FAQs for Funerals

Answers to your funeral questions

As we sail through life, don’t avoid rough waters, sail on because calm waters won’t make a skillful sailor.

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What is a humanist funeral?

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.

What happens at a humanist funeral?

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.

Where are humanist funerals held?

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.

How do you put a funeral ceremony together? 

The Celebrant 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.

Do you have a set script?

Absolutely not. I am proud that each funeral ceremony I help to create is unique and crafted to reflect the individual concerned, so as to ensure a fitting and sincere way of remembering them.

I’m not sure Dad saw himself as a humanist, but he definately wasn’t religious. Can we have a humanist funeral for him?

Absolutely. In fact, only a small number of my 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.

Why do people choose a humanist funeral?

Time and time again 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.

Some of the family are very religious and I don’t want them to be offended or feel excluded. Will a humanist funeral ceremony be okay?

Yes – and I know first hand that religious people find humanist funerals just as moving and meaningful as those who aren’t religious. I 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 can take a moment to pray.

I don’t really know any poems or prose and can’t imagine anyone wanting to read anything. 

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.

How long does a humanist funeral last?

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.

Do you allow any religious content?

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 sporting team. I am happy to include such content where they help reflect the person, but not as an act of worship.

I’d like to plan my own funeral. Can you help?

Yes. Many people want to make advance plans for their own funeral or memorial ceremony. And why not? If you’ve left clear instructions, you can be confident that you will get the funeral you have chosen, and also take a great deal of pressure off friends and family when the time comes.

How are you different from other celebrants?

Having faced the family deaths of my father and brother at such a young age I can see first hand how the funeral is such an integral part of the healing process. I am accredited, quality assured and regulated by a code of conduct and work with compassion and dignity.

Do you offer memorial services?

Yes. Due to the current Covid-19 situation a growing number of memorial services are held at a variety of venues. Sometimes this is for practical reasons; perhaps the person died overseas or a very intimate funeral was requested, or those could not attend due to the government guidelines on gatherings. 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.

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