Why do the cost of funerals vary?

Although you can’t help your location, you might be able to control the varying costs in other ways. This includes things like the type of venue you choose, and the food and drink you serve.

Funerals are more expensive in some parts of the UK than others. They can also be more expensive on weekends, and at certain times of the day.

The cost of a funeral varies across the UK

Costs for burials and cremations do not always include funeral services

Burials do not usually include funeral costs. The average cost of a burial in the UK is £5,000. You’ll then need to pay for things like the funeral venue, transport, flower arrangements, and the coffin on top of that. 

Cremation usually does include the costs of a funeral service and is almost always cheaper than burial. Funeral directors you’ll find on the high street charge an average of £4,000 for a traditional cremation, which includes the service, coffin, and collection of the person who’s died in the price.

Direct cremation is the cheapest option, usually costing less than £2,000. You can read more in our guide to average funeral costs.

London is the most expensive area for funerals

People in London and the South East pay the most for funerals, averaging just under £6,000. Across Yorkshire, the Humber, and the Midlands, average funeral costs tend to be around £1,000-£1,500 less. 

The cheapest place for funerals is the Southwest of England, where average costs are closer to £4,000.

It can be cheaper to host a funeral on a weekday

The day of the week affects the costs of funerals

Having a service on a Saturday is usually more expensive than having one during the week. Having one on a Sunday (which around 1 in 3 crematoria offer) can be even more expensive than Saturday services. 

The costs are higher because of higher demand. Demand is higher on the weekends for two reasons: 

  • If you want to have a religious funeral, you’ll need to arrange for a priest to attend. Priests need to attend other religious services on the weekends, so they’re harder to book. 

  • For both religious and non-religious funerals, lots of people prefer the weekend because that’s when their guests are most likely to be free. 

Both of these things put weekend funerals in higher demand, which usually means higher costs. For the same reasons, having a funeral on a bank holiday will be more expensive than on a normal weekday.

Having a weekday funeral can help keep costs down

You might like to ask around the people you’re planning to invite to see if they’d be able to make a weekday. If they usually work, they might be more able or willing than you realise to take a day off. Another option is to have the funeral early in the day, so they might only need to take a half-day off. 

Morning services are often cheaper than afternoon services 

As with weekend funerals, there’s more demand for afternoon funerals. Many people prefer to have them a bit later in the day, giving them time to prepare and for their guests to travel in.  

If you’re only planning a small service, or if all of your expected guests are local, scheduling the funeral earlier can help you save on costs. Morning funerals can be several hundred pounds cheaper depending on where you are in the country.  

Things like coffins and flowers can impact the cost of the funeral

Certain items can increase funeral costs 

The individual items that form part of funerals can affect the cost dramatically. This includes things like:

  • The venue 

  • The style and material of coffin or casket 

  • Food and drink 

  • Transport to and from the funeral, like hearses and limousines 

  • Flower arrangements 

The good news is you can choose the type and price point of many of these things. For example, you could request a simple wicker or cardboard coffin instead of a solid wood coffin. 

These types of coffins tend to be much cheaper and more eco-friendly. If you like, you can cover them with cloth or flowers.

Coffins and caskets are not exactly the same

Coffins have a more hexagonal shape. The slope outwards to fit around the shoulders, then slope back inwards towards the feet. Caskets are straight rectangles. They have special types of open lids that allow guests to view the body and tend to be more expensive. Caskets are more popular in America where open-casket funerals are common.

Catering is a big factor in how expensive a funeral will be

If you’ve ever hired professional caterers for a wedding or party, you’ll know how quickly the costs can add up. The same is true for funerals and wakes.  

If you’re able to prepare the food yourself or buy pre-made food from a supermarket it would be much cheaper than hiring a caterer. 

Another option is to ask each of your guests to contribute something. Some people call this tradition ‘donate a plate’, and Americans call it a ‘potluck’. People traditionally bring things like: 

  • Sandwiches

  • Sausage rolls

  • Quiches

  • Casseroles

  • Potato salad 

  • Muffins or cakes

  • Bottles of wine.

You might choose not to have a funeral at all 

If you wish, the crematorium can collect the person who’s died and carry out the cremation privately. They will then deliver the ashes back to you. Crematoriums call this an unattended or ‘direct’ cremation

Some people then hold a wake to remember the person who’s died, either at home or at a local venue. You can read more in our guide to wakes.

The amount you spend on a funeral does not reflect your feelings about the person

Simple cremations have risen so much in popularity, there’s much less expectation now to spend lots of money on a funeral service. If the person who’s died requested certain things in their will, like a traditional burial or a certain type of flower arrangement, it’s good to try and fulfil those wishes. But it’s okay to do what feels right for you and your budget. 

You might be able to get help paying for a funeral

If you’re concerned about funeral costs, this guide lists the different ways you can pay for a funeral. It’ll also talk you through a few different kinds of financial help you might be able to get, like Bereavement Support Payment. 

Article reviewed