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Practical advice on creating a non-religious funeral

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A funeral service is a way we cope with the loss of someone dear. 

Whether it provides a special tribute to the deceased or it helps family and friends to acknowledge that loss and say goodbye, it doesn’t have to carry any kind of religious connotation.

If the person who died was a non-religious, a humanist funeral celebrant is just the right person to help the family organize a ceremony based on the beliefs and the desires of the deceased.

If you are looking for a celebrant to help with a funeral the British Humanist Association provides a online service to assist your search.

What is a humanist funeral?

This type of ceremony, non-religious by definition, focuses on celebrating the life of the person who passed away.

Friends and family, people who knew that person and want to pay a tribute, are all invited to show their respects and say goodbye while supporting each other and sharing their grief.

As opposed to traditional funerals, the humanist funeral celebrant won’t include any prayers or prescribed readings. The ceremony might include, however:

  • A slow, respectful music that plays in the background.
  • A welcome message spoken by a relative of the deceased.
  • One or more readings from any kinds of texts, be it poems or published novels, but, in general, anything with a message that the person who passed away truly cherished.
  • One or more speeches of other people who want to share some memories about the person who died.
  • A period of reflection or quiet thought, in the memory of the person they say goodbye to.
  • Words of thanks from the family, for everyone who came to share their grief.

What should you know about non-religious celebrant?

Firstly, there is nothing that a celebrant should impose you to do. Celebrants are there to oversee the practical aspects and arrangements of the ceremony.

The celebrant should meet with the close family and learn more about the deceased, making sure that his planning will perfectly capture the life and personality of the person you are celebrating. They should advise you on the most practical aspects of the procession while listening to your ideas and giving you advice.

But whether you want to make it exclusively a humanist funeral or you would like to insert some religious connotations, it is up to you. So is the decision of where to hold the ceremony – as long as you have all the necessary approvals, you can have the funeral ceremony elsewhere than in a cemetery, woodland burial site or crematoria.

After all, the entire event should sincerely focus on the person who passed away, allowing everyone invited to say goodbye from the person who lived without religion in a fitting, personal manner.

The funeral celebrant should be the person to silently guide and help you cover all the practical aspects unknown to you. They should counsel you, without adding pressure and should provide the warmth, calm and dignity needed on a day of grief. Finally make sure to go through all the details of the ceremony in well in advance, understanding exactly what to expect from them and from the event itself.


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