A humanist memorial service is a non-religious ceremony to commemorate and say goodbye to a loved one. Like humanist funerals, they are very personalised, placing the person at the heart of it and with a focus on the ceremony as a celebration of their life.

The difference between a funeral and memorial

A memorial differs from a funeral in that there is no burial or cremation. Whilst a funeral involves the burial or cremation, often with a preceding ceremony, at a memorial ceremony the burial or cremation may already have happened. Some people may have a funeral and a memorial at a later time. For example a small private funeral for family only may be followed by a memorial where friends and others can attend. Another option could be to opt for a memorial only without any funeral service. In this case they may have a direct funeral.

A bouquet of purple, blue and white flowers

Memorial services and direct funerals

In the face of a rising cost of living more people are exploring alternatives to traditional funerals. Many are now opting for direct cremations or direct burials. This means the burial or cremation will take place without a funeral service or ceremony. Since a memorial service can take place in any location and at any time, it can offer more opportunities for personalisation, and greater flexibility and control over costs.  

During what is an extremely difficult time, this can take some pressure off families. They will have more time to arrange the ceremony as they are not tied to the burial or cremation date. They can take the time to plan the ceremony at a pace which is comfortable. It may also mean that the service is accessible to more people as it can be held in any location.

In addition to cost considerations, there are many other reasons people may wish to hold a memorial. For example, if a loved one has passed away suddenly the funeral may have had to be planned quickly. There may have been loved ones who due to circumstance or living further afield could not attend the funeral. It may have been the loved one’s own request that they have a direct funeral.

Planning a memorial service

When planning a memorial our celebrants will work with you to make sure it is truly personalised and reflective of what your loved one wanted, if they specified this before their passing, and how you wish to say goodbye. Here are a few things which may be helpful to consider when planning a memorial.

When to hold the memorial

There is no time limit for when a memorial can take place. It can take place anytime after a loved one has passed away. You could have the memorial on a significant date, for example on their birthday, the anniversary of their passing, or another meaningful date.

Where to hold the memorial

Is there a special place that reminds you of your loved one or somewhere they liked to spend their time? You could have the memorial at their favourite place – for example on the beach, their favourite spot in the park, at home, or anywhere else that was meaningful to them.

What to include in the memorial

There is no set format for what has to be included in a humanist memorial service. You may wish to have your celebrant and/or family say a few words and tell stories about your loved one. You can include readings, poems and/or music that hold special meaning to the departed or reflect their personality and passions. Another way to reflect your loved one’s personality could be by asking guests to dress in their favourite colour or in bright colours.

Photo of a person in a grey zip hoodie sitting at a table and looking through a photo album.

Since a memorial can take place in any location, you may wish to tie in some of your loved one’s favourite things, for example enjoying their favourite food and drink together, going for a walk or including an activity or hobby that they were passionate about.

An autumnal tree canopy

Speak to a celebrant

We have celebrants located right across Scotland.

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