Arranging a funeral can be a very daunting task and can come as an unwanted surprise. That is why we have created the ultimate guide to planning a funeral. In this article, we have addressed each aspect of the funeral planning, in a hope that it helps you during this difficult time.
- Funeral wishes or instructions
- Legal documentation required for funerals
- How to budget for a funeral
- The funeral director
- Different types of funerals
- Participation of family members and friends
- Arranging the funeral service – when and where?
- Arranging the funeral service – the service leader
- Arranging the funeral service – order of service
- Arranging the funeral service – the Casket or Coffin
- Arranging the funeral service – funeral flowers
- Arranging the funeral service – transport options
Funeral wishes or instructions
It is not uncommon for people to leave specific funeral wishes and instructions in their will or outlined in an unofficial document kept safe at home. Even if their death had not been anticipated, they may have been prepared. It may come as a shock to hear, but more and more people in today’s world are looking to prepare and make decisions about their own funeral, long before the time comes for it to take place. You may find instructions or wishes outlined in their will, you may also find that they have put aside funding for the funeral itself, to help with the arrangements and to fulfil their wishes.
You may also find that they have prepared a full funeral plan, in which they had paid off in instalments over the years which will cover the complete cost of the funeral.
It is important that any instructions or funeral wishes are taken into consideration when planning the funeral.
Legal documentation required for funerals
- Certification of death (Death Certificate) - a death must be registered within 5 days of the occurrence. Once the death has been registered you will be able to purchase copies of the death certificate. Currently, the cost per certificate is as follows: £11.00 in England and Wales, £8.00 in Northern Ireland and £10.00 in Scotland.
- Green Form – you will need this certificate for the burial or cremation. This needs to be provided to the funeral director as soon as available. This form gives permission for the deceased to be buried or cremated. This is given once the death has been registered and this form is free of charge.
How to budget for a funeral
What to expect
According to the UK care guide, ‘the average price of a funeral in the UK is at £3,757. The average cost of burial and cremation are £4,267 and £3,247 respectively. These figures represent a basic funeral cost that includes the burial or cremation itself, doctor or funeral director’s fees, as well as the celebrant or minister’s fees.’
There is help available to those who cannot cover the cost of a funeral. It is worth noting that you may be eligible for help from the government. The government offer Funeral Expenses Payment and Bereavement Support Payment from DWP (Department of Work and Pensions). If you are struggling to fund the funeral of a close relative and you are solely responsible for the arrangements, then it may be worth investigating as to whether you are eligible for either of these funding options.
There are also businesses out there that specialise in providing lower cost funeral services. Ensuring you still get the support and guidance you need, at a more affordable price. We recommend looking at companies such as low-cost funeral, who work with the families to ensure they are aware of all low-cost options and services available to them.
The Funeral Director
What is a Funeral Director?
The funeral director, also known as undertakers, will assist you with almost every aspect of the funeral. They will care for your loved one, advise on suppliers, advise on costs and will help with the running of the service itself.
Funeral directors are usually contacted within the first 24 hours of the bereavement. They are usually responsible for collecting the deceased and accommodating the body within their premises between the passing and the funeral. Funeral directors will have all the necessary equipment, skills, and mindset to care for your loved one following their death. Given the nature of their role, funeral directors can usually be contacted 24/7.
Roles and Responsibilities of a funeral Director
Funeral directors are responsible for the following tasks:
- Collection of the deceased.
- Housing the deceased until the funeral date.
- Administration of legal documents (such as death certificates and burial permits).
- Preparation of your loved one’s body, such as embalming, make up and dressing the body for viewing.
- Supporting you with the funeral arrangements, such as date, time, location.
- Advising the families on caskets and floral arrangements.
- Working alongside the service leader to ensure the service itself runs smoothly.
- Transportation of the deceased to the funeral and often supplying transport for the procession.
- Assisting with the funeral service itself, by providing pallbearers, setting up the ceremony room and ensuring the ceremony is kept to schedule.
- Offering support and guidance through all aspects of the funeral planning.
How to choose a Funeral Director?
Funeral directors hold a vast set of skills, but most importantly they are professional, organised, and empathetic to what you are going through. If you are in the unfortunate position of needing to source a funeral director, we would suggest using an online tool such as www.localfunerals.co.uk, in which you will find a list of local funeral directors that would be happy to assist you. Funeral directors usually have their own website, which will include information about their business and testimonials from families they have previously worked with, this should help you to know if they are the right choice for your family.
Different types of funerals
There are many types of funerals you can choose to have for your family member.
We have outlined 5 of the most popular below....
Burial (known as committal service)
A committal service is traditionally held at the graveside following a church service. A committal burial originates from Christianity, although many now opt to have the committal service following a non-religious funeral ceremony, with these funerals taking place at crematoriums and natural burial sites, as well as many other non-religious sites and venues.
Cremation is where the body of the deceased is reduced to ashes by means of intense heat. The remains are then presented to the family following the cremation for them to keep, bury or scatter as they wish. The cremation usually takes place following a funeral service, which is typically held at the crematorium.
Like cremation, although a direct cremation does not have an accompanying funeral service. It is a simple way of carrying out a cremation at a minimal cost.
Burial at sea
A burial at sea is the placement of human remains into the ocean. This is usually following a direct cremation, with the ashes being buried at sea, however in some parts of the ocean, you can gain permission to place the body in a biodegradable casket. It is important to research where you can hold a burial at sea funeral, as there are licences and protocols that must be followed to have this type of funeral, but it is possible. This service is usually held on a ship and is regularly performed by the navy.
A memorial service is where the deceased is not present.
Memorial services are commonly held on an anniversary of a death. There has been an increase in memorial services following the pandemic as people were not able to gather for the funeral service or travel over the past 2 years. This has resulted in an increase in memorial services being held months or years after the death had occurred.
Resomation (natural water cremation), not yet available in the UK
Also known as green cremation, is the newest method of cremation, however this is still yet to become available in the UK. It is worth understanding Resomation, as it is a method that will soon be available to us. Resomation is practiced and is currently available to the public in America and Canada. Resomation follows the same principal of a cremation funeral; however, it used a process of alkaline hydrolysis (water and lye) to reduce the body. This process is much quicker than flame cremation and uses far less energy, hence the name ‘green cremation’.
You can read more about this process here: Resomation
The viewings or calling hours, is a time before or during the funeral service whereby the mourners can see the deceased, after the body has been prepared by the funeral home. This may take place at the funeral home itself, or at the funeral venue where the service is being held. A viewing is an optional part of the ceremony, and many families opt to not have a viewing as part of the service, fearing it would cause distress. However, many believe it to help with the mourning process and provides the mourner with a sense of closure. It is important in any case that this is a personal decision for each mourner and those who decline, should respectfully be able to do so.
An alternative option is to have a closed casket viewing. This allows families and friends to take a moment with the deceased, taking time to say their final farewells before the funeral. With a closed casket, you cannot see the body of the deceased, but it may bring comfort to be near them.
Participation of family members and friends
Assistance with planning
Funeral planning is an extremely overwhelming task during a very difficult time. It is important to use all support offered to you and ask for help when you need it. Using a service such as low-cost funerals, you will be provided a dedicated funeral arranger, who will help guide and advise you through all aspects of the planning stage.
You may find many friends and family members looking to help with the arrangements and this can be a blessing and a hinderance combined. It is important to accept help as and where it is needed, but it can also cause conflict and resentment, especially during such an emotional time. Try to offer out jobs to those that wish to be involved. If everything is confirmed and arranged for the service, then look to offer them tasks for the wake. Allow them to host the wake, read a poem during the wake, provide catering for the wake, arrange flowers for the wake. There are many tasks involved with the funeral planning, try not to take on too much, it can be extremely tiring, and you must also practice self-care.
Pallbearers are those responsible for carrying the casket during the funeral service. Pallbearers can be close friends and family members of the deceased, or you can ask your funeral director to supply pallbearers for the service. Traditionally, there are 6 pallbearers, with 3 supporting each side of the casket. However, most caskets have an additional 2 handles to enable there to be 8 pallbearers if needed.
You can read more about being a pallbearer in our blog: How to carry a coffin.
A Eulogy is a speech in which is dedicated to the deceased. Typically, a eulogy offers praise of a person and is written in tribute of their life and their achievements.
The Eulogy is typically given by a close relative, friend, or the service leader. Choosing the person to write the eulogy can be difficult, as although this is a positive speech, it can be incredibly emotional to carry out. It is important to speak with those you are considering to write and read the Eulogy during the service. It is something you should not be offended, if the politely decline the offer to bestow this take upon them. It can be overwhelming, and it takes a lot of strength to perform this during the service.
You may also find that multiple members of the family and close friends may wish to contribute with eulogies. You can include these in the ceremony if time permits, however you can also encourage them to read their tributes during the wake following the funeral service. This is a nice way of allowing them to pay their respects, without running overtime with the funeral service.
Readings and poems
Including readings, poems and songs within the service can add such a sentimental and personal touch. It is very common for the immediate family and close friends to be invited to perform a reading or poem during the service. A typical funeral service will include 2-3 readings; however, you may only wish to include 1 if time is limited.
Again, this is where you can include family members and friends to be part of the celebration at the wake. Including readings and poems at the wake can provide those that wish to pay a tribute an opportunity to do so, yet ensures the service itself runs to time.
Arranging the funeral service – When and where?
A funeral is usually held 1 – 2 weeks following a death. However, this can vary based on several reasons, such as availability of funeral director or your chosen venue. There is no set amount of time that is required between the death and the funeral; however, it is worth noting that the funeral director is likely to charge a daily holding fee to accommodate your loved one.
Things to consider when choosing a date.
- Pre-existing events, such as a family members wedding, birthday, or holiday.
- Those who may need to travel to attend, such as family members who live abroad.
- Time of day, if you have people traveling, maybe a morning service is not ideal.
Those who may have work commitments that they will not be able to cancel last minute, so be mindful to give as much notice as possible.
You don’t have to go with the first date offered, you can request dates and ask for alternative options. The funeral director will always try their best to accommodate your requests.
Memorial services can be anytime after the cremation or burial.
There are many aspects to consider when choosing a location for the funeral itself. For instance, the type of funeral service you have opted for. If you have a burial site in mind, and you have opted for a graveside burial, then it is likely you would have the funeral service at the burial site. However, other types of funerals allow you to be more flexible with where the funeral service is held.
You have the option to hold the funeral service (with the coffin present) anywhere that will give you permission to hold it. Below we have outlined a list of potential venues to host a funeral service.
- A religious site, such as a church.
- Crematorium, many have dedicated ceremony rooms.
- At sea, for a sea burial.
- A function room in a local venue.
- A woodland burial ground.
- A village hall.
- Your home or garden.
There are no legal requirements needed to host a funeral, so long as you have the appropriate permissions from the landowner to hold the funeral ceremony at the chosen venue.
Arranging the funeral service – the service leader
By the funeral service we are referring to the ceremony that accompanies the funeral itself. Whether that is during the burial, cremation or as part of the memorial. You would not require a service leader for a direct cremation.
Traditionally, religious figures such as vicars or priests will lead a funeral service. They will usually incorporate readings from their religious worship, such as extracts of the bible.
A civil celebrant leads a service in which is not religious and holds no part in any dedication to a faith. A civil celebrant will personalise the ceremony to reflect that of the personality of the departed, making each and every service unique. The civil celebrant will likely meet with you prior to the ceremony, to ask questions about your loved one and get a feel for how the ceremony will take shape. They will work with you to pull together readings and songs, in which they will include in their service. Civil celebrants do usually allow for biblical readings if requested, but the ceremony itself will not hold a religious tone.
A humanist celebrant holds no belief in religion and believes in science. Humanism does not strictly believe in the afterlife and believes in celebrating the one life we have been granted. Therefore, a humanist celebrant will truly emphasise the celebration of life and all lifetime achievements.
Leading the funeral service yourself
You do have the option to lead the funeral service yourself or appoint a close relative or friend to run the service. There are many pros and cons to a self-lead ceremony.
- Control. You have complete control over the running order of the service.
- Love. It is the ultimate tribute to your loved one, for someone they loved to host their funeral service.
- Cost. There is no cost to running a service yourself.
- Timings. Funeral services can be time limited if they are held at certain venues. A person who is familiar with the running order of a funeral service will know how to keep to timings, to avoid having to cut the service short.
- Emotions. Although it seemed the right decision, it can quickly become too much to handle on the day.
If leading the funeral service is something you are considering, we recommend having a back up leader, someone who you can look to for guidance and support on the day, should you not be able to carry out the service as planned.
Arranging the funeral service – order of service
The running order of service
The service leader will help you with the running order of the service. This may differ slightly based on what type of funeral you have chosen.
Below you will find an outline of the typical running order for a funeral service. Please note, this will likely differ for each service.
- Music as the mourners arrive, known as the entrance music.
- Words of welcome, an introduction from the service leader.
- Hymn, Poem or Prayer.
- Hymn, Poem or Prayer.
- Commendation and Farewells.
- The committal.
- The closing music, known as the exit music.
It is also common to have a moment of silence during the funeral service. You can alternatively have a moment of reflection, which is the same concept but a favourite song may be played during this time.
Order of service booklets
The order of service booklet outlines the running order of the service. This enables mourners to follow the ceremony and sing along to any hymns/songs that may be included. Not only is the order of service booklet for those in attendance, but it is also commonly used to send to those family members and friends that are unable to attend the service. By sending an order of service, you are providing them with a sense of inclusion. While it has a practical purpose, it’s also a great way to remember the deceased and to help those who cared about them to recall special times.
Some of the elements which are usually found in an order of service include songs and hymns, readings and poems, photographs, and anything else which you wish to include to create a unique memento, in which celebrates your loved one’s life.
It is more than just a schedule, it’s a special commemoration of your loved one that their friends and family can cherish forever.
On the back of the order of service booklet, you might expect to see details of where the wake is to be held following the service. You may also find information of a chosen charity for any donations to be sent to.
At A Loving Tribute we offer a free online editor, in which you can select one of our many templates to create your order of service booklets. You can view the full range here.
Arranging the funeral service – The Casket or Coffin
Used to transport and contain the remains of the deceased, they play a big role in the funeral service and yes, there is a difference between a casket and a coffin. The difference being the shape. A casket is made of a rectangular shape, consisting of 4 sides. Whereas, a coffin consists of 6 sides, with the top half being wider than the bottom, to accommodate a human body shape more comfortably. There is no right or wrong choice between the two, it is down to the preference of the family.
Wooden casket (or coffin)
Hardwood – what you might class as the traditional caskets or coffins. These are available in many different types of wood, from dark wood to oak, ensuring they can provide the finish you are looking for. Hardwood caskets ensure a top-quality aesthetic, while maintaining the overall quality for purpose and durability, with many wooden caskets lasting 50 + years.
Wooden Veneer - constructed from base panels using a thin covering of wood, to provide an elegant finish. These are a lower cost alternative to a hardwood casket. Maintaining the aesthetics of a traditional casket but made from lesser quality materials and therefore, is not as durable as hardwood caskets.
Wicker – handcrafted using sustainable materials, such as willow, bamboo or seagrass, these caskets are becoming far more popular in todays environmentally aware world. Wicker caskets are beautiful and are becoming a more popular choice for cremation funerals. Wicker caskets are not only a good environmental choice, but one of the more lower cost options available to you.
Metal casket (or coffin) Not appropriate for cremation
Bronze and Cooper – by far the most durable materials available to use for a casket. Cooper and Bronze are rust proof and can stand the test of time. This casket option should not be considered for cremation, but offer the highest quality finish for burial funerals, with many caskets lasting 100+ years.
Stainless steel - A lower cost alternative to bronze and cooper caskets, as stainless steel is not as durable. This option does still provide a high standard finish but is not as long lasting as bronze or copper.
Cardboard casket (or coffin)
The ‘greenest’ option available to you and the most economical. A cardboard casket is appropriate for both cremation and burial funerals, and can appear as a traditional wooden casket, or can be completely personalised to your wishes.
Arranging the funeral service – Funeral flowers
Funeral flower tributes are a tradition which dates back centuries. The original purpose of these flowers was to cover up the smell of the body. However since, technologies have evolved, we now use flowers as a symbol of hope and happiness, in celebration of the departed.
Whilst there is no such thing as the ‘right choice’ for a floral tribute, there are traditional flowers which hold specific meanings, which you might find comforting and fitting for the service you are planning. You can read about popular funeral flower choices and the meanings behind them here.
Whilst you may have specific flower types in mind for the funeral service, it is important to note the season in which these flowers will be available. It can become a challenge and increase costs significantly if your requested flowers are not in season. Using artificial flowers is an option, however, keep in mind that they can have a negative effect on the environment.
Tributes from attendees
You may find that many attendees may wish to bring floral tributes to the funeral. It is worth considering if you would like floral tributes from others bought to the service. Not something everyone considers, but it may not be necessary. Especially if you have chosen a cremation funeral, the families are often left with the responsibility to house the funeral tributes or discard of them. Consider requesting a donation to be made in honour of the deceased as opposed to a floral tribute.
Arranging the funeral service – transport options
A hearse is a vehicle in which is used to transport the deceased. These vehicles are typically black and have long glass windows through the back to make viewing the casket accessible during transportation. The hearse is usually dressed using the floral tributes.
Bespoke transport ideas
You do not have to use a traditional black hearse for your choice in transport, there are many bespoke options available to you. From horse and carriage, motorbike and sidecar, VW Camper vans and tractor and trailer, there are options for all personalities.
Funeral procession, or cortège
This is where the close family and friends of the bereaved may wish to follow the hearse during the journey to the funeral service. This represents all the closest people in their lives, staying with them, all the way to the end, including the last journey to their final resting place. You may wish to look to hire a black car, limousine, or additional transport to follow the hearse, or you can choose to use your own vehicles.