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How to arrange a funeral

The first step in arranging a funeral is choosing what kind of service you want. You’ll need to hire a funeral director if you’re arranging a traditional service, but with direct cremation, you can plan the memorial yourself for a fraction of the cost.

  1. How to arrange a funeral
  2. How long after a death should you have a funeral?
  3. Do I have to have a funeral by law?

In the last 10 years, funeral costs have doubled, causing 1 in 8 families to go into debt trying to pay for it. This has caused a rapid growth in the number of alternative, more affordable funeral options available in the UK.

Whether you want to arrange a traditional ceremony or more of a DIY funeral, it’s important to understand the key steps involved.

How to arrange a funeral

1. Choose what type of funeral you want

Burial or cremation? Traditional service or something more personalised? There are many different types of funeral to choose from. So when it comes to putting funeral plans in place, the first thing to think about is what your loved one would have wanted. Many families find it uncomfortable to talk about this kind of thing, but you may be able to find details of their funeral wishes in their will.

If your loved one didn't write a will, or you're planning ahead to help your family organise your own funeral ceremony, you’ll want to start by finding out about the different types of funeral available in the UK. Here are the most popular options:

Traditional burial

A traditional burial is the kind of ceremony most people imagine when they think about arranging a funeral. This begins with a viewing or visitation at a church, funeral home or other event space, allowing family and friends to say goodbye and pay their respects.

This is then followed by a formal funeral ceremony, which may include prayers, readings, eulogies and music. At the end of the ceremony, the body is transported to the cemetery and the burial is then witnessed by family and friends. There may also be a funeral reception as part of this service.

Natural burial

A natural burial, also known as a green funeral, is an eco-friendly option that's gained a lot of popularity in recent years. Unlike the urban setting of most funerals, a natural burial takes place in a woodland conservation space.

This type of funeral requires a biodegradable coffin or shroud for the body to be buried in. It also prohibits the marking or creation of a grave site. Instead, the whole field or park is intended to act as a memorial ground for those buried there, rather than the plot itself.

Traditional cremation

A traditional cremation is similar to a traditional burial in that it begins with a viewing or visitation and is then followed by a formal funeral service. This usually takes place in a crematorium or funeral home.

Typically, the cremation itself happens after the ceremony and is not witnessed by friends and family. The ashes are then returned to the family in an urn, and can either be displayed, buried in a cemetery or scattered at a place of your choosing.

Cremation used to be seen as a non-religious funeral option. However, in recent years, many faiths have relaxed their views on cremation, making it a good choice for either a religious or humanist funeral.

Direct cremation

Direct cremation has been a great low-cost funeral option for many years, but it gained particular popularity in 2016 after David Bowie pre-arranged to have one after his death.

What’s a direct cremation? In short, it’s a simple way of obtaining your loved one’s ashes without needing to have a formal, traditional ceremony.

Your loved one is collected from their place of death and taken to a crematorium for a private cremation. This gives you the time and freedom to put your own funeral plans in place with your family. The ashes are then returned to you in a beautiful, temporary urn. You can then have your own memorial service before scattering the ashes or displaying them at home.

2. Work out how much the funeral will cost

The average cost of a funeral in the UK varies depending on the type of service you want – so it’s worth setting a budget that you and your family are comfortable with up front. Below, you can see how the average cost differs between a burial, traditional cremation and direct cremation.

How much does a burial cost?

The average cost of a burial is around £4,250 for a basic package. However, things like flowers, headstones, cars, a coffin and the burial plot cost can cause this to increase very quickly, leading families to spend much more than they initially thought.

How much does a cremation cost?

The average cost of a traditional cremation is £3,250. This covers all the basics like the funeral directors, crematorium and funeral service. But again, costs can escalate for things like flowers and your choice of coffin.

Alternatively, you can get a direct cremation for a fixed upfront price of £980. By taking care of the cremation for a much lower cost, you have more left over to set up your own funeral plans with family and friends.

3. Decide where to have the funeral

If you’re arranging a funeral through your local funeral directors, you probably won’t have much choice over where the memorial service is held. But if you decide to have a direct cremation, you can have the memorial anywhere you wish.

Here are a few ideas of how you can celebrate your loved one’s life after having a direct cremation:

  • Hire out your local town hall for a memorial with family and friends
  • Host a gathering at your house where everyone can raise a glass in their honour
  • Go to your loved one’s favourite beauty spot and share stories about them
  • Take a day out at the beach with close family and scatter their ashes by the sea

How long after a death should you have a funeral?

A funeral is usually held one or two weeks after a death. However, if you choose to have a direct cremation, there’s no hurry to have the memorial service so quickly. Once the cremation has been taken care of and your loved one’s ashes have been returned to you, you have the freedom to arrange a memorial at a time and place that’s convenient for you and your family.

This can be particularly helpful if you have relatives living abroad or in other parts of the country, as it gives everyone time to make their plans without adding more stress to the occasion.

Do I have to have a funeral by law?

There is no law in the UK that says you have to have a funeral service, but the law does require that you dispose of the body. This is exactly what happened to David Bowie in 2016. Bowie didn’t like the idea of a bleak, traditional funeral, so he pre-arranged for a direct cremation to take place after his death. His family then scattered his ashes in Bali, as per his wishes.

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