What is a humanist funeral?

Unique tribute of a coffin being carried by mourners wearing colourful clothing and rainbow confetti being thrown.

A humanist funeral is a non-religious ceremony that focuses on the life the person has led, rather than a particular faith they may have had.

Humanist funerals follow a similar structure as a religious funeral, with readings, music and eulogies, but without the mention of a God or faith. Non-religious funerals can still feel meaningful and comforting, whilst respecting the views of the person who has died.

Here is our guide to planning a humanist funeral.

Why choose a humanist funeral?

If the person who has died wasn’t religious, then a humanist funeral might be the right choice. For many, it could feel hypocritical to have a religious ceremony if the person didn’t follow a faith. You might feel that a non-religious funeral best reflects what they would have wanted.

The service at a humanist funeral is unique, as it doesn’t need to follow a strict order. This can be a more sentimental way to pay tribute to your loved one, with your own personal touches.

Anyone can choose to have a humanist funeral. If you’d like to discuss arranging a humanist, or any other non-religious funeral for your loved one, please contact your local funeral director for further help and advice.

What happens at a humanist funeral?

A humanist funeral does not need to follow a set structure, but many services still choose to follow the format of traditional funerals. Typically, the memorial service will be before the cremation or burial.

The service can include readings, songs and a eulogy of the person who has died. You can choose what readings or songs to have at a humanist funeral service. Some people choose to read a favourite poem or excerpt from a book.

The main part of a humanist funeral service is the tribute to the person who has died. This’ll be read out by the celebrant, and will include information and anecdotes from the close family and friends.

Songs may also be played during the service, or performed by a musician.

Following the service, there could be some time for reflection or music might play as the group leaves the building. Again, this can vary depending on the organiser’s wishes.

Can you have hymns at a humanist funeral?

It is unusual to have hymns at a humanist funeral, due to the non-religious nature of the service.

Who leads a humanist funeral?

The person who leads the funeral service is known as a humanist celebrant. The celebrant will meet the family before the funeral, in order to get to know them and understand their wishes. They’ll then write a fitting eulogy of the person who has died, that'll be read at the funeral service. For help finding humanist funeral celebrants in your area, contact your local funeral director.

Where does a humanist funeral take place?

Humanist funerals can take place in a variety of locations. Typical places for a humanist funeral are crematoria, cemeteries and woodland burial sites. Other places could include hotels, village halls, gardens or any other place where people can gather and celebrate a person’s life.

What do you wear to a humanist funeral?

Whilst there are no set rules for what to wear at a humanist funeral, it's still likely to be a sombre occasion, so it’s good to dress respectfully. Darker colours are a safe bet, unless otherwise specified by the family.

Some families may ask the guests to dress in bright colours, to reflect the life and personality of the person who has died.

How long is a humanist funeral?

A humanist funeral service can be any length of time, but normally between 20 minutes to an hour. This will depend on the amount of readings and songs planned.

Humanist funeral ideas

Here are some ideas for what you could include in a humanist funeral service:

  • Play the favourite songs of the person who has died, on entry and exit from the service
  • Show a video montage of the person who has died, commemorating their life, whilst people pay their respects
  • Collect donations from the guests for a favourite charity or cause
  • Family and friends to read poems or excerpts from a favourite book

How much does a humanist funeral cost?

The cost of a humanist funeral will depend on the venue chosen for the service and whether cremation or burial is preferred. Cremations tend to be cheaper than burials, but again this varies based on location in the UK.

A humanist celebrant could charge between £150 and £300 for a service, so your funeral director will be able to look into your local options. For more help and information on humanist funeral costs, contact your local funeral directors.