What is a Humanist Funeral?

May 14, 2015

humanistFuneral services are changing and one of the biggest contributing factors is people’s perception of religion. Establishing whether the deceased was religious is one of the most important responsibilities for a funeral director. Having a humanist funeral service is a personal choice and an alternative to a religious or faith based service. Humanists see death as part of life’s cycle and the ceremonies are curated to celebrate the person who has passed away.

The ceremony is usually directed by a humanist funeral officer or qualified celebrants and will not feature religion. These people will work closely with the friends and family of the deceased to create a personal and genuinely meaningful funeral service. Largely, humanist funerals will focus on paying tribute to the recently deceased by celebrating their personality, speaking about their lives and the impact they had on friends and family.

The location for a humanist funeral service can be anywhere that is appropriate but must be followed by a burial or cremation at a cemetery, crematorium or designated burial ground. Woodland burials are becoming increasingly popular with people looking for somewhere more natural and beautiful to be laid to rest.

A typical humanist ceremony would include:

  • Welcoming music
  • Words of welcome
  • A non-religious description of life and death
  • Tributes or speeches about the life and personality of the deceased
  • Readings
  • A moment for reflection and private thoughts about the deceased
  • The committal (when the coffin is lowered or curtains are closed)
  • Closing thoughts and gratitude
  • Music as guests leave

The largest section of a humanist funeral is the tribute part of the ceremony where people are given the opportunity to speak openly about the deceased’s personality and achievements. Additionally, some may wish to speak about fond memories or recall favourite anecdotes. This section is usually orchestrated by the humanist funeral officer or celebrant and if requested by the family they can also speak on peoples behalf.

Although humanist funeral services do not focus on religion, humanists are aware that religious people may be part of the congregation. Including a reflective section during the service gives everyone the chance to pay their respects in their own way, whether that be through praying silently or thinking about a shared memory.

Questions are sometimes raised by concerned religious family members who are worried that a service without religion is not appropriate. The argument is that a funeral service should be organised to suit the person who has passed away. If no specific requests have been made by the deceased then the people making the funeral arrangements will generally respect the choices the recently departed made during their lives.

If you are making funeral arrangements of your own or for a loved one please do not hesitate to get in touch with Cravens through our website or through our 24 hour telephone service: 0151 228 3900.

For more information on modern funerals, click here to read our article on how funerals are changing.