How to make your funeral arrangements
There are few events more overwhelming in life than someone close to you passing away. Whilst you’re in mourning, it’s likely you’ll also be organising a funeral and dealing with a lot of paperwork.
It can be a very testing time, which is why we’ve put together this brief guide to offer you a little help on how to arrange a funeral.
Registering the death
You must register a death within five days at a Registry Office in England and Wales and with the Registrar of Deaths in Northern Ireland. In Scotland you have eight days to register a death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
The wishes of the deceased
The deceased may have had very specific requests about the kind of funeral service they would like. These may have been communicated to a friend or family member, be included in a will or other document, or form part of a funeral plan they have in place. It’s best to check for any documentation before making any arrangements. It’s also a good idea, whether the deceased left any requests or not, to ask what others who were close to them think, so that everyone can feel included in the arrangements.
Choosing a Funeral Director
A good Funeral Director will be your guide through much of what you need to do to plan your funeral, and be there to help every step of the way.
If your loved one died in hospital or a care home, you may find they have a list of recommended local Funeral Directors, while many people seek recommendations from friends or relatives. Alternatively, you can find lists of approved Funeral Directors at the National Association of Funeral Directors and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors. There’s also a chance the deceased had a funeral plan set up with a named Funeral Director, so best to check before you make an appointment.
In any case, once you’ve chosen a Funeral Director, they should provide the following services:
● Transporting the body from place of death to the funeral home and dressing the body.
● Managing and advising on necessary legal documentation.
● Helping you to plan the funeral service, including music, tributes and printing orders of service.
● Advising on a choice of who you’d like to take the service.
● Offering a choice of coffins to suit any budget.
● Providing facilities for viewing the deceased before the funeral.
● Arranging for a hearse and cars to the service.
● Providing pall-bearers.
● Placing death notices in newspapers and online.
● Collecting charitable donations on your behalf.
● Preparing ashes to be scattered or placed in an urn for collection.
Doing it without a Funeral Director
While the vast majority of people choose to use a Funeral Director, there is no legal requirement to do so. Though remember, while it may save money to do it this way, it will also likely take up much more of your time.
You can buy a coffin direct from many makers, including eco coffins made from wicker, cardboard and handmade from environmentally friendly wood.
You will then need to book a crematorium or arrange a burial yourself, complete with all necessary paperwork. A good source of help and advice is The Natural Death Centre.
Cremation or burial?
In modern times over 78% of funerals are cremations1.
Necessary paperwork and booking of the crematorium will usually be taken care of by your funeral director.
A service for friends and family is held before a cremation, often in a chapel at the crematorium, though it can be held anywhere – in a church, at home, a local community centre.
At the end of the service, the coffin will pass out of sight, into a recess or behind a curtain, before cremation takes place later.
Ashes will be returned to next of kin, via their Funeral Director, along with a Certificate of Cremation.
Again, with a burial, your Funeral Director should take care of most of the necessary paperwork.
There is usually a church service before the burial, after which the coffin is carried to the graveside, where after the words of committal, it is lowered into the grave.
Burial can take place in a churchyard, cemetery, green burial ground or on private land, so long as the right documentation is completed, and there is space available. Depending on the rules of the chosen burial site, you may be able to erect a memorial.
Be aware that in many church sites, the family is responsible for the upkeep of headstones and grave sites, or paying for the same.
Choosing someone to take the service
Once upon a time most funeral services would be taken by the local vicar. Nowadays you have a number of options to choose from for the person now usually called the celebrant – both religious and non-religious:
A minister of religion – they will conduct the service along the lines set out by their particular faith.
Humanist – they will conduct a service with no reference to a supreme being. You can find one through the Humanists UK.
Civil celebrant – will work with the family to create the service and include religious and secular content as required.
A family member or friend – will make for a more personal service, but can be a major undertaking.
Flowers or charitable donations?
Many florists will make floral tributes to order for a funeral, from words to an item associated with the deceased. Just talk through what you have in mind with them and see what they think is possible. Many people now like to offer the option of making a charitable donation, perhaps to a charity associated with the deceased, in lieu of sending flowers. Your Funeral Director will usually be able to arrange for this money to be collected on your behalf.
Gathering after the funeral
After the service, many families like to hold a wake or reception at a local venue or at their home for friends and family to gather and remember the deceased. This can often be a joyous occasion, with people sharing their memories, celebrating the life of the deceased and seeing old friends and relatives. The scale of the reception is up to you, though usually a buffet meal and some drinks are more than enough.
Paying for the funeral
Nowadays, even a modest funeral can cost a tidy sum of money, with the average cost of a UK funeral in 2019 being £4,202, which has risen by £1,231 in the last 8 years2. That can be a difficult sum to find for any family, especially when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly.
There are things you can do to plan ahead and alleviate the financial worry for your loved ones. The choice is yours and it will need to be one that suits your own individual needs and circumstances. If you would like to pay for your funeral in advance, you could consider a pre-paid funeral plan. Alternatively, if you don't have funds to help contribute towards funeral costs or want to leave a fixed cash sum to give to loved ones when you die you could find out more about our Over 50s Fixed Life Insurance.
2Independent research by Matter Communications on behalf of Dignity in 2019.