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

This is an uncertain and worrying time for everyone, and the classification of coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation means there will be changes to how we live our lives for the next wee while at least. Please accept our condolences if you are reading this and are having to plan a funeral in the midst of such uncertainty. If you have a funeral planned with a Humanist Society Scotland celebrant or wish to organise a funeral with us for your loved one, please read on to see how this news may affect you, what we will do to safeguard your ceremony as best we can, and the simple steps that you can take to minimise the impact of coronavirus on your ceremony.

Can funerals be held under the three week lockdown announced on March 23rd 2020?


Will there be restrictions?

Funerals are limited to immediate family only, and at-risk individuals are asked not to attend funeral services. 

All meetings with your celebrant should be conducted remotely using online technology or telephone. Funerals are limited to the ceremony only and no wakes or other celebrations of life should be held after the ceremony.

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.  

What happens if my celebrant becomes unwell or has to self-isolate and can’t conduct my ceremony?

Although our celebrants are self-employed they work together in local networks to ensure that ceremonies are covered should a celebrant become unwell. On the rare occasion that celebrants become unwell and are unable to perform a ceremony, we have office staff who work with the local networks to find a replacement celebrant with minimal stress for you.

All Humanist Society Scotland celebrants undertake the same intensive training and mentoring programmes before they are registered to conduct any ceremony, so the quality of your ceremony will remain incredibly high.

Obviously this is an unprecedented and continually evolving situation which may have greater impacts than we have experienced before – we are monitoring the situation closely to ensure the safety of you and our celebrants.

If my celebrant is unwell would I have to work with my replacement celebrant to create a new funeral ceremony?

No – all of our celebrants save their scripts in a central location that can be accessed by other celebrants. This ensures that your new celebrant can deliver your carefully planned tributes and eulogies.

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 livestreaming the ceremony. You could also speak with your celebrant about providing an electronic copy of their script to be shared with family and friends who can’t attend.

You may also consider if a later memorial ceremony – once restrictions are lifted – would suit your needs better than a limited funeral ceremony. This would allow currently isolated and shielded family members to attend once restrictions are relaxed. 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.

Are there any precautions I should be taking?

There are some simple precautions that you can take to reduce your chance of catching or spreading COVID-19.

Please also look after your mental health: Take breaks from the media and social media to minimise the risk of feeling overwhelmed. Get your information from reputable sources to avoid some of the sensationalist views or misinformation that may be out there. Stay connected with family and friends to ensure you have adequate emotional support.

Keep informed

We also advise that you stay aware of the latest official medical advice and advice from the Government. The situation is changing frequently so we suggest you check once a day to ensure you are following the latest advice. NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government are both good sources of trusted information.

Our thanks and best wishes

Thank you for choosing a Humanist Society Scotland celebrant to perform your ceremony. Rest assured that our organisation, our staff, and our network of registered celebrants will do all that we can to safeguard your funeral ceremony and the health and wellbeing of you and your family.

Please follow all current guidelines and stay safe and well. 


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