Non-Religious Funerals and Memorials

Posted: 14/02/2018

Whilst the majority of funeral services in the UK are still traditional/Christian, many people who are not part of any organised religion or spirituality naturally are opting for a non-religious funeral service. In fact, there are a significant and rising number of non-religious funeral services taking place in the UK, reflecting the change in society in Britain.

According to the last census, the number of people in the UK who consider themselves to not have a religion was as high as 14 million – an amount which pretty much doubled from 2001 where around 7 million people said they were non-religious.

It seems proper to organise a non-religious service for someone who lived their life without the influence or belief in any given religion. In some cases, non-religious people ask not to have a funeral for them after they died and this may be written in instructions which you should always honour. However, if a person has died without leaving any instructions or details regarding the funeral ceremony which the deceased had wanted then it is more than acceptable to organise a non-religious service in their honour.

Purpose of Non-Religious Ceremonies

When comparing a non-religious ceremony to a religious ceremony, clear differences become apparent. A non-religious ceremony does not follow any kind of ritual or ascribe to any kind of particular prayers, hymns or readings. The purpose of having a non-religious ceremony, like with a traditional ceremony, is to acknowledge the death and celebrate the life of a person who has passed. However, a religious ceremony also places importance on God and the religious rituals that go along with a traditional service; a non-religious service does not ask the members attending to partake in this kind of worship on the side.

Many families prefer the personalised nature that a non-religious ceremony offers as they tend to be more focused on the individual rather than on God. Humanist funerals are designed to solely focus on the person who has died and tributes are paid to the connections they had made throughout their lifetime and the way they lived their life.

Order of the Ceremony

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As mentioned, there is no set agenda for a non-religious ceremony, but there are some common aspects. But, you are pretty much free to do whatever you want with a non-religious ceremony in terms of the content of the service and so on.

A welcome message is usually spoken by a member of the family or an extremely close friend. This is typically followed by more readings, whether it be a poem, extract from a favourite book or it can even be from a religious text – there are no rules! The ceremony is often closed in a similar fashion, with a word of thanks from the close family of the deceased.

Typically, music plays a big role in a non-religious ceremony. Again, the music does not need to be religious but it should still be respectful and appropriate for all ages who may be attending the funeral.

A period of silence or private thought is also often observed, this gives people who are religious in the congregation time to say their prayers for the deceased.

A Celebrant

One of the challenges associated with holding a non-religious service is writing, conducting and/or sourcing the material for the ceremony – with a religious service, there are specific things which will be read out so you would not have to think about this. Some families are perfectly happy to take on this responsibility. However, understandably, some might find this too overwhelming and employ the services of a celebrant. A celebrant, who is also known as an officiant, is someone who specialises in conducting and preparing for the funeral service where there are to be no close links to religion as part of the ceremony. Whilst the celebrant is an important part, the family still have full reign and can have as much input into the entire process as they wish.

Once you have chosen a celebrant, they will communicate with the close family and friends of the deceased in order to get a picture of the person’s life and their personality as a whole so that these factors can be best reflected as part of the service. Since a celebrant is well trained and experienced, he or she will also be able to make suggestions for the service which may be things the family had not have thought of.

If you have chosen to seek the services of a funeral director, it is usually up to them to get in touch with a celebrant on your behalf. For more information on getting in touch with a celebrant on your own, contact the British Humanist Association.

Funeral Insurance

If you are interested in taking out funeral insurance, whether it be for a traditional, religious or non-religious service, we strongly recommend you look into it. The way it works is funeral insurance allows you to look ahead to the future; to cover and plan your funeral costs in an efficient, affordable and timely manner, whether this entails burial or cremation.