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

Updated 27/08/2020

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?


Are there restrictions?

In-person attendance at funeral services should be limited to 20 people.  The venue must be able to accommodate physical distancing, and numbers may need to be reduced if members of different households are not able to be accommodated with a 2m separation. There will be a requirement to follow the relevant health regulations at these ceremonies.  

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.

All meetings with your celebrant should be conducted remotely using online technology or telephone. Funerals are limited to the ceremony only – any wake or other celebrations of life will be subject to the everyday rules on gatherings inside or outside.

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.  

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.

When will the restrictions on funerals be lifted?

The Scottish Government have published a route map detailing how they anticipate we will move towards all restrictions being lifted.  This will be in phases, with Scotland currently in Phase 3.  At this time we do not know when we will progress through to phase 4; this will be determined by how the virus responds to any changes in restrictions.  

Phase 3 (Current)

From Wednesday 15th July (see section ‘Are there restrictions’ above) there will be a relaxation of restrictions to attendance at funerals beyond “close family”. A maximum of 20 people will be able to attend funerals, but this is still subject to physical distancing, and numbers may be limited to less than 20 depending on what is possible in the venue. This only applies to the ceremony itself and not to any gathering afterwards, which will be subject to the everyday rules on gatherings inside or outside.

Phase 4 (no date given as yet)

Mass gatherings resume in line with public health advice

All ceremonies can take place, with improved hygiene and other precautions

Keep informed

We also advise that you stay aware of the latest official medical advice, advice from the Scottish Government, and advice from National Records Scotland. 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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