It can be overwhelming arranging a funeral when you are grieving the loss of a relative or someone you know. The deceased may have left instructions or spoken about funeral arrangements but in the absence of instruction, you will need to decide how to say goodbye.
There are many funeral options and these days you can choose the funeral you feel best suits the deceased. You might want to make it a traditional affair with quiet dignity and a focus on the sad loss of life. Or it may be appropriate to make the funeral a celebration of life with a tailor-made coffin and a fireworks display. It all depends on what’s appropriate for both the deceased and the grieving family and friends.
To help you with your choice here’s some information about the six main types of funeral.
Religious Burial Service – Traditional Funeral
If you attend a church that has a graveyard, you may be able to bury your relative there. That way you can have a church service followed by the burial in the same place.
If the church doesn’t have a graveyard then you can choose a cemetery or woodland burial site. The Vicar or Priest will then officiate at the burial wherever that may be.
You don’t have to have a church service. Instead, you can have the coffin driven straight to the cemetery. There the vicar or your priest can conduct a graveside service.
Humanist Funeral Non-Religious Ceremony
A humanist ceremony celebrates the life of the deceased without religion. It is usually the choice of a person who is an atheist or an agnostic. Humanists don’t believe in the afterlife. Their funerals are a celebration and remembrance of the deceased’s life.
A celebrant can conduct the funeral service. Most celebrants hold diploma qualifications but training isn’t necessary. If you get a recommendation to someone who isn’t qualified, they can still officiate at a funeral.
For more details about celebrants have a look at the Humanist Ceremonies website. Or use your search engine to look for funeral celebrants in your area.
Woodland or Green Burials
Would you like to bury the deceased in a natural environment that helps sustain wildlife habitats? If so a woodland burial is an ideal solution. A woodland burial site can be on farmland, or in a meadow or forest. If the deceased has a coffin it needs to be a natural biodegradable material such as:
- Banana Leaf
An alternative to a coffin is a burial shroud. The deceased is wrapped in a shroud made from a natural material and placed on a willow board. A natural burial also means avoiding the use of chemicals of any kind which means you can’t have the deceased embalmed.
Headstones are not permitted at woodland burials but you can usually plant a shrub, tree or biodegradable marker at the burial site.
The National Death Centre runs an organisation called the Association of Natural Burial Grounds. Their members must follow the standards set out by the organisation. Each family using an ANBG burial site has a feedback form to fill in. It is then returned to the National Death Centre. Not all woodland burial sites are members.
There are woodland burial sites in many parts of the UK. You can find a list of ANGB grounds on the National Death Centre website.
Cremation is now the most common funeral service in the UK.
You can have a religious or non-religious service in the crematorium chapel. You can hold services from all faiths. At the end of the service, mourners leave the chapel and the coffin is hidden behind closed curtains. You will normally collect the ashes the next day.
A direct cremation is one where there are no mourners. The deceased coffin is taken directly to the crematorium. The ashes are then given to the deceased family or they are buried or scattered in the crematorium grounds. This often happens if the deceased has no living relatives or the family can’t attend a funeral ceremony.
There are a lot of ways to scatter or use the ashes. You can have them interned in a woodland setting, use them to plant a tree or create a fireworks display. You can even have them made into jewellery.
Burial at Sea
It is legal for anyone to be buried at sea but there are strict rules and regulations you must follow. For example, the coffin must be made in a certain way. It might also be subject to inspection by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
The coffin must:
- Not contain any copper, zinc, plastic or lead.
- It must be in solid softwood.
- It needs to have strengthened corners and 200kg of steel, concrete or iron clamped to the coffin’s base.
There are more requirements and you can read about them in full on the Gov.UK website
You must also apply for a licence and present other documents. These include the death certificate and a notice of intention to move the body out of England. This is available from the Coroner. As well as a certificate from the deceased doctor. This is to confirm freedom from fever and infection.
You must ensure the deceased hasn’t been embalmed and is wearing biodegradable clothes.
The UK has three designated locations for burials at sea and they are:
- The sea between Newhaven and Hastings in East Sussex
- Off The Needles, the Isle of Wight
- Off Tynemouth, North Tyneside
You can scatter ashes in the sea or a public river without permission. If the river is privately owned you will need to ask. This may sound obvious but you can’t drop an urn into the water, you must scatter the ashes. Some boat companies offer charter ceremonies. You can find out more on the Scattering Ashes website.
Arranging The Funeral Yourself
Finally, if you don’t want to involve a funeral director you are permitted to organise the funeral yourself. It is more work but if you feel you can do it the costs are much lower. Here’s a useful article about organising a funeral from the Money Advice Service.
Once the funeral is over you may need to start thinking about finalising the deceased affairs. The first step is to establish if the deceased left a valid Will. This will tell you if you need to follow Probate, and follow the instructions of the Will, or the law of Intestacy which is the legal rules of how the estate should be divided. Whichever route you need to take The Probate Network is here to help. A good place to start is by downloading the Probate Checklist and then at a later date, if you need advice, you can book a free 20 minute consultation with a probate solicitor.
Please note: Please note our articles are for information and guidance purposes only and do not constitute advice or recommendations. If you are in need of assistance in dealing with the probate process and require trusted advice bespoke to your circumstances please book an appointment with a probate solicitor.