How to invite people to a funeral

Here, we look at the various ways you can let people know someone close to you has died and that you’re holding a funeral.

Your loved one’s circle of friends and the size of the funeral you’re holding will influence how you notify people. It’s likely to be a mix of phone calls, emails and social media.

How to spread the word

You do not have to send out individual invitations

Generally, funerals at crematoria or places of worship are public and open to anyone who’d like to come. Therefore, unlike other significant events like weddings, people do not wait or expect to get a personal invitation by post or email. 

You can, of course, invite people formally if that’s something you’d like to do. But typically the news spreads by word of mouth – in calls, texts and group emails around your family and friends. 

This is particularly true if the person who died was part of a small, close-knit community, where people are in contact regularly. 

If it would be helpful for those in your loved one’s community, you can place a funeral notice in their local paper. Or if they were active in a club or faith group, you could ask to notify other members in an e-newsletter.

Emails and social media can help you reach a wider circle of friends

A few online invitation services are available, which can be helpful if you’d like to track people’s responses. Some sites have a built-in reply system so people can let you know that they’re coming. 

These services usually provide design templates to which you can add your details before sending to your contacts.

If you want to reach more people whose email addresses you do not know, you could set up an event page on Facebook - which people can share around. This has the benefit of a comments space where people can write sympathy messages.

Or you could make a simple memorial webpage using a free website builder - somewhere you can post the funeral details along with content like photos, videos and an obituary (a biography of the person who’s died). 

Your webpage will be a link that you can share around your contacts by email and on social media - and it can live on as an online tribute after the funeral if you want. 

An address book or contact list may help you reach people who are further afield

If the person who died had connections who do not necessarily know each other, or are more spread around the country or the world, it may take a bit more time and effort to spread the word.

If they had an address book or some phone numbers written down you can try calling or writing to a few of these contacts.

You might find that more distant friends get in touch with you to ask if there’s a funeral, having heard about the death. Deaths sometimes prompt people to make contact even if they have been out of touch for years - to pay their respects, honour the person they knew, and find closure.

Remember that you can only do what’s reasonable

Organising a funeral can be an emotional time with lots of arrangements to make, so it may be too much to try to track down long-lost friends and notify people all over the world. 

Bear in mind that it will not be possible to find some people and that some acquaintances may have died. You can only try your best to contact people. Ask your family and friends to help, and make the most of the internet to spread the word.

How to arrange a funeral

Not sure where to start? From choosing a burial or cremation to working out costs and deciding where to have it, read our complete guide.

Letting people know the details

Cover the specifics in any emails, texts and social media posts

When people hear about a funeral they’re likely to want to know:

  • any special requests for what to wear;

  • whether to send flowers;

  • if you’d like charity donations;

  • where the wake is happening.

If you do not volunteer these details you may end up getting a lot of calls and emails from people to ask. It can be helpful for them - and for you - to cover the basics in the first message you send out about the funeral.

Here’s a suggestion for how to word an email to send around – for a funeral that you’re happy to open to all who want to come:

Subject line: Arthur Jones, 1932-2021 – funeral details

Our beloved granddad, father and husband Arthur has died. The funeral is on Monday 6 October at St Stephen’s church at 2pm. Afterwards there will be light refreshments at the Six Bells, Arthur’s favourite pub. Everyone is welcome to attend the service and the wake.

As it will be a celebration of Arthur’s vibrant life, the family would love you to wear an accessory in a bright colour.

No flowers necessary - if you’d like to make a donation in Arthur’s name, Cancer Research and Dogs Trust meant a lot to him. 

We hope to see you at the funeral. Please pass on the funeral details to mutual friends who may like to come.

Keeping track of who’s coming

People will not necessarily say if they can make it

Once people hear a funeral is happening they’re likely to assume it’s fine to come. Some people might drop you a line as a courtesy to confirm they can make it, or cannot - but not everyone will.

If you want a smaller, more intimate funeral with more control over who’s coming, you can tell people it’s family only, and avoid sharing any details about the location and date. Ask your relatives to be clear about this if they’re talking to anyone about the arrangements.

In this case, it may be best not to post about the funeral online, and instead, just invite specific guests by phone or email. Or, if you’re posting an announcement about the person who’s died, you can include a notice about holding a private funeral, without any details about when or where.

Letting people know where to send flowers or charity donations can give people a way to express their condolences if they’re not attending the funeral.

Stopping someone coming to a funeral

There’s no legal framework for stopping someone from coming to a funeral if it’s in a public venue or place of worship. But, if there’s someone you’re worried may cause a scene or draw attention away from the person who died, you do have the right to ask them to stay away. Find out more about stopping someone from coming to a funeral.

A direct cremation means you can have a memorial any time you like

A funeral - a service that includes a burial or cremation - usually happens one to two weeks after someone dies. 

But with a direct cremation, there’s no urgency to arrange a funeral. No one attends the cremation, and you receive the ashes afterwards. This means you can say goodbye in the way that’s right for you. That may be a big party or a family lunch, or a get-together by the sea to scatter your loved one’s ashes. 

In the days and weeks after a death, people may get in touch to ask if you’re holding a funeral. You can let them know that you’re planning a memorial and will be in touch about it nearer the time.

If you plan a memorial service, especially if it’s some time after your loved one’s death, it’s more likely that you’ll need to invite specific people rather than just spreading the word. 

With a bit more time to plan, you may want to send out individual invitations, perhaps by post - but phone calls and emails are fine, too.

A direct cremation, from £895

We take care of the cremation and hand-deliver your loved one’s ashes so that you can plan a fitting memorial in your own time. Get an estimated cost.

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