A humanist funeral is a funeral that celebrates the life of someone who has died, the life they led and the relationships they forged in their lifetime, without mentioning religion or a god.
If you're looking to arrange a humanist funeral for a loved one or would like to learn more so you can plan ahead for your own humanist funeral, this article will help answer your questions.
In this article, we’ll cover:
What is a humanist funeral?
What happens at a humanist funeral service?
Humanist funeral readings and songs
Where can you hold a humanist funeral?
How much does a humanist funeral cost?
How to find a humanist funeral celebrant
Planning ahead for your own humanist funeral
A humanist funeral is a non-religious ceremony that focuses on the life the person led, rather than a particular faith they may have belonged to or followed.
Instead of a religious leader, a humanist funeral is typically led by a humanist celebrant, family member or close friend of the deceased. A humanist funeral can include songs, words, music and other tributes that reflect the life of the person who has died but won’t include hymns or prayers.
Humanism is a philosophical belief that some people live by. However, the person who has died does not need to have been a ‘humanist’ to have a humanist funeral – in fact, most humanist funerals do not mention humanism.
If the person who has died did not have any strong religious beliefs, then a humanist funeral might be a good option for their funeral.
The main difference between any other funeral and a humanist funeral is the content of the funeral service.
Every humanist funeral is unique and created to mark the life of the person who has died. Although there is no set structure, most humanist funerals will follow a similar order of service to a traditional religious funeral, with non-religious or humanist readings and music instead of religious prayers and hymns.
We’ve outlined an example of how a humanist funeral service might be organised, but you do not need to include any or all of these elements:
- Entry music
- Words of welcome from the celebrant or person leading the service. This may include thoughts on life and death from a non-religious perspective
- A tribute to the deceased – much like a eulogy, a tribute will be read by the celebrant, a family member or friend which outlines their personality and the life they led
- Readings and poetry read by family or friends, or the leader of the service
- A few moments for private thoughts, in silence or with music playing in the background
- The curtains around the coffin are closed or the coffin is lowered into the ground
- Closing words by the celebrant, including a message of thank you from the deceased's family
- Final music is played as mourners leave
If a funeral celebrant is going to be leading the service, they will be able to guide you through the various options and together you can plan a service, entirely fitting to your loved one.
Humanist funeral readings and songs don’t have to be funeral themed, or even sad. You could even choose your loved one’s favourite song, poem or a reading from their favourite book.
If you are looking for inspiration, some examples of readings often chosen for a humanist funeral include:
- ‘Funeral Blues’ by W.H. Auden
- ‘Wild Geese’ by Mary Oliver
- ‘When I am Dead, My Dearest’ by Christina Rossetti
- ‘Life Well Lived’ by Unknown Author
- ‘The Dash’ by Linda Ellis
For funeral songs, you could consider:
- ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong
- ‘That’s Life’ by Frank Sinatra
- ‘All You Need is Love’ by the Beatles
- ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum
- ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ by Lou Reed
As with a traditional funeral, there are options for both burial and cremation. Instead of a burial at a church, a cemetery, woodland or natural burial site may be more appropriate for a humanist funeral.
If the body is to be cremated, then the service will typically take place at a crematorium.
The cost of a humanist funeral will depend on the funeral provider you choose to arrange the funeral. The average funeral in the UK costs £4,184*, so you should expect to pay something around this figure if you choose to arrange the funeral with a traditional funeral director.
However, at Simplicity, we do things slightly differently. We have removed some of the more expensive costs of a funeral, such as a hearse, limousines and teams of pallbearers, which means we can provide our funeral services for much less than a traditional funeral director. We allow you the flexibility and freedom to celebrate the life of your loved one in your own way. If for you, that is a humanist funeral service, our Attended Funeral will suit your needs.
Our Attended Funeral costs from £1,895, and includes all of the essential elements of a funeral including cremation fees, doctor’s fees, a simple coffin, transportation of the deceased in a specialised funeral vehicle and care at our mortuary facilities, as well as a full-length slot in crematorium chapel with a service arranged by the family.
This gives you the opportunity to plan a humanist service fitting to your loved one’s life. You will have the freedom to choose the ceremonial format, music, visual tributes and the selection of a celebrant as you would with a traditional funeral.
Instead of visiting a Funeral Home, the funeral arrangements can be made over the telephone with help from our team of funeral professionals who are available 24/7. The funeral will take place at one of our preferred crematoria local to the place of rest. On the day of the funeral, a chapel assistant will be present to ensure the smooth-running order of the day.
Along with the cost of the funeral itself, there is also the cost of the celebrant to consider.
A funeral celebrant will be able to help you to plan the funeral service in honour of your loved one.
The easiest way to find a humanist celebrant to lead the funeral service is on the Humanists UK website, using their find a celebrant search facility. Just enter your postcode and you will be provided with a list of UK accredited Humanist celebrants in your area. You may want to contact a few celebrants, to enquire about their availability as well as cost. A typical humanist funeral celebrant will charge between £150 and £280 to deliver a service.
The celebrant will meet with you before the funeral to find out more about the person who has died and plan the service accordingly.
You could alternatively plan and lead the service yourself.
A Simplicity Cremations Prepaid Funeral Plan allows you to plan and pay for your funeral now, so you can protect your family from the financial pressures of arranging a funeral when the time comes, as well as ensuring your funeral is carried out according to your wishes.
If you have specific wishes, such as a humanist funeral service, it is important you document this choice. You might want to think about the music you would like played, and the poems and readings you would like to be read. If you would like your funeral service to be led by a humanist celebrant, you should also specify this.
Learn more about our Prepaid Funeral Plans.
We can help you to arrange a funeral for your loved, complete with a family-led humanist funeral service. Contact us today for more information or to start the arrangement process.
*SunLife (2021), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2021