When a person who wasn’t religious dies, to hold a funeral service in a church or other religious building often seems inappropriate. Humanist funerals are a more modern service which cater for the non-religious beliefs of people who have died. They have evolved alongside the increasing prominence of atheism and more science-based beliefs about life. Their growing popularity makes them a more than acceptable option for funeral services in today’s world, and most people have attended a humanist funeral service at some point. While they may not have known it was a humanist funeral, they will have noted that the service did not follow the strict guidelines of a religious ceremony.
Humanism is an approach to life based on reason, scientific evidence and common humanity.
Humanists believe that science is the only trustworthy foundation for understanding existence. They do not place faith in any god, after-life or in reincarnation.
Funeral plans purchased through Rest Assured allow for the arrangement of a humanist funeral service, so that clients can detail their send-off in line with their atheist and science-based beliefs.
In this article we answer the important questions about humanist funeral services so our clients can better outline their humanist wishes when detailing the funeral they wish to have.
What is a humanist funeral?
A humanist funeral is a non-religious funeral ceremony that reflects on the character and values of a person who has died, and celebrates the life they led, rather than focusing on a particular religion they had.
As there is no focus on an afterlife, they are most appropriate for departed loved ones who were atheist, agnostic or scientific in their beliefs about life.
Humanist funerals do not follow the traditional format of religious services laid out by the long-standing customs of a faith or belief.
They do though share several elements of more established funeral services such as music, readings and eulogies and can be just as meaningful as religious funeral services.
What happens at a humanist funeral?
As humanist funeral services aren’t associated with any religion or other shared belief system their arrangement remains entirely open to personal choice.
Usually held at a crematorium, natural burial site or in a place of meaning to the loved one who has died, they’re a personal way to mark a person’s life and therefore, every humanist funeral service is different to others.
They don’t include hymns, prayers or verses from a religious text but instead draw in music, poetry and other readings, images, tributes and anecdotes related to the person. Often mourners are offered a period for silent reflection on the life and personality of the deceased.
At the end of a humanist funeral service, which typically lasts from 20 minutes to an hour, there is a committal when curtains around the coffin are closed, or the coffin is lowered into the ground for burial.
Usually, a final piece of relevant and poignant music is played as friends and family leave the humanist funeral service.
Who leads a humanist funeral?
Anyone can lead a humanist funeral, as there is no requirement for a member of the clergy to oversee the service.
This means the role is open to be filled by a variety of people. That person may be a friend, partner, family member, work colleague or a professional celebrant who is experienced in coordinating humanist funerals.
The celebrant will commune with the family prior to the funeral to ensure all aspects of the humanist funeral service are fitting for the departed and in keeping with their wishes for the send-off.
A selection of professional humanist funeral celebrants according to geographical location can be found on the humunists.uk website.
How much does a humanist funeral cost?
The cost of a humanist funeral service varies greatly depending on the different elements included in it.
For example, additional costs to religious funeral services are often incurred when live music performances, DJs or video production and screenings are incorporated into a humanist funeral, while the choice of location will also determine the final cost.
Alternatively, humanist funeral services may be very simple and minimal in their composition and therefore, can cost significantly less than a religious service.
A humanist celebrant typically charges between £200 and £400 for their services, while that fee may be avoided by having a friend, partner, family member or work colleague of the deceased oversee proceedings.
Where can you hold a humanist funeral?
Humanist funerals can take place in a number of different places and, while crematoriums are the most frequently used location, often the setting of a humanist funeral is chosen because of its relevance to the deceased.
For that reason, humanist funerals have been held at community halls, sports grounds, music venues, public parks, private gardens, beauty spots and even theme parks as well as in crematoriums and at natural burial sites.
While it may defeat the purpose of a humanist funeral service, some churches also allow them to take place under their rooves. Permission must always be sought where private property is involved in the arrangements of a humanist funeral service.
Nothing is less appropriate or will dampen spirits more than when a humanist funeral service is broken up for not having proper authorisations for it to occur.
What to wear to a humanist funeral
It is important to remember that humanist funeral services are different from ‘celebration of life’ memorial services.
Therefore, typical funeral attire is still appropriate. Mourners are expected to dress respectfully in reflection of the sombre occasion unless otherwise advised by the family of the deceased.
Black suits, skirts, jackets, trousers, ties and hats are most suitable while darker conservative colours are also acceptable.
Occasionally, families may ask mourners to dress in brighter colours to add vibrancy to the event, or in uniforms, costumes, regalia and strips associated with clubs, associations and societies frequented by the departed.
What happens after a humanist funeral service?
A humanist funeral may be followed immediately by a wake or reception held at family’s home, or at another location such as a hotel, restaurant, bar, community hall or sports club.
Humanist funeral services may also be followed by a more joyous ‘celebration of life’ memorial ceremony, held at a later date, to allow mourners to have a more upbeat reflection on the life of the person who has passed away.
Rest Assured is an authority on all end-of-life matters including funeral plans, wills, property trusts and different types of funeral services.
For more information about funeral plans and how we ensure every customer is happy with the funeral plan they buy, please contact Rest Assured Plans on 0800 065 4514