20 Short Readings for a Non-Religious Funeral | Cake Blog (2023)

Cake values integrity and transparency. We follow a strict editorial process to provide you with the best content possible. We also may earn commission from purchases made through affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more in our affiliate disclosure.

How do you choose the right words to read at the funeral of your loved one? How do you put into words all that the deceased meant to you?

Jump ahead to these sections:

  • Non-Religious Funeral Readings for Grandparents
  • Non-Religious Funeral Readings for Parents
  • Non-Religious Funeral Readings for Another Family Member
  • Non-Religious Funeral Readings for a Friend
  • Non-Religious Funeral Readings About Nature or Science

Some turn to the words of scripture to look for inspiration. There, they find words of wisdom about life and the afterlife. But what about people who do not espouse any specific religious beliefs? What funeral readings do you choose for a non-religious funeral?

Here are some ideas. We’ve scoured the works of some of the most famous authors. We’ve also looked for inspiration from famous poets and even scientists. Here are some non-religious funeral readings for your pre-planned funeral or the services of one you loved.

COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting avirtual funeralusing a service like GatheringUs, make sure to test your microphones and speakers before the service, so you can prepare for any audio issues. And, remember to send your virtual guests full copies of the readings so they can easily follow along if any audio issues arise.

Non-Religious Funeral Readings for Grandparents

Was your grandparent not a religious person? If so, you may be looking for non-religious funeral songs in addition to non-religious readings.

» MORE: Need help with funeral costs? Create a free online memorial to gather donations from loved ones.

1. “Farewell, Sweet Dust” by Elinor Wylie

This incredibly touching poem is appropriate to read at the funeral of one who was cremated.

In it, the speaker says that scattering the remains of her loved one is the kind thing to do to others on earth as the ashes will cause snowflakes to be “softer feathered” and the clouds to be “whiter plumed.”

2. “Like the waves made toward the pebbled shore” by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare did not title his sonnets, so they are usually referred to by number or by the first line. In “like the waves,” Shakespeare talks about the inevitably of death and the hope that he will be remembered for his verse.

For what will your grandmother be remembered? Will it be her kindness to others?

3. “Our Lives Matter” by M. Maureen Killoran

A Unitarian Universalism leader spoke these words. In this reading, Killoran states:

(Video) 17 Rare Photos From the Past That Will Stun You

“May we hold fast to the conviction that what we do with our lives matters, and that a caring world is possible after all.”

Killoran also reminds the reader that in times of sadness, there is room for laughter.

4. “The Dead” by James Joyce

James Joyce wrote a short story collection called Dubliners. “The Dead” was a short story in the collection. In it, the main character’s death was described this way:

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

Some choose the two paragraphs proceeding this final statement as a humanist funeral reading.

Non-Religious Funeral Readings for Parents

20 Short Readings for a Non-Religious Funeral | Cake Blog (1)

What readings best represent the life of your mom or dad? Consider the following poems and readings when trying to sum up what this important person meant to you.

5. “From a letter upon the death of John Keats” by Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt was a poet and essayist who had many talented friends, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Browning, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. When Keats died, Hunt wrote the following:

“Tell him that we shall all bear his memory in the most precious part of our hearts, and that the world shall bow their heads to it, as our loves do.”

The reading continues to describe death as a journey, but not in a specifically religious way. This would be an appropriate reading for an agnostic, someone who was not an atheist but did not subscribe to one specific afterlife scenario.

6. “Continuance” by Samuel Butler

This brief poem describes death as sleep. The speaker says that he hopes even though he will be “all-forgetting,” he shall not be “all-forgotten” because he will be remembered in the thoughts and deeds of those he loved.

7. “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Like the previous poem, the speaker in “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” is the deceased.


In it, she says that crying at her grave would be pointless because she is no longer there. Instead, she is the “sunlight on ripened grain” and the “gentle autumn rain.”

» MORE: Our story doesn't end at the grave. Honor your loved one with a free online memorial.

8. “Dear Lovely Death” by Langston Hughes

American poet Langston Hughes describes death as “lovely.” He says that death does not kill. Instead, death causes a body to “change into some other thing.” This imagery may be the perfect one to share at your mom’s or dad’s funeral.

Non-Religious Funeral Readings for Another Family Member

Choosing an appropriate funeral reading can be tricky. Here are some poems and other texts that may suit your needs.

9. “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden

Although this poem has an entirely different tone than most of the pieces on our list, “Funeral Blues” is about the devastation we often feel at the loss of a loved one. The last stanza illustrates the grief of the speaker:

“The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.”

10. “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrea

Are you celebrating the life of a fallen soldier? This poem would be especially appropriate. “In Flanders Fields” describes the death of a group of soldiers.

“We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.”

The poem goes on to ask others if they will continue the noble fight.

11. “Remember Me” by Margaret Mead

Here is another poem that reminds us that we live on in our loved one’s memories. The final lines of “Remember Me” state:

“Remember me in your heart, your thoughts,
your memories of the times we loved,
the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.”

(Video) Family Takes Photo Wife Files For Divorce After Seeing This Detail

12. “Heritage” by Theodore Spencer

This song is particularly poignant to share at the funeral of a loved one who had children. The last part of this rather-lengthy poem states:

“And though, for man, love dies,
And the rose has flowered in vain,
The rose to his children’s eyes
Will flower again, again,
Will flower again out of shadow
To make the brief heart sing,
And the meadowlark from the meadow
Will call again in spring.”

Non-Religious Funeral Readings for a Friend

20 Short Readings for a Non-Religious Funeral | Cake Blog (2)

Are you looking for something to read at a funeral for a non-religious friend? Here are some funeral poems to consider.

13. “Requiem” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Do you have an adventure-loving friend who died while doing an activity they loved? Consider reading “Requiem” at their funeral.

Even though the poem has a rather religious-sounding title, the text of the poem describes death in a rather matter-of-fact tone.

» MORE: Honor a loved one with an online memorial. Create one for free with Cake.

14. “The Road Goes Ever On” by J.R.R. Tolkien

On his journey, Bilbo Baggins recites many poems. This poem describes more than a physical trip. Instead, it describes the journey of life with death being the “lighted inn” at the end of it.

15. “Song” by Christina Rossetti

You know the heart of your friend. Would they have been the one to say, “sing no sad songs for me”? This is the perfect poem to read at the funeral of someone who would want you to celebrate life instead of crying over the loss of it.

16. “While You Live” by an Anonymous Native American

The speaker in this poem is the deceased. In it, he says “think of me sometimes, but not too much.”

Was your friend a plain-speaking person who would want you to go on with life after he dies? Consider adding “While You Live” to the back of the funeral program.

(Video) If It Were Not Filmed No One Would Believe It

Non-Religious Funeral Readings About Nature or Science

Are you planning an atheist funeral? Many times the readings at the funeral of an atheist come from scientists or philosophers.

17. “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

The world is greater than us. If this was your friend's philosophy about life, consider reading “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver at their funeral.

This poem says that regardless of your despair, “the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.”

18. “Eulogy from a Physicist” by Aaron Freeman

This reading begins, “You want a physicist to speak at your funeral.” The speaker goes on to describe what he would want the physicist to say about scientific life, including how even after death the deceased’s energy is still present. The final line of the reading states:

“According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

19. “And Why” by an anonymous Native American author

This beautifully written “poem” is about the circle of life. In it, an unknown questioner asks, “what good are dead leaves?” The speaker answers that dead leaves “nourish the sore earth.” The nourishment from the dead leaves will provide fertile soil for new life.

This simple poem/reading describes the circle of life so that even a child would understand.

20. “Turn Again to Life” by Mary Lee Hall

We think this short poem deserves to be printed in its entirety. This is one of the poems that was read at Princess Diana’s funeral, and it is about the need to “turn again to life and smile.”

“If I should die and leave you here a while,
be not like others sore undone, who keep
long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.
For my sake – turn again to life and smile,
nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete those dear unfinished tasks of mine
and I, perchance may therein comfort you.”

Choosing the Right Words

Picking the readings at a funeral can be especially tricky if the person planning doesn’t share the same beliefs as the person who died. It can also be challenging to plan the funeral for someone whose religious beliefs were unknown.

Give a gift to your loved ones and choose the readings for your funeral in advance.

If you're interested in non-religious funerals, read our guide on civil funeral traditions.

(Video) Here, Living With Dead Bodies for Weeks—Or Years—Is Tradition | National Geographic


  1. “Aaron Freeman. Physicist at Your Funeral.” YouTube. www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAdXtadaFB4
  2. Remember: 100 Readings for Those in Grief and Bereavement. Compiled by Robert Atwell. Hymns Ancient and Modern LTD. 2005.
  3. “The Dead.” The Literature Network. www.online-literature.com/james_joyce/958/
  4. York, Sarah. “Remembering Well: Rituals for Celebrating Life and Mourning Death.” John Wiley & Sons. 2002.


What do you read at a non-religious funeral? ›

Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved, The times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed. For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.

What is a good reading at a funeral? ›

Psalms are among the most famous religious readings. Psalm 23, for example, is often used as a funeral reading. The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

What is a good second reading for a funeral? ›

Romans 14:7-9, 10c-12

and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

What is an example of a non-religious funeral? ›

That could be anything from a crematorium to a local sports hall. They are usually very personal and aim to celebrate the life of the loved one. Non-religious options like humanist and atheist funerals are also thought to be alternative types of funerals.

How do you start a funeral reading? ›

Introduce Yourself

At the start of the eulogy, say how you knew the deceased. Some people attending the funeral may not know you, so it's wise to give some context. Explain how you were related to the deceased or how you met them. You should also thank the audience for attending the service.

How do you read at a funeral without crying? ›

Tips for Getting Through a Funeral Speech
  1. Look at your speech like an opportunity. ...
  2. Preparation is key. ...
  3. Listen to your heart. ...
  4. Don't worry about getting emotional. ...
  5. Have a glass of water and some tissues handy. ...
  6. Memorise parts of the speech. ...
  7. Think about eye contact. ...
  8. Don't rush through it.

What are opening words at a funeral? ›


Family and friends, I welcome you into this gathering which is made sacred with the spirit of love and friendship you bring to this gathering. On behalf of Elizabeth's family I would like say “thank you” so very much, to all of you who have come to be with them today.

How do you write a 2 minute eulogy? ›

A few ideas for this eulogy include:
  1. Share her notable life accomplishments.
  2. Retell your favorite stories from growing up together.
  3. Highlight the kind of person she was.
  4. Summarize your relationship in a few short words.
  5. Talk about what she meant to you and how she influenced your life.

How many words is a good eulogy? ›

Generally, between 400 and 900 written words will make for an appropriately timed eulogy when delivered orally. Above all, you must practice delivering your eulogy. It's not enough to simply write the speech—you need to say it out loud several times to become comfortable with how it sounds.

Is Psalm 121 appropriate for a funeral? ›

Continuing the psalms for funerals series with Psalm 121. (Note – we're not going in numerical order.) If you live in an area with big hills or mountains that catch your attention on a daily basis, consider Psalm 121. This psalm can give you a regular dose of inspiration and comfort.

What it called when no one attends a funeral? ›

An unattended funeral is when a person is cremated or buried without having a funeral service. This means there are no family or friends at the funeral. Instead, everything is organised by a funeral director. It's sometimes also called a closed funeral or a no service funeral.

What is a funeral called when no one attends? ›

What is an unattended funeral? An unattended funeral is a funeral that isn't witnessed by the family and friends of the person who died. Instead, the cremation or burial takes place privately at the crematorium or burial ground.

What is a funeral with no body called? ›

Unlike a traditional funeral, which occurs inside a week or two of the beloved's passing, a memorial service is held without a casket or a body present and can be held weeks or even months afterward.

What are the three parts main points of a eulogy? ›

Eulogies can take many forms. Some people who deliver a eulogy choose to open with a poem, a religious reading, or a personal anecdote, while others might choose to use these elements as a closing thought. Regardless of which approach you choose, a reliable structure involves three parts: a beginning, middle, and end.

How do you say a few words at a funeral? ›

Here are some examples of what to say at a funeral:
  1. I'm sorry for your loss.
  2. He will be missed by everyone that knew him.
  3. She was a lovely woman and will be greatly missed.
  4. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
  5. When you're ready, I'm here for you.

What is an opening statement for a eulogy? ›

I am heartbroken by the loss of my [specify relationship], but honored to have the opportunity to reflect on [his/her] life with you today. It's important that we acknowledge and fully experience the emotions of this day, on which we have gathered together to say goodbye to [insert name of the deceased].

How long should a funeral reading be? ›

A good eulogy is usually between 3-5 minutes long, but can be as long as 10 minutes. This should be more than enough time to include everything you want to say about your loved one, but not so long that you risk losing people's attention.

How many readings do you have at a funeral? ›

A funeral or memorial service typically uses between two to four readings throughout the ceremony. Funeral and memorial readings can also be used in printed memorial materials, such as funeral programs, funeral or memorial prayer cards, and acknowledgement cards.

How do you remember people at celebration of life? ›

9 Celebration of Life Ideas to Honor Your Loved One
  1. Choose a Meaningful Location.
  2. Invite People to Share Stories. ...
  3. Collect Photos. ...
  4. Play Their Favorite Music. ...
  5. Ask for Letters. ...
  6. Start a Group Prayer or Poem. ...
  7. Establish Your Loved One's Memorial.
  8. Start a Memorial Fundraiser.
Nov 18, 2022

What not to say in a eulogy? ›

In a eulogy, do not say anything about the person's cause of death, grudges and old grievances, arguments, character flaws, family rifts, or negative memories. Instead, share good memories and leave it out when in doubt.

What is the most emotional part of a funeral? ›

What is the most emotional part of a funeral? Sadness. This is perhaps the most common and universal emotion to experience at a funeral. The experience of loss naturally results in sadness, and the more you loved and cherished the one you lost, the more sadness you'll probably feel.

Do you introduce yourself in a eulogy? ›

Remember to introduce yourself in your speech and who you are in relation to the loved one who has passed. This will help give the audience context and better understand the memories that you are sharing.

What not to say in a funeral wake? ›

Seven Things You Should Never Say at Funerals
  • “He/She Deserved to Die” ...
  • “It Could be Worse” ...
  • “It was Destiny” ...
  • “Everything Happens for a Reason” ...
  • “At Least…” ...
  • “You're Still Young” ...
  • “It's Better…”
Oct 2, 2021

What are some comforting words? ›

  • “We are so sorry for your loss.”
  • “I'm going to miss her, too.”
  • “I hope you feel surrounded by much love.”
  • “Sharing in your sadness as you remember Juan.”
  • “Sharing in your sadness as you remember Dan.”
  • “Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs. ...
  • “With deepest sympathy as you remember Robert.”
Apr 20, 2022

How can I be a good MC at a funeral? ›

Introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the deceased. Thank guests for attending the service; acknowledge guests that have travelled to attend. Express condolences to family member and close friends of the deceased.

How should a eulogy end? ›

The ending of your eulogy should be simple. Addressing the person who has died with a phrase such as, “We will miss you” or “Rest well on your journey, my friend” can be a good way to wrap up. You can also end with an inspirational quote if that feels better to you.

Who usually reads the eulogy? ›

There is no hard and fast rule as to who should give the eulogy speech at a funeral. It's typically given by those who were particularly close, or had a special relationship with, the loved one who passed. It could be a best friend, a spouse, a child or grandchild, or even a co-worker.

How do you write a 5 minute eulogy? ›

Eulogies are typically between 5–10 minutes spoken, or about 750–1,000 words written. When you sit down to write your first draft, write as you talk, and let the words come naturally. The most important part is to focus on how and why they were important to you; eulogies don't need to be polished and perfect.

What does the Bible say about crying when someone dies? ›

Revelation 21:4

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

What is the psalm of Comfort in death? ›

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

What is Psalm 139 for funeral? ›

Psalm 139 – God knows our being completely

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Can you have hymns at a non-religious funeral? ›

Whether your loved one was religious or not, hymns can play a wonderful part in setting the tone of the funeral as well as celebrating the life of the individual. They are no longer just included within religious funerals, but also a popular choice for non-religious ceremonies.

How do you give non-religious condolences? ›

Non-Religious Sympathy Messages for a Family Member
  1. “My heart is hurting for you right now.” ...
  2. “I know [Name] was very important to you. ...
  3. “Please feel free to call me if you need me. ...
  4. “Please let me know what I can do to support you during this time.” ...
  5. “If you ever want to talk about [Name], I'm here to listen.”
Sep 7, 2022

Should I do a reading at a funeral? ›

If you're arranging a funeral for someone who didn't have any religious beliefs, you may want to include a popular funeral poem or reading in the order of service. Non-religious funeral readings and poems can help acknowledge the passing of a loved one and bring comfort to those in attendance.

What do you read at a funeral eulogy? ›

They can be written in many different ways depending on the person and the circumstances. They can be a delivered as a more formal speech which includes the person's history, career and achievements. They can be more personal through the sharing stories, memories and anecdotes.

What is a happy song to play at a funeral? ›

Examples of happy and uplifting songs to play at a funeral include:
  • Three Little Birds – Bob Marley and the Wailers.
  • Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
  • What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong.
  • Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum.
  • See You Again – Wiz Khalifa.
  • Ain't No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye.

What is a good song to celebrate someone's life? ›

If you want to raise everyone's spirits, play one of these uplifting memorial songs:
  • “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner.
  • “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python.
  • “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
  • “Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls.
  • “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.
Jun 21, 2022

What is the most played hymn at a funeral? ›

Here are seven of the most popular hymns for funerals:
  1. Jerusalem. And did those feet in ancient time. ...
  2. The Lord's My Shepherd (Psalm 23) The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want; ...
  3. Abide With Me. Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; ...
  4. Amazing Grace. Amazing grace! ...
  5. How Great Thou Art. ...
  6. The Old Rugged Cross. ...
  7. Lord of All Hopefulness.

What is a good short sympathy message? ›

Short sympathy messages:

Those we have held in our arms for a little while, we hold in our hearts forever.” —Unknown. “I am so sorry for your loss.” —Unknown. “We are with you through this difficult time.” —Unknown. “May the sorrow you feel in your heart lighten by the love that surrounds you.” —Unknown.

What is a nice sympathy message? ›

You have my deepest sympathy and unwavering support. Wishing you peace, comfort, courage, and lots of love at this time of sorrow. My heart goes out to you at this difficult time. Wishing you the best and know you have my full support in every moment.

What can I say instead of thoughts and prayers? ›

What You Can Say Instead of Sending 'Thoughts and Prayers'
  • I'm here for you. ...
  • My favorite memory of your loved one is... ...
  • I am so sad to hear about your loss. ...
  • They always told me so much about you. ...
  • I'm only a phone call away. ...
  • I'm thinking of you today. ...
  • I am so sorry. ...
  • We will miss them so much.
Nov 24, 2022

What is not appropriate at a funeral? ›

Avoid dressing in casual clothing, such as athletic wear, tank tops, or shorts. Skip the flip-flops, tennis shoes, sneakers, or boat shoes. Remove the neon necktie, purse, or accessory. Shy away from wearing jeans, even black ones, because they are considered too casual for a funeral.


1. Kim Jong-Un brutally shoots an orchestra conductor 90 times in front of every artist in Pyongyang
(Voice of North Korea by Yeonmi Park)
2. 10 male celebrities married to ugly wives
(Celeb Space)
3. Mysterious Things Caught On Camera In Church
(Real Bizarre)
4. I Have To Take A Mirror With Me Everywhere I Go
(MSA previously My Story Animated)
5. One Wedding and a Funeral | Funny Clip | Classic Mr Bean
(Classic Mr Bean)
6. I have very bad news


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Nicola Considine CPA

Last Updated: 08/31/2023

Views: 5583

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Nicola Considine CPA

Birthday: 1993-02-26

Address: 3809 Clinton Inlet, East Aleisha, UT 46318-2392

Phone: +2681424145499

Job: Government Technician

Hobby: Calligraphy, Lego building, Worldbuilding, Shooting, Bird watching, Shopping, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Nicola Considine CPA, I am a determined, witty, powerful, brainy, open, smiling, proud person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.