Funeral Ceremony – Religious or Non-Religious?

Depending on your religious beliefs, the funeral ceremony can take many different formats. There are no legal requirements for the form a funeral/memorial ceremony must take, and so once the death certificate and registration have taken place, it’s up to you to decide how to mark the committal and where. The majority of people in the UK still use a religious minister to conduct the funeral at the crematorium or burial ground, but increasingly so, secular/civil celebrants, or even family members are leading the way to some very personal and fitting farewells.

What type of Ceremony should you choose?

Each funeral should be unique, and there are many elements that can be included to remember the person who has died, such as allowing the mourners to express their grief, giving consolation to the mourners if this forms part of their beliefs or faith, and of course remembering and celebrating the life of the person who has died.

Many people find a ceremony that is established and familiar from their faith and/or cultural tradition extremely helpful and comforting. The deceased may have left instructions for the content of their funeral in their will or in an Advance Funeral Wishes document, so it is important to look for this information.

Talk to your funeral director who should help create the right ceremony for you. A good funeral director will be aware of all the issues such as timing and other practicalities that you need to bear in mind. They will also be aware of what is possible at your chosen venue, for example how many people can be accommodated, and whether there is an organist or whether recorded music can be played.

Religious Ceremonie

With so many religions practicing in the UK, it is usually easy for a funeral director to find the most appropriate faith leader and arrange the funeral with them. Make sure you tell the funeral director of any specific needs as not everyone is familiar with all the different denominations and variations of practice within the different faiths.

Most ministers will be familiar with issues of time and the practicalities of the funeral, but the funeral director will guide them as well as you about these matters.

If you are having hymns or religious readings, you can ask to see the actual text that will be spoken as there may be different translations/versions. Many hymns can be sung to different tunes, but the funeral director or minister of religion will be able to advise you. Many ministers will agree to incorporate a personal element into a funeral, such as recorded music or a non-religious reading. A period of silence as well as formal prayers may also be appropriate.

Non-Religious Secular Ceremonies

A growing number of people are finding that a non-religious / secular ceremony is an appropriate choice for them to make. These ceremonies are still conducted by professionally trained “celebrants”, but focus purely on the celebration of the life of the person concerned. They can still include a favourite hymn and/or prayer if desired (Civil), or no religious content at all (Humanist).

Civil Funerals

Civil Funeral Celebrants conduct non-religious ceremonies but more often, include some religious practice, i.e. a hymn and/or prayer. This type of ceremony reflects a rapidly increasing number of people whom wish to have a beautiful, unique and dignified funeral but do not support a wholly religious or wholly non-religious ceremony.

The ceremonies encompass the needs of the family involved by using various methods, including; Poetry, Special Music, Hymns, Prayers, Personalised Eulogy, The Lighting of Candles or Placing of Flowers, other speakers, readings or anything else appropriate to them.

The Celebrant can conduct the whole Ceremony, but also warmly encourages others to take part if they so wish. Civil funeral celebrants belong to the Institute of Civil Funerals and a list of them and their contact details can be found on the institute’s website.

The Institute of Civil Funerals, Suite 1, High Oak House, Collett Road, Ware, Hertfordshire SG12 7LY
Tel: 01920 898156 Email:

Humanist Funerals

The British Humanist Association offers completely secular ceremonies conducted by their humanist officiants. A Humanist ceremony is increasingly common, and is one with no religious content at all. It can be 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, and as with “traditional” funerals, friends, relatives and acquaintances can express their feelings and share their memories.

BHA, 1 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HD
Tel: 020 7079 3580

Alternatively, in some areas, individual freelance celebrants, from either a religious or secular background, offer to conduct bespoke ceremonies. They advertise with funeral directors or in the press and some families may know of them by word of mouth.

You can also find a selection of celebrants at

DIY Funeral

Alternatively just do it yourself. The is a wonderful charity full of advice of what you need to do if this is the path you choose. Or if you can follow this link if you would like to see a recent video diary from a lady called Wendii Miller, covering the diy burial of her mother.