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Beyond Religion: 4 Practical Ideas for Creating a Non-Religious Funeral Ceremony


Beyond Religion: 4 Practical Ideas for Creating a Non-Religious Funeral Ceremony


For those who prefer a non-religious service, it can be challenging to come up with creative ways to honour their loved one's life. In this article, we will explore some of the unique ways to personalise a non-religious funeral and give a heartfelt tribute to the person who has passed away.

Losing a loved one is never easy, and planning a non-religious funeral can feel especially overwhelming as there are no guidelines or tried and trusted procedures like there are with traditional religious funerals. However, personalising a funeral so that it honours, respects and celebrates the life of the person who has died often provides a much needed sense of closure and healing for everyone and it can add a special touch that makes it even more memorable.

Before we dive into ways to personalise a non-religious funeral let’s start with understanding a little more about the purpose and need for funerals.


Funerals, whether it be religious or non-religious, are a way to respect, honour and celebrate a life; to mourn someone’s passing.

They are a way to say goodbye as well as an opportunity to express your love and appreciation for the person who has died.

Non-religious funerals are not tied to any particular religion. They don’t have to take place in a church or chapel.They are a celebration of the life of a loved one and a recognition of how important they were to those they leave behind. These events  help mourners express their grief, acknowledge the importance of the person who has died and the part they played in their lives, and then say a final farewell. 

Use this as a guideline when planning a non-religious funeral to ensure you plan a beautiful way to honour the memory of your loved one.


While some funeral homes maintain a subdued and solemn environment, with attendees dressed in black and hesitant to express their emotions, there has been a shift towards more celebratory funerals. These gatherings embrace vibrant attire and encourage open displays of grief, honouring the life of the deceased. Regardless of religious affiliation, funeral directors typically oversee both secular and spiritual ceremonies, facilitating the desired ambiance and arrangements for the bereaved.

Non religious ceremonies have no set traditions for mourners on how to dress, or how to remember a loved one. You are free to arrange an alternative funeral. The type of funeral can be specifically tailored to celebrate your loved one's life. 

Everything can be personalised, from readings to the choice of location for the final farewell. If these feel more suited to your beliefs, or more appropriate for your loved one, it’s simple to plan and  make happen. Let’s look at 4 ways you can personalise a non-religious funeral.

1. Make the service unique with a professional celebrant

A certified professional celebrant from the Association of Independent Celebrants UK, is a person who is able to create a personalised and unique funeral ceremony at any chosen venue.

Choosing a professional celebrant to give a celebration of life service is a fitting way to create a unique memorial service to honour the life of your loved one.

You can choose a celebrant you feel would be right for your funeral service. Someone who you can connect with and relate to. Celebrants all have different styles, personalities and talents, so you are free to select someone appropriate. 

Celebrants can help you really personalise the funeral service to make it a unique and comforting experience. They can provide personalised readings and specific rituals that reflect the beliefs, values, and culture of the person who has died.

If your loved one had a favourite, song, reading, hobby or sport, your celebrant can include reference to it or even perform it in the ceremony. 

Celebrants can help you plan a more personalised memorial. Many are happy to follow any dress code or special costume theme that you have chosen so that they really become part of the funeral service. 

Celebrants will read your loved one's favourite poem or dress up in team colours if your loved one was a football fan or maybe even sing a tribute to a loved one. The options are limitless.


With an independent celebrant you can also have a blend of religious or spiritual and non-religious content if you wish. Many families opt for a largely non-religious service but just choose to include a prayer, hymn, or blessing as well – depending on the outlook of the deceased and their family.

Sophie Easton

Media & Policy Manager at the Association of Independent Celebrants (AOIC) 

Sophie Easton 

2. Hold an eco-friendly funeral service

Holding an eco-friendly funeral service is a great way to honour the memory of a loved one who respected and loved Gaia. If someone has spent their whole life recycling and striving to make the world more sustainable, then it makes sense to plan an eco-friendly service to celebrate their life.

There are so many ways to turn a funeral ceremony into an eco-friendly funeral service. So let's discuss 3 unique funeral ideas for an eco-friendly celebration of life.


  • Alternative burial grounds

Alternative burial grounds have sprung up across the UK in the last decade or so. There are now some truly beautiful places in which you can be buried or have your ashes buried. 

Alternative burial grounds all respect nature and focus on conserving the environment. Some are in national parks or designated areas of natural beauty.

You can find a list of natural burial grounds here. 

They have strict rules about the type of coffin or urn that can be used, as well as what additional items that can be put in a coffin. Some sites offer additional options such as tree planting, memorial benches etc. as an additional way to remember your loved one. This is definitely something to consider, as planting a tree provides a lasting tribute to a loved one.

Planting a tree in memory of the deceased is a way to replace one life with another form of life. 

This is especially fitting if your loved one was known for having a strong connection to nature. Creating a living memorial which incorporates the values that were important to your loved one is a respectful way to say farewell and makes for a perfect non-religious funeral.


  • Eco-friendly coffins

Eco-friendly coffins made from sustainable products like English willow or recycled cardboard are a fitting way to say goodbye. ThinkWillow offers a wide selection of eco-friendly coffins which can be delivered direct to the funeral home, your home or other selected location.

People choose environmentally friendly coffins from ThinkWillow not only because they save money but also because they are guaranteed a quality, ethical product. This is really important if your loved one was environmentally conscious and had strong values. 

Both wicker and cardboard coffins are easy to decorate. Cardboard is a terrific option if you really want to personalise the coffin.You can provide markers and ask guests to write a memory, poem, story or draw a picture on the coffin. This way you focus on the life of the person who died and also help mourners get closure.

Check out our complete guide to cardboard coffins here.


  • Seeds as gifts for mourners

It's becoming popular to give little memorial gifts at both non-religious and traditional funeral services. 

At an eco-friendly funeral service, a great memorial service gift could be a simple packet of seeds. You could choose flowers like Forget-me-nots or even little tubs of micro-greens. It's a lovely way to celebrate a loved one. You are saying farewell in a way that honours and respects them but also symbolises new life and a continuing connection to the earth.

At an eco-friendly funeral service, a great memorial service gift could be a simple packet of seeds. You could choose flowers like Forget-me-nots or even little tubs of micro-greens. It's a lovely way to celebrate a loved one. You are saying farewell in a way that honours and respects them but also symbolises new life and a continuing connection to the earth.


3. Organise a send-off at a favourite place

Organising a send-off at your loved one's favourite place can be a beautiful way to celebrate their life and memories.

This is a good option for those who prefer a non-religious funeral. It can make for a very unique and meaningful way to say goodbye. Whether it's the local park, a well-loved beach, or a special spot in the city, gathering together and sharing stories and memories can help bring closure, comfort and healing to loved ones. It provides an anchor and somewhere for mourners to visit and remember the person who has died.

Depending on the choice of venue, it may also be appropriate to scatter the ashes if that's in keeping with your loved ones' wishes.

It also offers a chance to honour the person's life in a way that is more personal and unique, reflecting their individual interests and passions. From picnics to candlelight vigils, a send-off at a favourite place can provide a sense of peace and healing during a difficult time.

4. A themed funeral

One of the most unusual ways to celebrate the life of a loved one is to honour them with a themed funeral service. If your loved one was a keen football supporter and never missed a match, then one of the best funeral ideas is to create a memorial service that reflects their passion and love of football. Here are three ways to create a themed non-religious funeral. 


  • Venue

Arrange a non-religious funeral ceremony at a special venue connected with their passion. This could be at a sporting ground such as a football ground or fans' pub or in a park where the events took place. Anywhere that has a deep connection to their passion.


  • Play their favourite hobby in favour

This is a great way to say goodbye and share a memory. It could be a game of football, it could be a game of chess or a cosplay afternoon. Whatever it is, you can include it in the theme and make it part of the memorial service to honour your loved one.


  • Dress Up

Traditional funerals are often sober affairs, with everyone wearing black and speaking in hushed tones. Non-religious funerals are a way to plan an alternative funeral for your loved one. A funeral that is a true celebration of their life and really reflects their passions and personality.

If a full costume seems too much, then maybe limit the theme and ask guests to wear a mask, hat or badge to show unity. Explain that you want the funeral to be a celebration of life ceremony and that your funeral arrangements are unique because you are creating a non-religious funeral service that honours the wishes and likes of the deceased. 


A non-religious funeral can provide comfort and closure for those grieving while celebrating the unique life of the person who has passed away. 

There are countless funeral ideas that you can use to personalise and organise a farewell to celebrate the life of your loved one and create a unique farewell memory. Here are 4 ways to say goodbye: 


  1. Choose a celebrant to create a unique farewell service.
  2. Plan an eco-friendly funeral.
  3. Hold a send-off at a favourite place.
  4. Arrange a themed funeral service.

Like any funeral, sometimes all you need is just a small amendment to the funeral arrangements to create an extra special way to commemorate your loved one that truly speaks to their values.

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