Once the death you have registered the death, you can begin to arrange the funeral.
There’s no set type of funeral in the UK, however there are general categories of funeral ranging from traditional or religious to civil or ‘green’ funerals.
There’s no requirement to use a funeral director, the funeral can be family-led or you can use a funeral celebrant. You can also get support from a funeral specialist to help with certain tasks that you may prefer not to do yourself, such as transportation and paperwork.
You don’t even have to have a funeral service. There’s a growing trend to follow the example of David Bowie and opt for a no-frills direct funeral sometimes referred to as a ‘no funeral funeral’.
The Births and Deaths Registration Act 1926 simply states that “disposal” of the body should be “by burial, cremation or any other means”.
How you choose to organise the send-off is totally up to you. The idea that anything other than a ‘traditional funeral’ is somehow alternative no longer applies. The funeral should reflect the beliefs, values and personal preference of the person who has died and their family.
So how do you decide what type of funeral to have?
Sometimes the person who died will have expressed their wishes and these should of course be respected.
If there aren’t any clear wishes, the executor or nearest relative will usually decide if the body will be cremated or buried (around 75% of funerals in the UK involve a cremation) and what type of funeral service will take place.
So unless the person who died has left instructions or has a pre-paid funeral plan, you will first need to decide if it will be a burial (also known as interment) or cremation. You can then decide on what type of funeral you want to organise.
What are the different types of funeral?
Most funerals in the UK fall into one of the following broad categories
A traditional, faith-based funeral service is normally held within a week of the death occurring and takes place in a place of worship, church or at a crematorium, although it can also be at a green or natural burial site.
The service is led by a religious official such as a priest, vicar or rabbi. There will be a set order of service based on the religion of the deceased.
With a Church of England funeral, mourners are soberly dressed and hymns are sung during the service. A priest will read from the scriptures and talk about the person who has died. Family members will read poems or passages from the Bible and there will be quiet time for reflection.
After the readings follows the Commendation and Farewell, followed by the Committal where the body is lowered into the grave or moved into the cremation chamber.
Following the funeral service, most families will hold a hold a reception.
These types of funerals are for those who want to follow conventional or religious funeral customs and would normally involve employing the services of a funeral director in your local area to make the arrangements.
These are non-religious, secular funerals. They are becoming more mainstream in the UK, reflecting changing attitudes to religion.
There is a great deal of flexibility in terms of locations, from a crematorium chapel or woodland burial site to hotels, sports halls, village halls or other venues.
A funeral celebrant will typically conduct the service, liaising with the family to create a personalised ceremony celebrating the life and experiences of the person who has died.
You can have your own choice of music and poetry readings, with candles and photographs on display – there is no set format. The main focus is on personal tributes led by the celebrant and/or family and friends.
With a civil funeral you can incorporate some religious elements such as readings from the Bible or particular hymns, whereas humanist ceremonies do not include any elements of religious worship.
The service is concluded with the committal and final words of thanks, prior to the cremation or burial.
For this type of funeral, you do not need to have a funeral director involved. You can get help from a funeral specialist or celebrant with the practical arrangements and conducting of the service.
Natural, eco-friendly or ‘green’ funerals are growing in popularity. These are environmentally sustainable funerals where the burial takes place in a woodland or natural setting amongst trees and wildflowers, with natural or living memorials made of wood (such as a wooden marker or tree) instead of traditional memorial headstones. Biodegradable coffin options include wicker, jute, bamboo, banana leaf, cardboard or wool. Natural burial grounds do not generally accept embalmed bodies for burial.
Traditionally burials have been seen as more eco-friendly than cremations, because cremation involves the burning of fossil fuels and mercury may be emitted when dental fillings are cremated. However with improved filtration devices and a decline in the use of dental amalgam fillings, the eco credentials of cremations are improving as crematoria improve the process to reduce harmful emissions. The coming years will see the introduction of bio-cremation options too. However, not all natural burial sites accept cremated remains, so you need to check.
There is no set or ‘correct’ procedure for a natural burial, you can choose to have a simple ceremony at the graveside or have a funeral service elsewhere before the interment. Some families prefer to have a small private burial followed by a celebration of life service at a later date. It is simply a case of personal preference.
Green funerals typically also take into account the choices for order of service (recycled paper), responsibly sourced flowers, organic catering, etc.
To find woodland burial sites nearby, you can do a web search for ‘natural burial sites near [+location]’. Some are attached to cemeteries and others are fully dedicated sites. Here are just a few examples:
A direct funeral is where there is no funeral service – the body is taken directly for burial or cremation (typically from the hospital mortuary). A direct funeral can be unattended or attended.
This type of funeral more cost-effective than a conventional funeral as there is no funeral home, viewings, procession or even pallbearers. The most common type is direct cremation, but you can also have a direct burial (they are sometimes referred to as ‘direct disposal’).
Many families are choosing this type of funeral not just in order to save money but because it separates the funeral process from the ceremony. Often there will still be some kind of ‘funeral service’, but it may take the form of a memorial or celebration of life service sometime after the actual cremation or burial.
This eases the pressure at what is often a difficult time, giving you more choice and flexibility over how you want to organise the send-off.
With a direct funeral, you don’t need to have a funeral director. You can get help from a funeral specialist for the practical arrangements.
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