Humanist Funerals

About Humanists

Humanists believe that this is the only life we have. In the absence of an afterlife, happiness, fulfilment and purpose come from living a moral and socially responsible life by putting the welfare and ethical treatment of all living creatures, particularly human beings, at the centre of decision making. Death, then, is the end to a person’s existence and the funeral is a chance to celebrate their life and to say a final goodbye.

Humanist Funeral Services

Humanist funeral ceremonies focus on the individual’s life, values, and achievements rather than religious beliefs. Inclusive, and tailored to reflect the unique personality of the person who has died, humanist funerals offer comfort and support to grieving families whilst respecting their non-religious or atheist beliefs.

Ideas and Inspiration for a Non-religious Funeral Ceremony

Here are some ideas for elements that can be incorporated into a Humanist funeral ceremony:

  • Incorporating personal stories – tributes and eulogies might include personal stories or highlight significant milestones in the person’s life. Share anecdotes that emphasise their unique qualities and their legacy and impact on others.
  • Favourite songs and music – include favourite songs or pieces of music. Music has a way of connecting people and can serve as a beautiful expression of love, memories and celebration of life.
  • Readings and poems – including readings, poems and quiet spaces within the service can help give people moments of reflection.
  • Symbolic gestures – symbolic gestures within a non-religious context can provide meaningful rituals. For example, lighting candles in remembrance or planting a tree as a symbol of growth and eternal life.
  • Encouraging attendee participation – creating an environment where those present feel comfortable sharing stories or thoughts about their relationship with the deceased can make for a heartfelt and memorable ceremony.
  • Reflecting individual beliefs – it is important to remember that non-religious funeral ceremonies offer flexibility in terms of structure, content, and format. Each ceremony should be tailored to reflect the individual’s beliefs, values, and wishes.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate someone’s life; it is about creating an authentic experience that honours their memory.

Humanist Celebrants

Humanist funerals are often conducted by a celebrant (also known as an ‘officiant’ or ‘humanist minister’). The celebrant will guide mourners through the process with compassion and understanding, ensuring that everyone feels supported during this difficult time.

As well as conducting the ceremony, a celebrant can assist in creating and organising it, helping with ideas on music selection and readings, giving advice on practical matters and helping you create a unique and personal occasion that will reflect your person’s life and personality.

Where to Hold a Humanist Funeral?

Humanist funerals are not tied to one particular building or location. There are a wide range of options and here are some of the most popular choices:

  • Specialist venues – most humanist funerals are held in crematoria, cemeteries, or woodland burial sites. It can be reassuring to be in a place that is designed for these types of services and which have the facilities and support in place.
  • Meaningful locations – some families hold the ceremony at home or in another meaningful location. This could be a favourite park, beach, or other place that holds sentimental value.
  • Public venues – Public venues such as community centres, village halls, or even pubs, clubs and restaurants. These spaces can allow for larger gatherings and many have catering facilities too.

The Funeral Reception or Wake

There is no set format for what happens after the funeral. Often there will be a funeral reception, where mourners gather at home or a local venue. Refreshments may be served, but you can do whatever feels right for you and the person you have lost. Alternatively, a memorial service may be held at a later date.

What to Wear to a Humanist Funeral

Humanist funerals tend to be less formal than religious services. There are no set requirements about what to wear, so mourners should be guided by the wishes of the family. 

Legal Requirements for Conducting a Humanist Funeral

There are no specific legal requirements for conduction and humanist funeral. In many countries, including the United Kingdom, individuals have the right to choose how they want their funeral ceremony to be conducted. As long as the necessary legal paperwork is completed (such as registering the death), families have considerable freedom in organising and arranging a personalised humanist funeral service that reflects the life, values and beliefs of the person who has died.

Acceptable Practices

Burial, cremation and donation of the body to science are all acceptable. 

There are often strict rules around burials in natural burial grounds, so check with your chosen site before embalming takes place.

How whiteballoon Can Help

Our Inspiration pages and Provider Directory can enable you to find the people and services that will help you to create a ceremony that is right for you and for those you love.

The whiteballoon free Planning Tools, including a personalised Ideas Folder, allow you to gather and share ideas and information.

Further Information

If you would like to find out more about Humanism and Humanist funerals, please visit:

Humanists UK
The Natural Death Centre

Scroll to Top