How can we arrange a nonreligious funeral?

Chezladyjane asked...

My sisters and I are trying to put together a funeral service on our own for our mom. She was not religious and did not want a pastor or priest so we are trying to honor her wishes. But we are novices about how to do the order. Would a sharing time with readings and songs be best at some point during the viewing time or just the next day before going to the cemetery? And what should we do at the cemetery itself?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

While it must be a struggle, especially while you are grieving, you are so right to put some time and thought into honoring your mom in a way that fits her best. You are already taking a big step by observing her wishes not to have a religious official involved if that was her wont; many people just do it out of convenience, even when it seems out of place or even offensive.

And that written, you should feel free to conduct whatever types of ceremonies she would likely want, in whatever order makes sense to you. One thing to consider is who is likely to attend each type of ceremony and whether they will be able to hear and see and feel comfortable enough to share memories and readings and songs.

Many people opt to keep a graveside ceremony private, inviting only family members and close friends. The setting may not be the best for singing and reading, which may be easier to encourage in a private room, either before or after the viewing, just from a performance standpoint. It is also best to make clear to visitors when the public sharing time will be held, as some people will want to opt in or out of it.