Humanist Ceremonies statement on Coronavirus, including funerals

18 March, 2020

In light of the UK Government’s latest advice on social distancing and ‘non-essential social contact’ Humanists UK is currently reviewing guidance for Humanist Ceremonies, its network of celebrants who conduct weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies.

Celebrants will be working with couples and families very closely, supporting them to understand the options available to them, while ensuring official advice is still followed.

Each situation may be different depending on each person’s expressed needs and wishes. Some people may want to hold ceremonies if video technologies are available, and others may wish to have their personal, bespoke ceremonies at a later date.

We are working hard to explore alternative options for ceremonies, such as the increased use of video and live-streaming for those who want this option.

This is a rapidly evolving situation for celebrants and the whole industry. We continue to monitor the situation very closely and we are keeping abreast of Government and industry advice on this matter which we expect will be forthcoming. These are very challenging circumstances but we will continue to strive to provide the most professional advice and support we can to families and couples.

If you have any concerns or a specific question concerning a situation you find yourself in, then please contact Isabel Russo, Head of Ceremonies, on:

On funerals

Yesterday, 17 March, the Cabinet Office met with representatives from the funeral industry. The key outcome is that funerals should continue as normally as possible, for now, but to take into account all of the guidelines issued by the government for minimising the risk of transmission. This includes the need to protect at-risk groups, to avoid large gatherings of people, for good hand hygiene and the avoidance of unnecessary physical contact. This is important for protecting everybody that interfaces with the provision of a funeral, and who need to remain healthy and able to support bereaved families at this critical time. Every funeral should be assessed individually, and it is recognised that guidance may change quickly.

The law stipulates that you can only leave your home to attend a funeral if it is for a member of your household, a close family member, or – if the deceased does not have either of these – then a friend may attend.

We are preparing for a move towards a significant increase in alternative technology, such as webinars, and also a big increase in direct cremations (which is an unattended cremation), giving families the option of having a flexible memorial service later in the year when families can gather together.

Our main priority is ensuring that we support bereaved families as much as we can to ensure that they can say farewell to their loved one in a personal and meaningful way, and at the right time for them.

We are keeping abreast of further Government advice on funerals and in the meantime we are exploring the possibilities of more of our celebrants carrying out memorials and funerals via video and live-streaming. Wherever we utilise technology we will make sure that it doesn’t devalue the experience and that it is still a personalised and befitting ceremony.

On weddings 

Many celebrants are reporting that couples are preferring to postpone their weddings until a later date so that they can celebrate their special day with all of their loved ones in attendance. Our celebrants are trying their best to be flexible to accommodate these changes and to make this process as straightforward as possible in what is clearly a stressful time for most couples.

Again, where couples are continuing with weddings, but with significantly reduced numbers, we are working with families to utilise technology to ensure as many of the family are able to participate in the ceremony. Our celebrants are still happy to work with couples remotely to create the perfect ceremony, ready to hold when the time is right.

On naming ceremonies

Humanists UK is strongly encouraging families to be thinking about the use of technology and streaming into a ceremony so that they are limiting physical contact. For those families who want to postpone their ceremony to a later date, our celebrants will be working with families to provide all necessary support. Our celebrants are still happy to work with families remotely to create the perfect ceremony, ready to hold when the time is right.