Why do people sometimes call a Humanist funeral “Celebrating a Life”?

A Humanist funeral focuses on celebrating the life of the person who has died, while also expressing the sadness of losing a loved one.

Humanist funerals are becoming more and more popular as people who live their lives without religion choose this option to celebrate the life of a loved one in a very personal way.

Where can a Humanist funeral be held?

Humanist funerals can be held in any suitable venue.  Often they are held in a “chapel” at a crematorium, at the funeral director’s premises, or at the graveside. Humanist funerals may also be held in a local sports or community hall or perhaps at a hotel.  Your funeral director should be able to advise you about suitable venues in your locality.

If the person is being buried, it is quite usual to have the ceremony at one location and then to have a few final words spoken at the graveside.

What’s the format of a Humanist funeral?

Generally the ceremony will open with music and the family will enter – with the coffin if appropriate. Then I will welcome people and say the opening words, after which there will likely be contributions from family members or close friends.  The family will usually choose suitable readings and music and other elements – for example placing flowers or mementos. I will bring the ceremony to a close with some final words and typically there will be music to conclude / while people exit.

Does a Humanist funeral have to take place at a particular time?

You can arrange a Humanist funeral for any time of day, subject to availability of your funeral director, your venue and your celebrant. Crematorium chapels can be busier in the morning with families coming from church funerals, so it is often best to arrange a Humanist funeral for the afternoon.

How long does a Humanist funeral take?

That depends on the family and how much you want to include. Generally speaking I’d advise allowing 40 minutes or longer depending on contributions. This includes time for mourners to enter and to exit.

Who can have a Humanist funeral?

Anyone can  have a Humanist funeral.  If you want to have a Humanist funeral yourself, make sure that you make your wishes known to the people who will be making the arrangements.  It’s a good idea to put your wishes in writing.

What happens if the venue where we want to have the funeral ceremony can’t accommodate a coffin?

You can, if you wish, arrange to have the cremation in advance – and then have the urn with ashes at the funeral ceremony a few days later. It’s also possible to have a private burial and then have the funeral ceremony later in the day.

Do people have refreshments or a meal after a Humanist funeral the way they do after church funerals?

Yes, absolutely. I can include an invitation to mourners from the family in my closing words if you wish.

How do I arrange a Humanist funeral for a loved one?

Many funeral directors are now familiar with Humanist funerals, and will be able to help you with the arrangements and contact a celebrant on your behalf. Or you can contact me directly on 087 64 66 162 or siobhan@siobhanwalls.com.

What happens next?

Once I have been contacted and have confirmed I am available to conduct a funeral ceremony, I will get in touch with next of kin and arrange to come and meet with the family. If it is not possible to meet in person, we can talk by phone or Skype.

I will work with the family to compose a ceremony that is personal and meaningful. I will ask them to tell me a little about their loved one who has died. We will also discuss what they’d like to do in terms of music, who’s going to speak, would anyone like to read a poem, etc. After the meeting I will follow up by email / phone with a running order for the ceremony and over the following couple of days before the funeral I will finalise the ceremony with the family.


Have you done any training to become a funeral celebrant?

I have been trained and accredited by the Humanist Association of Ireland and have been working full time as a celebrant since 2015. I aim to be sympathetic and understanding with a professional focus on providing a funeral ceremony that will be the most appropriate for the circumstances.