Can we hold a funeral at home?

Can we hold a funeral at home?

If we were to ask people where non-religious funerals are usually held, they would probably say ‘at a crematorium’ or ‘at a green burial site’. 

But where can funerals be held? That’s an entirely different matter! 

For example, can you have a funeral at home like in the ITV drama series, ‘Finding Alice’?

Humanist funeral celebrant Rachael Meyer explains where non-religious funerals can be held. 

Humanist funeral by Sira Studios
Photo by Sira Studios

You may be surprised to learn that (outside of lockdowns) you can have a non-religious funeral ceremony at a range of venues including:

  • your home
  • your garden
  • a pub
  • a village hall
  • a community centre
  • a hotel

If you engage a Funeral Director, you must let them know where you’d like the funeral ceremony to be held. And specify where the coffin goes next — to the crematorium or your chosen burial site? (And, as  Poppy’s Funeral Directors explains, you can be buried in your garden like Harry in ‘Finding Alice’.)

Memorial ceremonies

If your loved one chose a direct cremation – like David Bowie – you may still have a memorial ceremony anywhere you choose. There is no coffin present at a memorial ceremony, although the ashes may be present.

Lockdown restrictions and funeral attendance

You will need to check what your local covid restrictions say about attendance at funeral and memorial ceremonies. (Indoor and outdoor locations may have different rules.)

The pandemic has imposed restrictions on all rites of passage. But, the one ceremonial milestone we can’t postpone indefinitely is the funeral.

How has this pandemic affected the traditional funeral?

By restricting attendance at funeral ceremonies —  and effectively banning wakes — a huge part of the grieving process has been stripped away. As a result, there’s been a monumental shift in the way funerals are planned, attended, and experienced.

Families are learning that they don’t have to stick to a twenty-minute slot in a crematorium or by a graveside. They’re finding that celebrant-led, humanist funerals can be creative, inclusive, and comforting. And that, alternative venues are available, and online ceremonies are becoming more commonplace.

Funeral planning during a lockdown

In the absence of a wake, a ceremony planning meeting can offer some light relief and support in times of grief, sadness and stress. Many people now want to be involved in the ceremony planning and delivery.

Video conferencing platforms like Zoom allow family and friends to join in the planning without having to travel to meet. This type of meeting often creates an opportunity for everyone to relax and collaborate in telling a life story. In a humanist ceremony, story-telling is the main focus.

Couple watching online funeral

In harrowing, grief-stricken, and emotionally challenging times, Zoom enables a safe, familiar environment. On planning calls, people smile and laugh as they remember things their loved one did or said. Families often say it’s been a good and surprising experience. One that helps with healing.

Meaningful ceremonies

Families are taking the opportunity to create more meaningful ceremonies. It’s almost like the restrictions have given everyone the space and a reason to buck the funeral system and try something new.

Humanist funeral by Sira Studios
Humanist funeral by Sira Studios

More people are finding that they can include creative rituals. Most people are not aware that the coffin does not always have to be present at a farewell ceremony.

Restrictions on the numbers of people allowed at funerals have affected thousands of families. And so, people are sharing ceremonies online.

Why online funeral ceremonies are on the rise

Many crematoria have built-in webcams to live stream ceremonies so that mourners can watch from the safety of their own home.

There are also audio-visual companies offering live streaming. If mourners can’t make it to a funeral because of travel restrictions, and it’s important that they are part of the ceremony, an audio-visual company can provide you with a range of solutions.

Remote guests can be beamed into the ceremony room via a live link and participate in real time. And, mourners can send a recorded video message that the video team can play at the ceremony and share online.

Funeral ceremonies can be recorded to enable people to watch it at a time that’s convenient to them. A recording also means they can watch it more than once.

Rachael’s experience of a live streamed funeral

At one of the funerals I conducted, there was a live link from the deceased’s son in Hong Kong. This was followed by a video clip from her four-year old grandson, a video message from her friend, a slideshow to music, a life story, music, and poetry. It was really special, and made everyone feel very close and involved.

Blog author

Rachael Meyer is a humanist celebrant who conducts funerals in Harrogate, York, Leeds and The Yorkshire Dales. You can follow Rachael on Twitter and Instagram.

Funeral celebrant Rachael Meyer
Funeral celebrant Rachael Meyer by Sira Studios

Further information

Please visit our frequently asked questions page or watch this short video:  A humanist funeral.

Find a celebrant

To discuss a funeral or memorial ceremony, you can find a celebrant near you.

Further resources

What is a humanist funeral?

Planning a funeral while in lockdown

Funeral planning | Top ten tips

Humanist memorial ceremonies

What makes a good funeral?

Funeral ceremony ideas and inspiration

What is a eulogy and how do I write one?

Poems of love for a humanist funeral

Uplifting and humorous poems for a humanist funeral

Planning your own funeral

It’s time to talk about your funeral wishes


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