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

Correct as of 19/7/2021

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 set out the details for local protection levels detailing how they anticipate we will live with COVID19 over the coming months.


What does this mean for funeral ceremonies?


The protection levels include 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. These are the current indicative dates set out for changes to the levels. Please be aware that they are subject to change:

  • 3rd August: Anticipated date for next review to determine whether all areas will move beyond Level 0
  • 9th August: Next change of levels, as laid out in review anticipated on 3rd August

Level 0

At this level, funeral ceremonies are allowed indoors and outdoors with a maximum of 200 people in attendance*.

Level 1

At this level, funeral ceremonies are allowed with a maximum of 100 people in attendance*.

Level 2

At this level, funeral ceremonies are allowed with a maximum of 50 people in attendance*.

Level 3

At this level, funeral ceremonies are allowed with a maximum of 50 people in attendance*.

Level 4

At this level, funeral ceremonies are allowed with a maximum of 20 people in attendance*, no wakes are permitted.


* Subject to the criteria laid out in the Important Information below.

Important Information Relevant to All Levels  


Maximum Numbers 

The maximum numbers do not include your celebrant.

The maximum numbers given are dependant on the venue size and layout, the necessary physical distancing between households must still be in place. This means the number of people able to attend may be less, and sometimes significantly less, than the maximum numbers at the present level. Please check with your funeral director, or venue, to confirm the numbers possible.

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, at Levels 1 – 4, physical distancing of at least 2 metres between households should still be observed. At Level 0, the requirement for physical distancing is reduced to 1m indoors. Outdoors, physical distancing of 1 metre is required groups of 15 people from 15 households. Children under 12 no longer count in households.



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


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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