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Humanist Funeral Ceremony

Everything You Need To Know To Celebrate A Humanist Funeral Ceremony

Unlike a religious service, a humanist funeral is a ceremony that is non-religious and focuses on a person’s life rather than their faith.

A humanist funeral is comparable to a religious funeral in that the structure is similar. There are readings from loved ones, there is music (usually that the deceased loved), and eulogies given, but with no mention of faith or god. These non-religious celebrations are still full of meaning and comfort, as those who cherished the one that has past, share stories of their life and what they loved. 

A non-religious person may give their wishes to receive a humanist ceremony, or you may decide on behalf of your loved one that a civil funeral is best, at which time you can look into the Humanist Society for guidance and information.

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Why A Humanist Funeral?

One of the biggest reasons to hold a humanist funeral is if the loved one that passed was non-religious. To hold a religious service for someone non-religious, may feel like the wrong choice to have a religious ceremony, especially in a church, if the person did not have faith. 

A non-religious funeral may better embody the spirit of the person that is gone, and you may feel that cheerfully remembering them without the mention of god, is a better way to represent who they were.

A humanist service is different from a religious ceremony in that it doesn’t have the order that comes with a religious service. There is more freedom to pay recognition to the deceased and give others a chance to say what they meant to them. It also offers the freedom to remember the person with a more upbeat celebration rather than a sorrowful goodbye.

What Happens At A Humanist Funeral?

There is no right or wrong way to structure a humanist funeral, as it is usually more free-flowing than a religious ceremony. Like a religious ceremony, there will be a cremation or burial after the service, with stories and readings by the deceased’s loved ones. 

The major difference with a humanist funeral is that you can choose other readings instead of reading compilations from the Bible. These include stories of the passed loved one, or poems and passages from books that they loved or others have chosen to remember them by.

The celebration is solely for the departed, and the focus is on their life, and the impact they made on others. Some mourners will share touching stories, while others will tell funny tales.

If the one that died loved music, there may be a dance that follows the ceremony, or a casual gathering for loved ones to reminisce. These arrangements and decisions are made by the one that is hosting or putting together the service, and they will let you know as the ceremony goes on.

Who Leads The Funeral Of A Humanist?

A humanist celebrant is the one who traditionally leads the funeral service and meets with the person organising the ceremony to come up with a funeral plan. 

The celebrant will speak to or meet with the family before the funeral. This is to understand a bit about the deceased and get a clear idea of what the family wishes for their departed. The family will write a eulogy that is fitting and read it at the service. 

The family will discuss the sequence of events with the humanist celebrant to ensure everything goes smoothly and nothing is missed. In a trying time, a family may forget to say or do something they had planned to commemorate the deceased; the humanist celebrant is there to help.

Where Do You Hold A Humanist Funeral?

There are several places where you can hold a humanist funeral. The most common places for a humanist funeral are crematoria, cemetery, or woodland burial sites. Some other options include a hotel, hall, beach, garden, or anywhere that a group can gather to celebrate the person’s life that has passed.

People have even been known to hold a humanist funeral in their backyard, if there is room, and have a more casual and relaxing environment for the deceased’s friends and family to mingle and tell stories.

What Do You Typically Wear To A Humanist Funeral?

A humanist funeral may be without religion or a dress code, but it is still a sad time, so be sure to dress accordingly and with consideration. Wearing darker colours and conservative clothes is a safe bet to ensure you are respectful.

Some families may ask guests to dress in bright colours that reflect the personality of the deceased, in which case, flower prints or bold colours would be appropriate. If you are the one that is planning the funeral and you are worried that some may find exuberant colours offensive; don’t worry. If your loved one was full of life and charisma, those that loved them will get it.

What Is The Length Of A Humanist Funeral?

A humanist funeral can be very quick – about 20 to 30 minutes – but more likely around an hour. This all depends on the readings and speeches given and what the family’s wishes are.

Typically, the longest part of a humanist funeral is the gathering afterwards; somewhat like a wake, but far more casual. 

What Is The Cost Of A Humanist Funeral?

Like any funeral, the main cost will be whether the deceased will be buried or cremated. The cost for cremation is much less than burial in a casket. The price also varies on location and where the body is taken.

The humanist celebrant may charge anywhere from £300 – £600 for their services. The funeral director will be able to suggest someone to you if you don’t already have a humanist celebrant in mind.

Another expense might be if you are to hold a gathering afterwards with food and beverages. The cost will depend on whether there is catering or not and if you are served appetisers or a more formal lunch or dinner.

As with any funeral, cost management is important, and setting a budget before planning begins is wise; this will ensure things don’t get out of hand.

What Are Some Ideas For A Humanist Funeral?

There are so many ways that you can incorporate the memory of the deceased into a humanist funeral. Some ideas you can do to bring their life to light are:

  • Play their favourite music while guests are arriving or leaving the service
  • Create and show a video or photo montage of the deceased, or have a photo album full of photos from their childhood through their whole life
  • Have a donation box so that people can donate to their favourite charity
  • Children can read from a book the deceased read to them, or sing a song they once sang together
  • Recall some of the hobbies or passions that the deceased had
  • Have a more casual gathering after the ceremony in which you play their favourite sport or game.

Humanist funerals are growing in popularity each year. They are a way to celebrate a person without labelling them with religion or placing value on faith. While most still prefer a religious ceremony, non-religious people are becoming more aware of this non-secular celebration.

Most people will have given some indication of their final wishes, but if you know that they are non-religious, a humanist funeral might be the perfect way to remember them and celebrate their memory.