[FREE] Non-Religious Funeral or Memorial Service Outlines

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Historically, funerals and memorial services have been rooted in religious tradition. These religious customs and practices set the guidelines for remembrance, grief, and mourning. However, a religious funeral or memorial service might not be the right fit for you and your family.

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There are many legitimate reasons to choose to hold a non-religious funeral or memorial service. Because this is a less common option, you might not know where to begin with planning.

A funeral is an opportunity to celebrate someone’s life and find closure after a loss. In this guide, we’ll share non-religious funeral, atheist funeral, and memorial service outlines you can use for planning your own event regardless of religious beliefs. 

Virtual funeral tip: You can use the non-religious funeral outlines below for a virtual funeral, too. A service like GatheringUs can help you plan, set up, and host a non-religious virtual funeral incorporating some of these ideas. 

Why Hold a Non-Religious Funeral Service?

People may choose to hold non-religious funeral services to respect their loved one’s secular beliefs and final wishes. A family might be of mixed religion, and a secular service will avoid conflict. Perhaps, the deceased requested a lively final goodbye and wanted a party instead of a religious service. There are many reasons why a non-religious service might be the right choice for a family.

While some bereaved families find comfort in understanding death and dying through religion, others may not hold religious beliefs. While some people might not be religious at all, others choose their own spiritual and religious paths. These paths may not match traditional religious practices. Therefore, they want to honor and memorialize their loved ones through other means.

Non-religious funeral readings and traditions can be just as powerful as religious prayer. It’s still possible to find peace, understanding, and comfort after a loss without using any particular religious customs or traditions. 

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What Does a Non-Religious Funeral Look Like?

How does this type of service differ from religious funerals? It’s more similar than you might think. 

It’s easy to substitute traditional religious practices with secular alternatives that are just as meaningful. While the specifics depend on the individual, most non-religious funerals follow this order of service:

  • Opening or words of welcome
  • Obituary reading
  • Tributes from family and friends
  • A moment of reflection
  • Poem or literature readings
  • Music
  • Closing words
  • Graveside service or memorial

Using free funeral program templates is a great way to organize the service and create a memento for guests. While most funeral programs focus on religious elements, keep reading for non-religious or secular program examples for different services. 

Non-Religious Funeral Program for an In-Person Service

For an in-person service, you’ll want to clarify to guests that this will not be a religious service. Whether you choose secular funeral songs or poems, your funeral program sets the tone for the day. The outline below is a great starting point. 

Honoring the life of [Name]
[Date of birth] - [Date of death]
Gone but never forgotten

The [Last Name] family thanks you for gathering at [location of service] on [date].

Order of Service
Officiated by [Name]
[Date and time of service]

Opening words - [Officiant name]
Eulogy reading - [Family member’s name]
Poem reading - [Name of the secular poem and author]
Moment of silence - [Officiantname]
Family and friends remarks - [Names of speakers]
Song selection - [Secular song name and title]
Closing words - [Officiant name]
Reception - [Date, time, and location]

The [Last Name] family would like to welcome guests to join us at [reception location] after the service to celebrate [Name’s] life. There will be food, drink, and laughter. 

[Favorite poem or quote]

Acknowledgments

The family of the late [Name] acknowledges with sincere appreciation all of the messages, tributes, and expressions of kindness from friends and family. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Non-Religious Funeral Program for a Small Memorial with a Larger Funeral in the Future

It’s also common to hold a smaller memorial service if you’re unable to host a larger event right away. Having an intimate opportunity to say goodbye and find support can bring the family a lot of peace after loss.

The non-religious program below is simple and to the point. It emphasizes that a larger event is to come, but it gives space for grieving and reflection. 

 

[Date of birth] - [Date of death]
An intimate memorial service

[Location of service]
[Date of service]
[Time of service]

Order of Service

Officiated by [Name]

Opening words - [Officiant name]
Eulogy reading - [Family member’s name]
Poem reading - [Name of the secular poem and author]
Moment of silence - [Officiant name]
Closing words - [Officiant name]

Reception - [Date, time, and location]

The [Last name] family would like to remind guests that there will be a larger, formal service at a later date. Thank you for your patience and your support. 

Non-Religious Funeral Program for a Live-Streamed Funeral

A live-streamed funeral has unique challenges, especially related to technology. The funeral program needs to account for extra time to log in, sync screens, and any technical difficulties that might pop up. 

Otherwise, the program can follow a similar structure as the others above. Here is an example template to get you started.  

Join us to honor [Name]
[Date of birth] - [Date of death]
In our hearts forever

The [Last Name] family thanks you for virtually joining us on [Date] at [Time].
To join the service, visit [Website] and log in using the information below:

[Login username and password]
[Additional login information]

If you experience any trouble accessing the service, please contact [Name] and [Email or phone number]

Order of Service

Officiated by [Name]
[Date and time of service]

Please mute your microphone upon joining the live stream.

Opening words - [Officiant name]
Eulogy reading - [Family member’s name]
Poem reading - [Name of the secular poem and author]
Moment of silence - [Officiant name]
Family and friends remarks - [Names of speakers]
Song selection - [Secular song name and title]
Video or photo slideshow - [Family or officiantname]
Closing words - [Officiantname]

The [Last name] family kindly asks that all guests share their memories and tributes in the live stream's comment section or on the memorial page. Thank you for sharing. 

[Favorite poem or quote]

Acknowledgments

The family of the late [Name] acknowledges with sincere appreciation all of the messages, tributes, and expressions of kindness from friends and family. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Additional Considerations for Non-Religious Funeral or Memorial Service Programs

While the templates above are an excellent fit for most situations, there are additional things to consider. A program serves as a memento of the deceased, so is at the center of every funeral or memorial service. 

  • Print or digital: If you’re holding an in-person service, it’s normal to include a printed program as part of the service. However, there are no rules, and you might opt for a digital version available on smartphones. Of course, a live-streamed funeral only requires a digital program. 
  • Timing: In some cases, it might make sense to include the timing of specific aspects of the service. For example, you could note that the eulogy begins at 10:30 am and the reception at 11:00 am. This helps speakers make sure their tributes stay within the allotted time and sets expectations for guests.
  • Photos: It’s also common to include pictures of the deceased in the funeral program. This is true even for non-religious programs. 
  • Humanist: You’ll commonly hear non-religious funerals referred to as humanist funerals. Whether or not you’d like to include this term in the program is up to you.

Again, there are no rules. The funeral program is entirely up to you, as is the order of your service. Instead of using religious design elements and prayers, include flowers, modern designs, or keep things simple. Your funeral home can also provide support with this process. 

As non-religious funerals become more common, these types of programs will become more available. More and more families choose to celebrate the lives of their loved ones without the structure of religion, but that doesn’t make these events any less meaningful. 

Create a Non-Religious Funeral Program

A non-religious funeral program serves the same purpose as a religious one. The critical difference is that there are no prayers or religious elements. These non-religious or humanist funerals are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s quite common to say goodbye without religious customs. 

The templates above can help you create an ideal non-religious funeral program for your event. Whether you’re hosting an in-person service or something online, it’s possible to honor someone’s life without prayers, hymns, or other religious elements. From secular readings to favorite songs, there are many meaningful ways to honor someone and their legacy. 

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