be chosen for a non-religious funeral.
At Fenix Funeral Directors, we’d be happy to meet with you or communicate in a way that is preferable for you, in order to find the venue most suitable to your needs.