How to Conduct a Funeral for Non-Christians

by Lisa Jensen ; Updated September 29, 2017

Funerals for non-Christians may include ritual objects.

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Funerals for non-Christians who do not follow any other religion or spiritual belief may be as formal or informal as the family chooses. The funeral service may follow cultural traditions or personal beliefs of the deceased person or his family, or they may be freely created. While there are legal and practical requirements regarding the body, the funeral may be held in almost any location and manner. Preparing for a funeral is a bewildering occasion for everyone, and it may be helpful to have some sort of structure while allowing for particular ceremonies or practices to honor the deceased person.

Formal Service

Visit a funeral home and discuss options with the funeral director. Attend the meeting with all family members or close friends who will be planning the funeral service. Ask questions and give your input on what you want to include in the service.

Decide whether the body will be buried or cremated. If a burial, decide whether the casket will be open or closed. Decide whether there will be a wake, funeral service, luncheon or other events and the time and location of each portion of the funeral.

Publish the obituary and notify those you wish to invite. Ask the funeral director for help if necessary.

Ask someone to prepare and read the eulogy. Give him pertinent details about the deceased person’s life and other information you wish to include.

Order food for the wake, funeral, luncheon or other portions of the funeral service. Ask friends to help with providing food or catering service.

Informal Service

Decide whether you will have a funeral or memorial service. Decide the location. Discuss options with family members and close friends. Decide whether you will provide food or ask everyone to bring something to share.

Decide on the format of the service. Ask someone to prepare and read the eulogy if you decide to have one. Ask someone to lead an informal sharing session.

Publish the obituary and notify those you wish to invite. Include information about accessibility of the location and any alternate service for those who may be unable to reach a location that requires strenuous physical activity.

Order food if you are providing it.

At the funeral, ask guests to share stories or memories. Provide specific directions such as requests for songs, poems or secular prayers.


  • Include family members and close friends in decisions. This is both to help the bereaved party make decisions at this difficult time, and to prevent conflict between family members over the type of service.

    Whatever type of service you hold, the funeral director can help you take care of legal and other requirements.

    Provide photographs at the funeral, in the form of prints or a slide show. Ask someone to help put a photo album, book or slide show together.

    Accept offers of help with food, transportation or other logistics. Don’t be afraid to say no if you are overwhelmed or the offer is inappropriate.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Lisa Jensen grows organic food and lives in an adobe house that she built. She teaches aikido, is an experienced back-country skier and backpacker and is active in her community. A graduate of the University of Calgary, Jensen writes about gardening, home projects, social sciences and sports and recreation.