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Guide to Non-Religious Funerals

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Traditionally, funerals would have been held in a church and included hymns, prayers, and other religious elements. However, increasingly, people are moving away from such types of funeral service and choosing to celebrate the life of a loved one differently.

A non-religious funeral is often chosen when the deceased didn’t practise any specific type of formal religion. It’s also the most appropriate option if the deceased was a humanist or atheist. 

There are no historical guidelines and traditions. The format tends to be dictated by the deceased person’s wishes or by their family.

In this article, we will look at what a non-religious funeral entails and how to plan one.  

What is a non-religious funeral called?

It’s commonplace for all religions to have traditions and rituals for honouring the dead and helping families handle their grief. However, if a person is not religious, it’s still essential for them to find a fitting way to remember a departed loved one and say goodbye.

There are a variety of alternative funerals you can have in the UK, such as DIY, atheist funerals, humanist, and non-religious funerals. Even direct cremation can be considered as an alternative funeral.

A non-religious funeral is a ceremony that honours the deceased but is not tied with any traditions, rituals, or beliefs of any particular religion. Many of the same elements can be included, such as readings from loved ones, eulogies, and music. It is often also a celebration of the life that the deceased person lived, their personality, and achievements as a way to honour them.

Can you have a non-religious funeral?

Something else that has become more commonplace is to separate the funeral into two halves. Treating the funeral and farewell ceremony as two completely separate events opens up a range of different options. 

It also provides several benefits for loved ones. For example, it gives them time to consider the type of ceremony and come to terms with the loss. This, in turn, makes planning and attending a celebration something that’s not quite so painful. A unique send-off also means everyone can be invited, including children and pets.

Who can officiate a non-religious funeral?

For a religious funeral, it would generally be a vicar or priest who conducts the service. However, if a loved one didn’t have any religious beliefs and you decide to arrange a non-religious funeral, there are several options for someone to officiate at the funeral.

Funeral celebrants can conduct both religious and non-religious funerals, and they’ll be able to help you create the order of service. If you want to make the funeral a more personal occasion, you also have the option of asking a family member or close friend of the deceased to lead the service.

A humanist celebrant is someone who writes and conducts humanist or non-religious ceremonies. They will help you plan a ceremony that focuses on the person who has died and the life they led, rather than the idea of an afterlife or on religion.  

Non-religious funeral venues

The venue for a non-religious funeral service could be anywhere you choose. Here are some ideas of where you could hold it:

  • Cemetery chapel
  • Crematorium
  • Community centre
  • Garden
  • Public park
  • Woodland burial ground
  • Hotel
  • Your own home

If you’re planning a wake or memorial service after the funeral service, the list of possible venues can also include:

  • Social clubs
  • Sports clubs
  • Pubs  

Overview of the non-religious funeral ceremony

What happens at a non-religious funeral ceremony depends on the person who died and the people organising the funeral. However, it’s common for it to follow a non-religious funeral service outline similar to the following: 

  • Opening statement: The non-religious funeral celebrant welcomes the guests and sets the tone to reflect on what it means to celebrate life and say goodbye.
  • A eulogy or tribute: The celebrant or a close family member reads a tribute or eulogy that covers the life and character of the person who has died.
  • A moment for reflection: The celebrant calls for a moment’s silence for thought.
  • Music and readings: Friends and family stand up to give readings, and music is chosen that reflects on the person who has died. It could be a favourite artist, music genre, or a group they belonged to. 

Non-religious funeral poems and readings

Words are an important outlet to show your admiration and grief, so it’s critical you choose wisely when planning a loved one’s funeral. Finding non-religious funeral readings can be a challenge, but there are more options if you turn to poetry. Here are a few examples:

  • Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
  • Death Is Nothing at All by Henry Scott-Holland
  • I Carry Your Heart With Me by EE Cummings

If you want to avoid poems, there are many other options for non-religious readings for funerals. For example, why not combine memorable quotes from the deceased, or create a reading based on a catchphrase your loved one used? This can form a compelling and thought-provoking tribute. 

Music for non-religious funerals

Funeral hymns have had a part to play in ceremonies for hundreds of years but are not necessarily appropriate. The choice of music for a non-religious service is a very personal decision. An excellent place to start is with a favourite song or songs of the deceased. Everyone has a favourite piece of music that they feel represents them wholly and originally.

If you need some ideas, consider one of the following popular choices for non-religious songs for funerals:

  • Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Monty Python
  • My Way by Frank Sinatra
  • Angels by Robbie Williams
  • My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion
  • Time to Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli

Non-religious funeral service ideas

An alternative funeral, such as a non-religious funeral service, provides many opportunities to personalise the service in whatever way you see fit. There are many ways you can remember your loved one’s life story that is unique.

  • Alternative funeral transport: An alternative mode of transport or hearse can be a fitting tribute for someone who has passed away. A horse-drawn hearse, fire engine, motorcycle and sidecar, or campervan are all examples of unique modes of funeral transport.
  • Funeral dress code: There’s no reason why you can’t decide on an alternative to the traditional funeral attire that tends to be black formal clothing. Ask guests to wear bright and vibrant colours or stick to one particular colour that was the deceased favourite.
  • Alternative coffins: A relatively new trend is to have colourful and picture coffins. Take inspiration from their favourite sport, a personal photograph, or a loved one’s favourite place to visit.
  • Charitable donations: This is a meaningful way to remember the life of a loved one. There may be a specific charity or cause that was important to the deceased. 
  • A memorial ceremony: This can be held anywhere, such as at home, in the garden, in a park or woodland, or at the beach. 

Arranging a non-religious funeral

You can arrange a funeral by calling Pure Cremation today. We can take care of your loved one’s cremation, and when we return the ashes to you, you can arrange a simple memorial service or celebration of life that’s perfect for you and your family.