If your loved one wished for a secular funeral, you may have questions around what this means, what is included in a secular funeral service or how you can make the ceremony as special as they were. This is our guide to understanding secular funerals and some ideas to help inspire you to plan a unique, thoughtful ceremony.
What is a secular funeral?
The word ‘secular’ is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as ‘not having any connection with religion’. If your loved one asked for a secular funeral service, this simply means they don’t want mention of religion in their ceremony. The service does not need to include any scripture readings or hymns or take place in a church or other religious building. Instead, there is the opportunity to share special memories, music, poems and readings, which make the ceremony completely centred around your loved one.
A secular funeral can take place anywhere and be conducted by anyone too. As there are so many options to choose from when organising a non-religious ceremony, we would recommend talking to a local funeral director about all your ideas, so they can help to arrange this for you. To search for local funeral directors in your area, click here.
Ideas for planning a secular funeral service:
With countless opportunities to personalise a secular funeral for your loved one, it can be hard to know where to begin with planning some ideas. We have collated some inspiration below for music, readings and poems which could be included in a non-religious ceremony. However, we encourage you to think about the person you have lost and what they loved, such as their favourite song or poem, to make sure the service you are planning is meaningful to them.
Secular Funeral Music
Songs have a unique way of evoking a certain time in our lives, or memories with loved ones. Choosing a song which has fond memories of your loved one attached to it is a wonderful way to celebrate their life at a funeral. Some popular choices of songs for secular funeral music include:
- Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (Audio) – YouTube
- Ed Sheeran – Supermarket Flowers [Official Audio] – YouTube
- Let It Be (Remastered 2009) – YouTube
- Cher – If I Could Turn Back Time (Official Video) – YouTube
- Bring Me Sunshine – YouTube
- The Greatest Showman | This Is Me (Official Lyric Video) – YouTube
- Fleetwood Mac – The Chain (Official Music Video) – YouTube
Secular Funeral Readings
An extract from your loved one’s favourite book is another wonderful way to celebrate them when you are struggling to find the words to say yourself. These are some examples of excerpts from novels which you may find poignant to read during the service.
- Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so as long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”
- Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White
“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
- The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
“He saw clearly how plain and simple – how narrow, even – it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.”
Secular Funeral Poems
Similarly to readings from novels, poems can help you to put into words the complex emotions that come with losing someone. You could of course write your own, or read one of your loved one’s favourite poems. If you are struggling to know where to begin with finding a suitable poem, these are some of our recommendations.
- Our memories build a special bridge, by Emily Mathews
When loved ones have to part
To help us feel we’re with them still
And soothe a grieving heart
They span the years and warm our lives
Preserving ties that bind
Our memories build a special bridge
And bring us peace of mind
- Afterglow, by Helen Lowrie Marshall
I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun;
Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.
- She Is Gone, by David Harkins
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Are you planning a secular funeral and looking for the support of a funeral director local to you? Our free search tool allows you to compare prices and contact funeral directors easily. For more advice on organising a ceremony, you can find more useful insights on funeral planning here.