A non-religious funeral might best suit your loved one and their beliefs, but it can be difficult to know what options are available. There are many alternatives to the traditional religious funeral, so don’t be afraid to let your chosen funeral director know your preference.

The purpose of a non-religious funeral is to celebrate the life of the deceased, as well as give mourners the opportunity to express their emotions in an open forum. People can share their grief, and support one another, finding meaning and solace by coming together as a group.


The service

Traditionally, the majority of British funerals have been held in a church, but there are plenty of other venues you could consider for the service if the deceased is not religious.


Suitable non-religious funeral venues:

  • Crematorium
  • Outdoors, in a field or woodland area
  • Community spaces
  • Historical buildings
  • Woodland burial sites – often these will have an on-site venue you can hire
  • Country golf clubs

It can be a good idea to start with the crematorium, or burial site, and then find a location nearby. Local businesses or village halls may be able to provide a venue for your needs. You can also browse Beyond’s funeral directors in your area and check their profiles to see whether or not they offer a non-religious funeral service.

The contents of the service is up to you – you have the freedom to choose whatever music you feel is most appropriate – the song that fits the tone of the ceremony, or their favourite song that they’d always sing. You can also include a reading from their favourite book, quotes, a period of silent contemplation, poetry, or the sharing of memories. Asking different family members to participate with the readings can help get people involved in the ceremony, and make the service more personal to the deceased and their life.

Not all cemeteries are of one faith in particular – some burial grounds are to serve the community, catering to all faiths and beliefs. Alternatively, woodland burial plots are not typically for a specific religion, and are lovely places to visit to remember your loved one. These are also suitable if your loved one had an interest in nature or the environment. However, there are restrictions of coffin types for woodland burials – usually you can only use ones made from solid wood or biodegradable materials such as wicker, rattan or willow.


Is there an alternative to a vicar or priest?

Celebrants conduct both religious and non-religious funerals, and after researching different celebrants you should be able to find one able to accommodate your wishes. Humanist celebrants can conduct secular funerals, and will be able to advise you on some poems, songs and readings you might wish to use without any religious leanings. It is worth adding that they will accommodate requests for hymns and religious poems if you’d like them – just not as an act of worship.

In humanist ceremonies, there is usually more time dedicated to talking about the deceased, and their life and personality, and encourage the sharing of memories. The celebrant will speak to you before the funeral, usually visiting you at your home, where you can talk about the person’s life. The funeral can be very personal in these instances as it directly reflects what your loved one would have wanted.

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