How to organise a funeral
Choosing a Funeral Director, arranging the funeral, order of service and funeral costs
A funeral is a major life event for family and friends left behind, yet unlike weddings or big birthdays, there is usually only a week or two to organise everything and pay tribute to the loved one in a way they would have wanted.

Organising a loved one’s funeral

Through organising a loved one's funeral, you can find comfort in celebrating their life and gain some closure. A good send-off can be very healing for everyone who is grieving.

Choosing a Funeral Director

Choosing a Funeral Director who you feel comfortable with is so important, as it is a brief but intense relationship. Their years of expertise can guide you through, while enabling you to have the funeral which feels right for the person who has passed away.

Arranging the Funeral

There are so many decisions to be made such as the time, place and format of the funeral, and whether there will be a burial or cremation, that it can all seem overwhelming. Depending on the wishes of the person who died or their family, a funeral can be either a religious ceremony or non-religious one. An ordained minister can take the first or a certified celebrant can take the latter. As there is so much to discuss, you can ask for the funeral director to come to your home for the initial meeting, so you feel more relaxed and comfortable. This meeting could take up to two hours, so it will help if you and your family have made some decisions beforehand, and if you can't agree, then the funeral director may be able to negotiate a way to suit everyone.

These decisions include an ideal date for the funeral. Sometimes this date can be dictated by the minister's or celebrant's availability or by availability at the crematorium to cremate the body afterwards.

However, cremation doesn't have to take place on the same day of the funeral. It can be a private family service a day or two afterwards. A funeral director will receive the ashes and then these can be picked up by the family at an appropriate time to be kept or scattered.

Once the funeral has taken place, you may wish to place a memorial at the burial or cremation site. You can contact a stonemason or letter carver who will guide you on materials, style, design and inscriptions. While there are certain regulations specific to the place of burial or cremation, a memorial can usually be placed after a minimum settlement period of six months at a burial site and for a cremation it can be placed over the ashes as soon as it is ready.

The rise in the availability of green or natural burial grounds has also extended the choice of resting places for families. The thought that the body is returned to the earth in an environment where nature will thrive can provide much comfort and offer added meaning.

Order of Service

A funeral director can help you to plan the order of service by showing examples of previous services, to help you give a structure to the ceremony, and decide on how many readings there will be, who will give a eulogy and what music will be played. You can have the orders of service printed via the funeral director, but you can also make your own which may save costs but more importantly add a personal touch. Many churches and crematorium chapels now have audio visual equipment, which means you can play a video or create a photo montage with music to pay tribute to your loved one.

You can also customise a funeral service to suit your loved one. From bagpipes or a string quartet to a motorcycle hearse or horse and carriage, the options are vast and varied. You could choose a personalised picture coffin or colourful design, and a bright or casual dress code. Think about significant poems, music or a film tribute or memory boxes for messages and keepsakes.

Another decision is whether there will be a wake afterwards. This can be anything from a small gathering in a house, to tea and cakes in a church hall, a toast or two in a pub, or a sit-down meal in a restaurant. Funerals used to be sombre, formal and quiet affairs, but in the past few years they have become a focus to celebrate the life of someone who has touched your heart, and often there is as much laughter as tears, which is probably exactly how they would have wanted it.

Words of Advice

If you would prefer to accept charity donations in lieu of flowers, speak to your chosen charity about how best to accept multiple donations in memory of your loved one.

Funeral Costs

The average price of a funeral in the UK is around £4,000 so costs must be kept in mind. If the person who's died has already paid for the funeral or they've left money in their estate to cover it, the executor of the estate is responsible for paying the funeral bill. However, if costs haven't been accounted for by the deceased, a relative or friend usually pays for the funeral. The cost can then be reclaimed from the estate if there are sufficient funds to cover it.

Since September 2021, it is a rule that funeral directors must publish their price list clearly in the window (where practicable) and online. To keep costs within budget, discuss what kind of coffin would be appropriate, and the price of each - from oak with brass handles to willow baskets. Consider how many funeral cars are needed for mourners, if indeed they are required at all. Burials are more expensive than cremations, but the deceased's wishes on this should be kept in mind.

Organising your own funeral

Death is a certainty but not something we always want to consider for ourselves. However, more people are making plans for their own funeral to be sure that their wishes are upheld and to ease the burden on those left behind. Sometimes this takes the form of a funeral plan to cover the costs.

Sometimes it is people expressing their desire in their will that there will be no flowers, but everyone wears pink. Writing your wishes on a piece of paper will help those left behind to give you the funeral that you would want.

This could be particularly important if there are differing religious views, or indeed no religious views so that your funeral is conducted in the way you want it to be.

You can even decide on who will be your funeral director and have a chat with them about the options available, and then leave your instructions in their safe hands.

Often families don’t know if you want to be buried or cremated. Burial plots are becoming more scarce so if you can buy one in advance your wishes will be met. Think about where you want your ashes to be scattered, and if this is viable. Some people choose to write a letter to their mourners or create a video. More often people like to choose their own music which means something to them. You could ask for donations in your memory to go to a particular charity of yours. You could also think about leaving some money for a tab behind a drinks bar, so once the funeral is over, everyone can raise a toast in your memory.

Words of Advice

If you are in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits, you may be entitled to a Funeral Expenses Payment from the Government. Visit for further information.