Frequently asked questions
What is humanism?
Do I need to be a humanist to have a humanist service?
No, you don’t. You just need to want a funeral or memorial that’s based entirely around the person who has died and doesn’t include an act of worship.
But if you are a humanist – great! I’ll mention humanism in the service so that everyone understands that it’s just a way of looking at the world that says, ‘We see no evidence for gods, so let’s think for ourselves; applying reason in our decision-making and kindness in our attitudes to others.’
Will it be a proper funeral?
Yes, it will. There is no rule that says you must have a religious minister to lead a funeral – so a humanist or non-religious funeral is definitely ‘proper’! It serves the same important purposes: to bring people together to remember the person who has died, share their sadness and comfort each other, but without the restrictions of a religious format a humanist funeral can take any form you’d like - so that we’re saying goodbye in a way that’s meaningful for you and feels right.
What’s the format for a humanist service?
It can take any form: there are no set words that must be included. Instead, the ceremony will be written specially for you, to include the things you want to hear on the day.
Lots of speakers? - that’s fine. No-one wants to speak? – not a problem, I’ll speak on their behalf. You want an extract from a book, or a favourite poem? – of course. Lots of music, or none at all? – both are equally ok.
I’ll pull everything together to create a running order that works, and then I’ll write my words to join it all together, bringing structure, flow and meaning to the ceremony.
Does it have to be in a crematorium or cemetery chapel?
No, it doesn’t. It’s still a funeral if it’s a gathering to remember and say goodbye to someone, where ever it’s held.
Some venues that hold weddings also allow funerals with a coffin, as do some pubs. They have the advantage that you can hold a reception after the service, at the same location. Or you can do both, holding a separate service (before or afterwards) in the crematorium or cemetery chapel or at the graveside, often attended only by close family.
Can I include a hymn or prayer?
Yes, you can. Humanist services aren’t religious but they are inclusive, and I want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome. We won’t be featuring an act of worship, but if there’s a hymn that has particular significance – maybe Mum used to sing it in the car? – then it can be included, and you can even sing along if that feels right.
As a humanist it doesn’t feel right for me to read out a prayer, but if someone else would like to read one, that’s ok with me.
I’m worried about speaking at the funeral. Any advice?
Yes! If you feel you’d like to speak, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Before the day I’ll ask you to send me a copy of what you’ll be saying, so if you’re struggling, I’m there as back-up. But you probably won’t need it. Just remember that you’re not on stage and this is not a performance with an audience of critics. Everyone appreciates you doing your best and will be supportive of you on the day, so it doesn’t matter one bit if you don’t read in your finest voice. It’s your sincerity that matters.
Should I bring the children along?
This is down to you, but my advice is that it’s generally a good idea to include children, particularly if they were close to the person who has died. Otherwise, they’ll feel left out and their imagination will create something quite different to the funeral that they’re missing.
They might feel scared about what’s going to happen, or worried about crying. The best plan is to explain as much as possible beforehand, kindly and clearly, and don’t be worried or embarrassed if they get upset.
If you’d like me to, I can write a service very much with children in mind, to make sure they understand what’s going on and feel included in saying goodbye. And remember, a humanist funeral is not usually an entirely sad occasion because we’ll be remembering together the life of someone who was loved, and thinking positively about how great they were.
Do the curtains need to close in the crematorium?
No, they don’t. Some people have a fear of this moment, perhaps remembering a sombre religious funeral from their childhood. But it doesn’t have to be like that, and it’s your choice. If you choose to have the curtains close during the ceremony, it will create a moment of seriousness and often sadness because of a feeling of finality. But that can be a good thing, as it helps you come to terms with the death. And I’ll say some words or play music at that point, to bring you comfort.
But if you decide to leave the curtains open, that’s not a problem either. We can even allow time for you to approach the coffin to have a private moment before you leave. These are things to think about and to talk about, and I can help you make the decision that feels right for you.
How much will it cost to use a celebrant?
Celebrants are self-employed and so each one sets their own fees, which might vary according to the length and location of the funeral. I aim to be open and transparent about my charges and will tell you my standard fee and whether there might be any extras to pay. Take a look at my page, Celebrant services, to find out more.
I am usually paid by your funeral director, who includes my fee on their own invoice. This is just to make it easier for you. But if you’d prefer, you can pay me directly, by bank transfer. I’ll send you an invoice with my payment details.
Do I need to have a printed order of service or service sheet?
No, you don’t need one at all, and you might think them an avoidable expense at an expensive time. Instead, you can hand out a photograph, seed packet or other memento.
And if you'd like an order of service you can design and print it yourself or using an online printer, using the running order that I’ll send you.