An introduction to non-religious funerals

- 10/11/21

With more than half of Britons saying they don’t belong to any particular religion, the demand for non-religious funerals is now high[1]. These changes in belief are being increasingly reflected in our attitudes towards funerals and a lot of people are now moving away from the more traditional religious funerals, Almost 70% of us no longer mind if our funeral is held somewhere other than a place of worship, and there’s been a noticeable shift in our approach to sending off our deceased, as 35 million of us say we want our funerals to be a time of celebration, not sadness[2].

If the deceased wasn’t particularly religious in life, it can feel disingenuous to send them away with words of praise and consecrations from a religious leader they’d never spoken to in life. But when funerals have been steeped in religious tradition for thousands of years, it’s hard to know where to start.

Here are a few things you should know about what happens at non-religious funerals and how to arrange one.

What is a non-religious funeral?

A non-religious funeral is just what it sounds like – a funeral without any religious elements. Although non-religious funerals remove all of the religious elements from a funeral, that doesn’t mean you need to forego all of its other traditions.

Your service leader, be that a family member or celebrant, will remove any mentions of sacred figures or belief systems from the service. There are multiple ways to hold a non-religious funeral; be that family-led, Humanist or with an independent celebrant.

When to choose a non-religious funeral

Non-religious funerals can be an appropriate choice for individuals who held little to no religious affiliation in their life. If you feel that including religion in or a loved one’s funeral, or your own, would feel disingenuous, then a non-religious funeral might be the right choice.

Non-religious funerals are also a popular choice amongst those who had loved ones across multiple faiths and cultures. By excluding elements of religions that friends and family may not be part of, a non-religious funeral is a great way to bring people together from all walks of life to say their goodbyes.

Many religious ceremonies focus on the spiritual aspects of death and what they believe happens thereafter. If the deceased didn’t believe in any form of afterlife, a religious ceremony may feel appropriate.

What happens at a non-religious funeral?

Non-religious funerals are almost identical to what many of us would consider a ‘normal’ funeral. The only difference is that any references to religion or spirituality are removed from the order of service. In place of hymns and scripture readings, congregations typically sing the deceased’s favourite songs and enjoy literature or poetry readings.

How do I arrange a non-religious funeral?

Non-religious funerals are just as easy to arrange as a traditional funeral and can be equally as heart-warming. The three easiest ways to arrange a non-religious funeral are:

1. Tell your Funeral Director

If you’re engaging the services of a Funeral Director, they’ll take care of all your arrangements. From suggesting funeral venues to arranging an appropriate celebrant. All you need to do is let them know your wishes and they’ll be able to talk you through your options.

2. Select a non-religious celebrant

Whether an independent celebrant or a Humanist representative, professional service leaders will have a wealth of experience in delivering non-religious celebrations. They’ll help to guide you on choosing songs and any readings you may want to include, careful to suggest options without a spiritual focus.

3. Have a family-led funeral

Family-led funerals are continually increasing in popularity. Rather than invite a person unknown to the deceased and family to lead the service, many families are making the decision to lead the funeral themselves. As those closest to the deceased, you can make the service extra personal, including as much or as little religion as you feel appropriate

What if I don’t want a funeral at all?

If the deceased didn’t want any form of funeral, or if you feel like it’s not what they would have wanted, an unattended direct cremation may offer the solution. By arranging a simple direct cremation separate to a celebration of life party or remembrance service. There’s no service which means no tough decisions to make over what to include or not to include, just a simple dignified cremation at one of our state-of-the-art crematoria.

If you’re planning a funeral, and think that you’d like a non-religious send-off, make sure to let your family know your wishes, and arrangements can easily be made when the time comes.


  1. YouGov (2020)
  2. Co-op Funeral care (2021)

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