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14% of Britons would opt for a humanist funeral as new figures show BHA ceremonies more popular than ever

In a humanist funeral, the focus is the person who has died and the memories they leave behind.

In a humanist funeral, the focus is the person who has died and the memories they leave behind.

New research shows that close to seven million Britons (14%) want a humanist funeral for themselves when they die, suggesting that humanist ceremonies are more popular than ever before. These findings come from new YouGov research on the same day the British Humanist Association (BHA) launches a new animation voiced by Stephen Fry bringing to life what non-religious ceremonies can mean to people.

Humanist Ceremonies™ have have taken tens of thousands of funerals in the last few years and their appeal is broad. You don’t have to be a humanist to have a humanist funeral, but in fact for many people it is their first introduction to the concept of humanism. Just a few of the more recognisable names amongst  the funerals taken by humanist celebrants are Victoria Wood, Warren Mitchell, Doris Lessing,  Cynthia Payne, Ronnie Barker, Bob Monkhouse, and Claire Rayner.

In response, Isabel Russo, Head of Ceremonies at the BHA commented: ‘In an increasingly secular age, people are choosing us because they want a meaningful non-religious ceremony that genuinely reflects the values they hold. Evidence shows that if you get the funeral ceremony right, then the grieving process is helped enormously, and we believe that “getting it right” means reflecting the values and beliefs of the person who has died. In a humanist funeral, the person who has died is put at the centre of the ceremony and all the things and people that have been central to their lives take centre stage. This is why so many thousands of people nationwide opt for humanist funerals.

She continues: ‘ Humanist funeral ceremonies aren’t a “new thing”. The British Humanist Association have been providing this service for over 120 years. We have a weight of experience behind us and now operate a network of over 350 trained and accredited humanist celebrants. In an unregulated field it is so valuable to know that the celebrant you are working with has excellent training, accountability  and quality assurance. These are the hallmarks of a humanist celebrant  accredited by the British Humanist Association and it is important to always check for that accreditation. In an age of choice, the right celebrant can be one of the most important choices you make.”

The British Social Attitudes Survey in 2014 showed that the non-religious are the largest single ‘belief’ group in Britain and the BHA has experienced an increase in humanist ceremonies being chosen as the most meaningful form of celebration or commemoration for this new majority.


The British Humanist Association provides a network of trained and accredited celebrants to take non-religious funerals, weddings and naming ceremonies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland,  who can be contacted via the Humanists Ceremonies website.

It’s been over three years now since the British Humanist Association secured an amendment to the Marriage Act as it went through Parliament, requiring the Government to consult on giving legal recognition to humanist marriages in England and Wales. That subsequent consultation showed 95% in favour. But instead of acting on that mandate, the Government referred it to the Law Commission. Following the publication of its report the EU referendum overtook events and the matter remained unresolved.

For media inquiries, please contact: Pavan Dhaliwal on or 07738 435059

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from two YouGov Plc surveys.  The surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Total sample size for one survey was 4,085 adults and fieldwork was undertaken between 28th – 29th July 2016.  For the second, total sample size was 4,375 adults and fieldwork was undertaken between 29th November – 1st December 2016. See data below.

According to the ONS, the GB 18+ population is 49,921,573.

Based on the YouGov results and calculations by the British Humanist Association:

  • 29.62% of people in Britain have attended a humanist ceremony.  This equates to 14,786,769 Brits
  • 13.51% of people in Britain would want a humanist funeral for themselves.  This equates to 6,744,405 Brits
  • 68.17% of people in Britain are aware of humanist ceremonies.  This equates to 34,031,536 Brits

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