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New American Funerals

An up-to-date guide for professional celebrants who want to create beautiful, meaningful end-of-life ceremonies that reflect humanist values.


New American Funerals is the first book in more than 30 years to focus solely on nonreligious American end-of-life ceremonies and how the professional celebrant can create them. Many changes have since impacted American death practices, from technology, demographics, and climate change to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Amid these changes, more Americans are finding that religious ceremonies are no longer meaningful, yet they still want to honor their loved ones with authenticity and meaning. The humanist worldview stands as a refreshing contrast to traditional burial rites. 

Inside this comprehensive guide the professional celebrant will find strategies for

  • identifying the appropriate tone for various end-of-life ceremonies,

  • hitting the main "beats" of end-of-life ceremonies,

  • writing refreshing eulogies,

  • conceiving custom rituals,

  • building a collection of nonreligious readings and music, and

  • designing mourning events of all kinds.

The book also covers pragmatic aspects of contemporary funeral celebrancy such as

  • inquiry and interview practices,

  • interacting with families and clients in a variety of emotional states,

  • sensitive language for difficult deaths and ceremonies,

  • fee models,

  • racial and gender imbalances in the profession, and

  • the wider economic context in which American celebrants work.

New American Funerals also encourages celebrants to be receptive to the myriad vibrant, contemporary end-of-life customs found throughout communities in the United States.

In highlighting concepts and materials from the natural world, the arts, science, and culture, humanist end-of-life ceremonies rise to the occasion and meet the need that today’s growing secular society has for connection, beauty, and transcendence.

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Published September 2022.

Available in print and ebook formats.

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