Civil and Humanist Funerals

What is the difference between Humanist & Civil Funerals ?

If you are not religious, a civil funeral or humanist funeral may be something to consider and we, here In Brennan Funeral Directors can help you.

Funerals led by both humanists and civil celebrants have become very popular. We would usually arrange the person officiating at the service on your behalf, and pass on our client’s contact information. This would allow the celebrant of either service to get in touch and arrange a meeting to discuss the content and order of the service. The key difference between the two is the level of religious content in the service. A humanist service is regarded as a non-religious ceremony, as such there is not usually any religious content in the service. While some humanists may permit the singing of a hymn, there would not normally be any prayers or reading of passages from the bible.

A civil celebrant however will completely tailor the service to the client’s wishes allowing as much or as little religious content the client requires. An example of this would be if a client wished to sing two hymns and have the Lord’s prayer said at the service, we would advise the client a civil celebrant would be the best option for the taking the service. Civil funerals are an opportunity for family and friends to remember, mourn or celebrate the life of someone who was not religious, in ways that are meaningful to them.

Humanists and civil celebrants charge a fee for providing the service they do. This fee is usually paid by us, on the behalf of the family, and have it included in the disbursements of the funeral invoice. More and more people residing here in Ireland don’t identify themselves as being religious but most would still prefer the idea of a “traditional” funeral with some kind of farewell ceremony. Led by a celebrant who is not connected to any religion, a civil or humanist funeral can be personalised with all the words, poetry, music and people that you’d like to be included in the service.

What is a civil funeral service?

Unlike some religious funerals, a civil funeral doesn’t follow a particular order of service or rites. A civil funeral can be an occasion for mourning and sadness, a celebration of life or both, it is tailored around the wishes, beliefs and values of the deceased and their family, not of those of the celebrant, or the beliefs or ideologies of those around us. It means that you can include some poetry, favourite music and songs and some readings. During the civil service the celebrant can allow some quiet and peaceful time, where members of the family that are religious can have an opportunity to say some prayers. With the support of the funeral celebrant, family can play a big role in how the person is remembered and decide on the music, readings and symbolic gestures that are most meaningful to them. It is a ceremony in memory of a loved one which does not ascribe to any particular religious or ideologies. Instead, it should focus on the beliefs and life of the person being remembered or celebrated, and their family and friends.

When should a civil funeral service be held?

A civil funeral ceremony can be held before the removal to a cemetery or crematorium or perhaps it can be done at the graveside or in crematorium before the person’s final committal.

Where can a civil funeral service be held?

A civil funeral ceremony or celebration of life can be planned for any venue that’s happy to host and accommodate it. Although they are often referred to as ‘chapels’, crematoria and funeral home can also host non-religious funerals, while we here at Brennan funeral directors offer an attractive space where families can hold a civil funeral or wake.

What’s included in a civil funeral service?

Even though it’s not a religious service, a civil funeral can also include blessings, prayers or hymns if you’d like to include a spiritual element to the funeral.  You may be inspired to come up with creative and alternative ideas for the funeral service and you don’t have to stick to any set customs or rituals.

Can I plan my own civil funeral?

Yes, definitely, and we here in Brennan funeral directors will be too delighted to assist you in whatever possible. When making plans we would be delighted to have some of our funeral homes available to you for your civil service. It can be very comforting for your family to know that you have planned your funeral ceremony in advance as it means that they can be sure of fulfilling your last wishes. You may be surprised to learn that many people who plan their own funeral say that they too find it comforting.  It is an opportunity to look back on your life and ensure that the ceremony captures the events and stories that you want remembered.

The process is similar to the arrangement of any other funeral, civil, humanist or a conventional funeral.  We can make contact with a celebrant and then he/she will speak and deal directly with you personally. This gives the celebrant ample time to discover the true ‘You’. We recommend that, once you have approved the service content, you let your executors and close family members know where they can find a copy.  Where possible, the celebrant will keep a copy of your service and wishes and if you like we can keep a secured copy also.

Let your family know that, when the time comes, we here in Brennan Funeral directors will make contact with your chosen celebrant and check his/her availability before finalising a date and time for the ceremony. Like arranging or making plans for your own funeral, it is possible to pay for your funeral service. This can lift the financial burden from family members left behind. 

What is involved in a humanist funeral?

Humanist funerals are not only non-religious, they are non-spiritual. Humanism is a philosophical belief that some people live by. Humanists do not believe in a god or an afterlife and believe that humans can be moral and ethical without the guidance of a higher being. A humanist funeral service is both a dignified farewell and a celebration of a life. It recognises the profound sadness of saying goodbye whilst celebrating the life and legacy of a loved one. For a humanist, the meaning of life is to be happy and help others be happy – and this is the basis of how someone’s life is looked back on at a Humanist funeral. In common with a civil funeral, a humanist funeral can include the songs, words, music and other tributes that reflect the life of the person who died, but won’t include prayers or hymns. Civil and Humanist funeral etiquette for mourners depends on the how the person is being remembered. You may be asked to wear bright colours, for instance, or bring a token of remembrance. Civil and Humanist funerals can be just as formal or sombre as religious funerals, as well as informal, upbeat or relaxed. It’s a personal choice.

When should a humanist funeral service be held?

A humanist funeral ceremony, like a civil service, can be held before the removal to a cemetery or crematorium or perhaps it can be done at the graveside or in crematorium before the person’s final committal.

Where Can You Hold A Humanist Funeral?

Within reason, a humanist funeral can be held anywhere, providing the correct permissions are obtained locally, especially if it’s likely a large number of people will attend the service.

A funeral service could be held in a public park, at a cemetery, crematorium or any of our funeral homes. We here in Brennan Funeral Directors will facilitate and arrange for you the place of choice for your service.

If the person who died ascribed to a Humanist philosophy which does not conform to beliefs in a spiritual afterlife, a religious venue may not be the most appropriate place for a funeral.

What’s included or involved in a Humanist service?

The celebrant will work closely with the family to create a unique and personal ceremony.

A typical funeral often includes pieces of music and readings. But the heart of the ceremony is the tribute section, which lasts up to 15 minutes and might be written by the celebrant and/or include a variety of tributes paid by family and friends. Time for reflection follows, then the committal, and the funeral is drawn to a close with final words of thanks. You may like to have a look at this, an example of a humanist service.

  • Introductory music
  • Words of welcome
  • Thoughts on life and death from a non-religious perspective
  • The tribute – an outline of the life and personality of the deceased
  • Readings of poetry
  • Reflection – a few moments to think of the deceased, what they meant to each one there, and maybe for the religious, time to say some silent prayers.
  • Final words and including ‘thanks’ by some family member or family friend
  • Closing words by the minister
  • Final piece of music before committal or removal to crematorium or cemetery.

Generally a humanist funeral service can last from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. And this depends on the time available by the celebrant and the amount of participation by family and friends.

Can I plan my own humanist funeral service?

Yes you can plan and arrange your own funeral service. What better way to have the service that you want, not the one family might think you would like. We here in Brennan funeral directors would be honoured to assist you to meet with a humanist minister, talk with him/her and make your service unique to you. How more unique could it be?  This meeting could take a few hours, but I feel it would be time well spent. The pre-planning of this type of funeral is no different In theory to planning any type of service, the person planning wants to be sure their wishes are carried out, and maybe go as far as paying for the funeral and taking the financial burden from a grieving family.

Time and time again we are told that our clients chose a humanist funeral because they had been to one previously and were impressed by how meaningful and personal it was. People also choose a humanist funeral because they feel it will most accurately reflect the personality and outlook of themselves, saying a religious service would have feel hypocritical or inappropriate.

You don’t have to include anything in the funeral that you aren’t comfortable with and that certainly includes readings. That said, there are a surprising number of great readings and poems that are suitable for non-religious ceremonies.