‘Thank you for conducting Lauren’s memorial and burial. You were such a source of support to us all we will never forget it.’
Dave & Helen, 2020
Is a humanist funeral right for us?
If your loved one had non-religious beliefs, then a humanist funeral might be the right choice for a celebration of their life and values.
Who leads a humanist funeral?
A humanist celebrant leads a humanist funeral: we get called many things… ‘the minister’, the ‘non-religious vicar’ but a celebrant is just simply someone who writes and leads ceremonies.
What is a humanist funeral like?
Each humanist funeral is unique, as it doesn’t need to follow a set structure, but many families choose for the service to follow quite a traditional format. The order of service could be:
- Introductory music;
- Words of welcome;
- Thoughts on life and death from a non-religious perspective;
- The tribute – an outline of the life and personality of the person who has died;
- Personal eulogy from family and/or friends;
- Readings of poetry and prose;
- Reflection – a few moments for private thoughts about your loved one, often accompanied by music (religious guests may take this opportunity for silent prayer here);
- The farewell – when the curtains are closed (or the coffin is lowered at a burial);
- Closing words – including thanks on your behalf;
- Final music.
As a celebrant, I often retell the story of your loved one’s life on behalf before family members or friends read their own eulogies – but I can read your words out if you feel unable to.
How long is a humanist funeral?
A humanist funeral service can vary in length, but is normally between 20 and 40 minutes long depending on the number of readings and songs you’d like to include. (If the service is to be held at a crematorium, you’d need to let your Funeral Director know if you wanted to have a ceremony that is longer than 20-30 minutes – they can book a double slot for you, subject to availability.)
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, pub function rooms, village halls, gardens or any other place where people can gather and celebrate a person’s life.
What do people wear to a humanist funeral?
There are no set rules for what to wear at a humanist funeral: some prefer to keep it traditional; some families ask guests to dress in bright colours, to reflect the life and personality of the person who has died.
Can we 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. However, if there is one that has great significance to you – part of your family history going way back, for example – then it would be appropriate to include it, introducing it by sharing this context and family meaning.
Most people who choose a non-religious funeral want to include music that is personal to their loved one, whether that is a Bob Marley song, boogie woogie, a piece performed live… or (as in the case of my father-in-law) several minutes of the sound of his favourite racing car! (Ken LOVED that sound, he used to persuade anyone and everyone to sit down and listen to the recording when he was alive.)
Can we have prayers at a humanist funeral?
Again, if a family have decided that a humanist funeral is right for their loved one, it would be unusual to include prayers due to the non-religious nature of the service. Humanist funerals are inclusive, however, and I will make sure to invite anyone with religious belief to say a silent prayer, if they wish, during the pause for reflection.
There are a large number of poignant, secular readings that can bring meaning to the ceremony – including ideas from The Funeral Guide, Dignity Funerals, examples from literature…or even a couple of geeky readings.
If it is important for you and your family to include prayers or acts of worship in a personalised ceremony, I do know some wonderful local independent celebrants who would love to work with you – please let me know if you’d like me to put you in touch with them.
Can we include some more creative ideas?
Of course! I’ll fully support you on including special touches to the ceremony, always mindful to keep to any time limits you have at the crematorium or other venue. You might want to have some live music or singing, ask family or friends to read poems, excerpts from a favourite book or song lyrics, show a video montage of your loved one, or collect donations for a favourite charity or cause. (For now, covid-restrictions prevent singing unfortunately).
What are your fees?
The cost of a simple humanist funeral ceremony on Merseyside is £199, which includes the following:
- An extensive family planning meeting where we can chat about your loved one, their life, their values, and what they have passed on to you. (These are currently all held online, over the phone or socially-distanced in an outdoor space.)
- Sharing of secular readings and poems that you might consider to be read out during the ceremony.
- All my travel costs across Merseyside.
- A completely personal ceremony warmly-delivered on the day.
- A pdf version of the ceremony script as a keepsake for you to print or share.
If you would like me to work with you to create a longer ceremony (say, over an hour) or within the Northwest but outside Merseyside, my fees would be between £225 and £275. I will, of course, give you a no-commitment quote upfront so there are no hidden fees.
‘I loved how personal the script was… it was clear that Sophie had taken her time with putting our script together to make sure she got every detail right, everyone told me how much they loved the ceremony.’ Kev, 2018
[I’m afraid that, due to other work commitments, I’m currently unavailable for funerals until September 2021]