Planning a funeral and COVID-19: What you need to know

Correct as of 16/3/2021

***On 16/3/2021 it was announced that from 26th April funerals will be able to go ahead with up to 50 people, this will also includes wakes of up to 50 people (no alcohol will be permitted) We will update when further guidance is available ***

The last few months have been difficult for so many.  The current pandemic is making it particularly difficult for those having to arrange a funeral. Please accept our condolences if you are reading this and are having to plan a funeral in the midst of such uncertainty.  If you are using a funeral director, they will be able to guide you through the process, but we have outlined some key information which may be helpful. 

Can funerals still take place?



The Scottish Government have published a strategic framework detailing how they anticipate we will live with COVID19 over the coming months.

What does this mean for funeral ceremonies?

The framework outlines 5 levels of restrictions, with each level having an impact on ceremonies.  Levels are applied on a local authority basis; you can check your area using the Scottish Government’s postcode check tool

Level 0

This is the most relaxed of the levels.  At this level, funeral ceremonies are allowed with a maximum of 50 people in attendance.  

Level 1 – 4

At these levels, funeral ceremonies are allowed with a maximum of 20 people in attendance.


Important Information Relevant to All Levels  


Maximum Numbers 

The maximum numbers do not include your celebrant 


Face Coverings

Please be aware that face coverings are required to be worn at indoor ceremonies including funerals in crematoria or funeral directors premises.  The celebrant leading the ceremony, children under 5, and those with a reasonable excuse are exempt from wearing a face covering.



In Scotland it is permitted to travel between and through local authority areas to attend a funeral ceremony.  


Physical Distancing and Hygiene Measures

There will be a requirement to follow the relevant health regulations and physical distancing of at least 2 metres should still be observed. 



Please note this guidance only applies to the ceremony – wakes reflecting the maximum ceremony numbers will be able to take place only if they are held in a regulated setting (eg: hospitality venue). At any other location they will still be subject to the everyday rules on gatherings inside or outside. *** Mainland Scotland is currently under a temporary lockdown – with stricter restrictions than are laid out under the tier system.  Under these restrictions wakes are no longer permitted. These restrictions will be in place until 26th April.***


Working with your celebrant

Where possible,  meetings with your celebrant should be conducted remotely using online technology or telephone.  Please be assured your celebrant will offer the same care and attention as they would in person.  


How can I involve family and friends who cannot attend the funeral?

It is much better that your loved ones stay safe and well rather than take risks. You could think about live-streaming the ceremony. You could also speak with your celebrant about providing an electronic copy of their script, or a video tribute to be shared with family and friends who can’t attend.

You may also consider a  memorial ceremony at a later date, once restrictions are lifted.  Memorial ceremonies have already become more common in society and your loved one will still get the same mark of respect as holding an immediate funeral. We appreciate that the time passing between your loved one’s death and this ceremony will be a difficult time, but please rest assured that our celebrants will create the same meaningful tribute as they would in any other circumstances.


Keep informed

The situation and guidance is constantly changing so we recommend that you stay in close contact with your funeral director who will be able to advise you on any amendments and limitations that may have come into force or that they are advising.  

We also advise that you stay aware of the latest official medical advice, advice from the Scottish Government. The situation is changing constantly so we suggest you check regularly to ensure you are following the latest advice. 


Our thanks and best wishes

Thank you for choosing a Humanist Society Scotland celebrant to conduct your loved one’s funeral. 

Please follow all current guidelines and stay safe and well. 


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