Although funerals have traditionally been held at religious establishments or led by a religious leader, many families are now choosing to move away from tradition, instead choosing a non-religious funeral service to remember their loved one. A non-religious funeral allows families and friends to pay tribute to the deceased and celebrate their life in a service without hymns, prayers and religious readings.
Can you have a non-religious funeral?
Funerals can be religious or non-religious depending on the beliefs of the person who has died – it's all down to personal choice.
Funerals in the UK can be very flexible, although there are some guidelines and rules that vary from establishment to establishment. The only law that governs funerals comes from the Births and Deaths Registration Act, which states that the body must be disposed of in the correct way - which means there isn’t actually any legal obligation to even have a funeral. You can read more about whether a funeral is the right option for you and your loved one in our do you have to have a funeral? article.
With less than half of the UK population* now recognising themselves as religious, an increasing number of people are now choosing non-religious funerals to say goodbye to their loved ones.
What happens at a non-religious funeral?
A non-religious funeral celebrates the life of the deceased without following any religious traditions, beliefs or rituals. They are usually very personal and aim to celebrate the life of the loved one.
A non-religious funeral can contain a choice of music, non-religious readings and personal tributes, just like a religious funeral. The main difference is there will be no prayers, hymns or religious readings or reference to an afterlife included in the service.
Where can a non-religious funeral take place?
A non-religious funeral service can be held at any venue happy to accommodate them, suggestions for possible venues include:
- Cemetery chapel
- Woodland or natural burial site
- Community centre or parish hall
- Your own home
Who conducts a non-religious funeral?
A traditional, religious funeral is often lead by a funeral is a minister or someone of the faith. However, there are many options if you decide to have a non-religious funeral.
Anyone can in fact conduct a non-religious funeral service. This could include family members or friends of the deceased, or a non-religious funeral celebrant.
We’ve provided more information on this question in our guide ‘who can perform a funeral service’.
Non-religious funeral options
If your loved one didn’t have any religious beliefs then your choice of funeral won’t be limited as it may be with various religions and cultures. There are many alternatives to a traditional religious funeral, and both burial and cremation options will be available to you should you want to arrange a non-religious funeral.
Non-religious funeral options include:
A humanist funeral is both non-religious, and non-spiritual; they focus on the life the person led, the relationships they forged and the legacy they left behind. The person who died does not need to have recognised themselves as a ‘humanist’ to have a humanist funeral – most humanist funerals do not talk about humanism at all. This is therefore one of the easiest options if the person who has passed away wasn’t religious but would still like the common elements of a funeral with a service delivered by an experienced public speaker.
A humanist funeral includes a non-religious funeral service, led by a person known as a ‘celebrant’ and focuses on the person and their life, rather than religious readings or rites. A humanist funeral can be much like a traditional funeral service, just with non-religious music and poems instead of hymns and prayers. The heart of a humanist funeral is the tribute section, which typically lasts up to 15 minutes. Celebrants work with the family of the person who has passed away to create a unique and meaningful funeral.
Learn more about arranging a humanist funeral.
If handing over the important job of leading your loved one’s funeral service to someone who didn’t know the person (such as a non-religious celebrant) doesn’t sound appealing, then leading the funeral yourself with friends or family members could be an excellent option. Family-led funerals can also be a much more personal way for loved ones to say goodbye and gives everyone a chance to get involved if they want to.
A great way of holding a family-led funeral but still getting the correct guidance and support is by using our Attended Funeral service. An Attended Funeral is organised over the phone by our funeral arrangers who will be on hand to help you make the necessary arrangements. You will have the freedom to arrange a funeral service in a crematorium chapel. As with any funeral, you can include music, readings and eulogies in the ceremony. We’ve listed some popular non-religious funeral readings and popular funeral songs you may want to include in the service.
With the funeral service carefully arranged by you, we will take care of the essential and practical elements of the funeral, allowing you to arrange the service as you wish. Attended Funerals are ideal if you’re keen to keep things personal, but aren’t comfortable arranging the whole funeral yourself.
You may find our ‘how to plan a funeral service’ guide helpful should you choose this funeral option.
You can arrange an Attended Funeral with Simplicity from £1,895.
If you don’t want any fuss once you’re gone, or if the person who has passed away didn’t want a funeral ceremony or service at all, then a direct cremation (or direct burial) could be the best option. This type of non-religious funeral takes place without any mourners present and without a service beforehand. A direct cremation is a good option if any kind of ceremony, whether it is religious or non-religious, is unwanted.
After a Simplicity direct cremation, your loved one’s ashes will be scattered in our gardens of remembrance or can be returned to the family upon request, at an additional cost. Many families opt for this simple funeral option alongside a memorial service or celebration of life in honour of their loved one, at a time and place away from the crematorium, often with their loved one’s ashes present. You may alternatively wish to scatter your loved one's ashes.
Our direct cremation service costs from just £995, and is available throughout the whole of mainland Great Britain.
Arranging a non-religious funeral with Simplicity
Arranging a non-religious funeral with Simplicity is a simple, straightforward process. Most of the arrangements can be made over the telephone by our expert team. You will not have to visit a funeral home or need several appointments with a funeral director.
Unlike a traditional funeral, our funerals take place without a procession beforehand, so there is no requirement for costly extras such as a hearse or limousines. The funeral will take place at one of our preferred crematoria, local to the place of rest.
Our funeral services allow you the freedom and flexibility to celebrate the life of your loved one in your own way.
Contact us to arrange a non-religious funeral for your loved one. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so we’re always here when you need us. Alternatively, you may find our share your funeral wishes form helpful, should you wish to inform your family of your own wishes for a non-religious funeral in the future.