Non Religious Alternatives to Funerals


When a non-religious person dies it may seem more proper that a non-religious ceremony be held in his or her honour instead of a more traditional, religious funeral service. Indeed it may even be written out in a person s will that (s)he does not wish to have a funeral. If the type of ceremony for which the individual wished is described in his or her will then it is important to follow these instructions. If, however, a non-religious person dies and there are no details given regarding the type of ceremony (s)he desired then it is perfectly acceptable to design a non-religious ceremony yourself.

Purpose of Non Religious Ceremonies

Unlike traditional funerals, non-religious ceremonies do not follow rituals nor must they include prescribed readings or prayers. The purpose of a non-religious ceremony is usually to celebrate the life of the individual who has passed away, as well as to allow those who attend to acknowledge the loss of this family member or friend.

Often others find these ceremonies helpful as they allow many people to come together to share their grief and support one another. Many families enjoy the personalised nature of non-religious ceremonies, and even after religious funerals will sometimes hold non-religious memorial services at which others can remember and commemorate the life of the deceased.

Order of the Ceremony

While there is no set agenda to a non-religious ceremony, there are usually some common aspects. Music is usually included in such ceremonies, and while it certainly does not need to be religious music most families would agree that the music should be respectful of the occasion. A welcome message is usually spoken, often by a member of the family, followed by one or more readings, whether they be from a religious text, a published novel or a poem.

A period of quiet thought, reflection or private prayer is sometimes observed at non-religious ceremonies, as is the opportunity for others to speak about the deceased. Such ceremonies are often ended with words of thanks from the family and or a formal farewell from the officiate – whoever that might be.

Planning a Non Religious Alternative to a Funeral

Planning a non-religious ceremony takes time, and there are many organisations available to assist you with your plans. If you would like to honour a friend or family member with a non-religious funeral alternative, consider contacting The British Humanist Society or The Institute of Civil Funerals.

While funerals allow family members and friends of the deceased to come together to celebrate his or her life, the religious basis of these ceremonies is often inappropriate if the deceased was non-religious or if (s)he specifically requested a non-religious ceremony. Today non-religious ceremonies and memorial services are fairly common and there are many organisations available to help those who are struggling to design their own alternatives to funerals. If the deceased has not made his or her preferences known, try to keep them in mind during your preparations and no doubt you will devise a ceremony that would have made them very happy.

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  1. I want a Native American Indian funeral, where I am cremated on a pyre without a coffin. Is this allowed in the UK? I would like to make all the arrangements before I pass away so my children don’t have to worry about it. Any information would be very much appreciated.

  2. I would like to know more information about alternatives to funerals as i am not a religious person and it seems we have to follow a regime that has been used for so many years. i don’t want to be buried i don’t want a religious ceremony i don’t want all my money going to the church etc. i would like my family to have a small gathering to remember me how they want to remember me i also do not want them to watch me be taken in a coffin behind a curtain to be burnt, what alternatives are there out there, and do i have to buy a great wooden box costing well over 2k to be incinerated. thank you in advance for any advice and help.

  3. Tracy – Your Question:

    My dad was cremated 35 years ago in Lincolnshire and his family scattered his ashes at a local cemetery to them in Nottingham. there was never a headstone and I feel I would like there to be. how would I do this and am I allowed to?

    Our Response:

    Contact the cemetery and see what the policy is on erecting a plaque or memorial after cremation.

  4. my dad was cremated 35 years ago in Lincolnshire and his family scattered his ashes at a local cemetery to them in Nottingham. there was never a headstone and i feel i would like there to be. how would i do this and am i allowed to?

  5. Hi Turtle Read your comment above. Did you ever find a compan or individual who could help. I run The Funeral Company and I’m sure we would be able to assist you. Get n touch. Linda

  6. My husband and I are arranging a plot in a natural burial ground. Is there an organisation that could help with the other stuff involved? We are not religious but obviously the body has to be transported etc. Any help would be very much appreciated.

  7. I think it is great that such alternative exist. Not everyone is religious so that is great. This will make a lot of people happy that their funerals can be less controversial. Thanks for the post!

  8. @norna. There are quite a few companies that do this. Try typing “using cremated ashes to grow a tree” (select UK if you live her of course) and you’ll come up with quite a few useful results.

  9. I wish to be cremated and have told my family that I wish my ashes to be used to help fertilize a tree. I have seen adverts for this but can’t remember where.Any one know who to contact ? TIA.

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