An introduction to non-religious funerals

While the majority of funeral services in the UK are still traditional – held in a place of worship and led by a religious official – a significant number of non-religious services are held across the UK, reflecting our changing society.

The number of people in the UK who considered themselves as not having a religion was as high as 14 million at the last census – an amount that almost doubled on the previous figure of 7.7 million in 2001.

It goes without saying that funerals – whether the deceased is religious, non-religious, or somewhere in between – should reflect the unique personality and life of the person who is being remembered. Although a non-religious funeral may not be the most common type of service, it’s certainly one that funeral directors are very familiar with.

What’s involved in organising a non-religious funeral?

If you opt for a non-religious funeral, then you are free to devise the format and choose the content of the service. Many people appreciate the personalised and unique aspect of non-religious funerals – since they allow for a service that’s as individual as the life it commemorates.

One of the challenges of a non-religious funeral is writing and conducting the service. Some people are happy to take on the responsibilities involved, while in many instances the family will employ the services of a celebrant. A celebrant – also known as an officiant – is someone who specialises in preparing and conducting funeral services where there are no close links to religion. The family is still in charge though, and can have as much input as they feel is required.

Once you’ve chosen a celebrant, they will talk to the family and friends of the person – getting a picture of the person’s life and personality so that these can be best reflected within the service. They will also be able to make suggestions for the service. Celebrants are trained and in most instances have conducted many funerals so should have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw on.

If you’re working with a funeral director to organise the service, they should usually be able to get in touch with a celebrant on your behalf – but you can also contact the British Humanist Association and get more information on available celebrants.

What does the order of service include?

While there’s obviously no set format for a non-religious funeral, there are a number of things that are generally included in this type of service. The structure of each individual service may vary in places – but the following components are included in many:

  • Opening music
  • Celebrant’s introduction
  • Readings of poems or prose by a family member, by a friend or by the celebrant
  • Tribute to the person who has died – from a family member or friend. (There can of course be more than one of these)
  • Reflection – a short meditation time or moment of silence
  • Committal
  • Closing words – these may include a final reading or poem
  • Music to leave

The order of service, as well as the readings and tributes contained in it, all go a long way towards a meaningful, individual and fitting ceremony for the deceased.

We hope you’ve found this blog useful and that it has offered some insight into non-religious funerals. To find out more about how Golden Charter can help you with pre planning funeral arrangements, take a look at our funeral plans page or request an information pack to read at your convenience.