Do you have to have a funeral by law?

No, in the UK you’re not required to have a funeral by law.

When someone passes away, their body must be cremated or buried, but there doesn’t have to be a funeral service before this.

There are also no rules as to how, where or when you choose to commemorate a life. It can be as simple, personal or unique as you wish.

If you’re thinking ‘I don’t want a funeral when I die’ or you’re honouring the wishes of a loved one who didn’t want a funeral, then you could opt for a simple direct cremation without ceremony.

Or perhaps you’re thinking ‘I don’t want a traditional funeral’. If so, there are plenty of alternative funeral options that may be more appropriate.

For more information, continue reading our helpful guide as we answer the question: Do you have to have a funeral?

Prepay your funeral and reduce the financial burden

Many people are now paying for their funeral in advance and locking-in today’s prices with a prepaid funeral plan.

Benefits of a funeral plan:

  • Protect loved ones from unexpected costs
  • Avoid rising prices in the UK (+128% since 2004)[1]
  • Plan the funeral your way and record your final wishes
  • Spread the cost in affordable monthly payments

Whether you’re looking for a simple cremation funeral or want a full traditional burial funeral, then Reassured can help.

Funeral plans arranged through us start from as little as £19.11 a month*.

Get your FREE personalised quotes today using our award-winning broker service.

What is a funeral and what is it for?

A funeral is a formal gathering of family and friends who wish to say goodbye to someone who’s passed away.

In the UK, most funerals are still traditional and include a procession, hearse, pallbearers, and a ceremony held at a crematorium or place of worship.

The ceremony would be followed by a committal, which is the moment just before the deceased is cremated or buried.

Usually, a funeral director is appointed by the bereaved family to help arrange and conduct a funeral.

So, what is a funeral for? A funeral has various purposes, some including:

  • To help family and friends acknowledge the death and start processing their grief
  • To celebrate and commemorate the life of the person who’s passed
  • To honour the final wishes of the person who’s passed
  • To bring family and friends together to support each other during a difficult time.

Is it okay not to have a funeral?

Yes, generally it would be okay not to have a funeral if:

  • Family members mutually agree it’s not necessary
  • The person who’s died had requested not to have a funeral

The circumstances surrounding the death may also influence how you feel about holding a formal send-off that may cost thousands of pounds.

These may include:

  • The age of the person who died
  • How close you were to them
  • Whether you feel it’s necessary that the body is present for the funeral
  • The expectations and needs of the people who knew the person who died[2]

Who chooses not to have a funeral?

There are many reasons why someone may choose not to have a funeral. Some of these include:

  • A funeral is too expensive (average cost £4,184 in the UK)
  • The person who’s passed away wanted to be laid to rest without a fuss
  • There aren’t many family, friends or acquaintances to attend the funeral, or it would be difficult getting everyone together for the occasion
  • A traditional or religious funeral service wouldn’t be appropriate
  • Family members would prefer to hold a less formal memorial service or celebratory event at a later date, instead of a funeral service
  • There are restrictions for funerals and social distancing rules in place due to a global pandemic

If you’re unsure about the current funeral rules and regulations due to COVID-19, then head to the government website for full guidance.

According to the Co-op Funeral Trends report published in 2019:

  • 77% of their funeral directors have noticed that requests for funerals to take place in other less formal settings has increased in the last five years
  • 51% of consumers believe more funerals will take place outside of traditional religious settings
  • 36% said they’d prefer their loved ones to have a get-together to celebrate their life, as opposed to a funeral service
  • 21% of consumers believe that the wake will actually become more important than the funeral service[3]

Funeral alternatives

Attitudes to funerals in the UK are changing, as more and more people are opting for simpler and cheaper funeral alternatives.

Funeral directors have had to evolve their services to keep up with the changing demands of their customers.

Funerals are now more likely to focus on remembrance and celebrating the life of the deceased, rather than traditional or religious values.

Whether you don’t want a funeral or you want something different from a conventional funeral, you’ll be able to find something that caters for your unique needs.

Here are some funeral alternatives you may consider…

Direct cremation

If you don’t want a funeral full stop then direct cremation could be the best option for you.

Direct cremation is a straightforward cremation without a funeral service or ceremony beforehand and without any mourners present.

The deceased is cremated in a basic coffin, at a date and time decided by the crematorium.

Family members could choose to hold a private memorial service at a later date when the ashes have been returned.

Direct cremation is also known as ‘cremation without ceremony’, ‘no funeral, just cremation’ and ‘direct disposal’.

Direct burial

Similar to direct cremation, direct burial doesn’t require a funeral service or ceremony to take place beforehand.

The deceased is interred in a basic coffin at a burial ground chosen by family, but they don’t attend.

Most funeral directors can help to arrange both direct cremation and direct burial.

Cremation with family-led service

You may want to avoid the fuss and expense of a full traditional funeral but would still like some sort of service.

If so, a cremation with a family-led service could be the answer.

Essentially, this is when close family and friends hold a private ceremony at the crematorium before the cremation.

It gives them the opportunity to say a few words, reflect on the deceased’s life and say goodbye before they’re laid to rest.

Some people prefer the idea of a family-led service because it can be more intimate and personal.

Simplicity Cremations, a nationwide funeral provider, can help organise this type of send-off.

Do it Yourself (DIY) funeral

If you’re unsure whether to have a funeral due to the cost of using a funeral director, then you may consider a DIY funeral.

Family members can choose to make some or all of the arrangements, which may include:

  • Completing the necessary paperwork
  • Caring for the deceased at home until the cremation or burial
  • Booking the crematorium or cemetery
  • Arranging appropriate transport
  • Planning and leading the ceremony

Whilst this option saves money, loved ones may struggle with the responsibility of making all the arrangements during an already difficult time.

We have written a full DIY funeral checklist and guide if you’d like more information »

Humanist or celebration of life funeral

A humanist or celebration of life funeral follows a non-religious format.

There’s a non-religious ceremony that can be held by a humanist celebrant, and there are no references to God or to a particular faith.

People choose to have a humanist funeral because it allows them to focus more on celebrating the life of the person that has died rather than any religious aspect.

Woodland funeral (natural burial)

If you don’t want to have a funeral because you’re concerned about its negative impact on the environment, then you may consider a woodland or natural burial.

These are the most eco-friendly alternatives to a traditional funeral.

The coffin or shroud must be made from biodegradable materials, there's no headstone and the body isn’t embalmed, protecting the environment from toxic chemicals.

We have written this woodland funeral guide if you’d like to learn more »

The Sunlife Cost of Dying report in 2020 revealed that:

  • 14% of funerals in the UK were described as direct cremation, up 10% from the previous year
  • 50% of all funeral services were described as celebration of life and 43% were described as remembrance
  • 19% of people who had arranged a funeral had encouraged something ‘different or unusual’ at the funeral, such as a colourful dress code or light-hearted speeches

Do you have to use a funeral director?

No, you don’t have to use the services of a funeral director or use a funeral home when someone dies, even if you want to have a funeral.

A funeral director provides most of the professional services required for a funeral and can ease a lot of the stress that families face during an already difficult time.

One of the most important roles that a funeral director has is being able to collect and then care for the deceased in a temperature-controlled mortuary up until the funeral.

They also have suitable vehicles to transport the body to where the funeral service is being held and then to the crematorium or cemetery.

Nonetheless, it’s possible for loved ones to make all or some of the necessary arrangements themselves.

This is called a DIY funeral (as mentioned above).

Loved ones would have to consider the following arrangements that need to be made:

  • Registering of the death within 5 days
  • Acquiring the right documentation for a cremation or burial
  • Keeping of the body in a suitable place
  • Booking a crematorium or cemetery
  • Find and purchase a burial plot (if applicable)
  • Suitable transport for the body
  • Choosing a coffin

Do you have to wear black to a funeral?

There’s no obligation for people to wear black to a funeral, however, when making your choice it’s important to consider the wishes of the person who’s died and their family.

Black tends to be the most suitable colour for the occasion, however, other dark colours would be acceptable.

Sometimes, people request that mourners to their funeral wear colourful clothing or clothes of their favourite colour.

According to the Co-op survey, 84% of funeral directors have reported an increasing shift in families asking mourners to wear brighter colours at services and 87% had conducted a funeral in the last 12 months where mourners wore bright colours.

We have written this guide on UK funeral etiquette, which may be of interest.

Do you have to have a wake after a funeral?

No, you don’t have to have a wake after a funeral.

As with a funeral service, you can choose whether or not a wake is appropriate.

Traditionally, a wake is held straight after the service and may take place at a local church hall, hotel or another nearby venue.

It’s usually a more casual event with food, drinks, music and further tributes to the deceased.

If you’re thinking ahead for your own funeral, and you don’t want to have a wake, then you may consider having a ‘living funeral’.

This is when all your family and friends get together for one final celebration before you pass away.

Instead of being a sad event, it can include drinking and eating, sharing happy memories and dancing to your favourite music.

Other ways you can pay tribute

If you’ve chosen not to have a funeral for yourself or for a loved one, then there are alternative ways that family and friends can pay tribute.

These include:

  • Scattering the ashes at a location special to the person who’s died
  • Have a small gathering for close friends and family
  • Have a memorial placed at a permanent location that can be visited by loved ones
  • Ask for charity donations for a charity that was important to the person who’s died
  • Create an online memorial where people can post tributes and share memories

If you donate your body to science do you have a funeral?

Medical schools accept body donations for research or for training healthcare professionals.

Donating a body doesn’t cost the family anything and there doesn’t need to be a funeral beforehand.

However, due to coronavirus, medical schools are currently limiting the number of body donations.

For more information visit: Human Tissue Authority.

Do you have to pay for a funeral upfront?

Unless the person who’s has died has a prepaid funeral plan in place, then some aspects of the funeral may need to be paid upfront by the person arranging the funeral.

Most of the time a funeral director or funeral services provider will allow you to spread the cost of their services by instalments.

Third-party costs, such as minister or celebrant fees, doctors’ fees and cremation or burial fees may need to be paid upfront.

If there are funds remaining from the deceased’s estate, then the amount spent on a funeral can be claimed back following probate.

Protect loved ones with a funeral plan

As mentioned, if you don’t want to have a funeral for yourself because you’re worried about how your family may cope with the expense or they may find making the arrangements difficult, then perhaps you may consider a funeral plan.

A funeral plan allows you to plan and pay for your own funeral in advance.

At Reassured, we can compare multiple plans on your behalf and then help you arrange the one that’s suitable for you and your family.

Funeral plans arranged through Reassured:

[icon src="tick-icon"] Guarantee your funeral services at today’s prices

[icon src="tick-icon"] Are approved by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA)

[icon src="tick-icon"] Guarantee acceptance (no medical restrictions)

[icon src="tick-icon"] Allow you to spread the cost from up to 25 years

Get in touch with our award-winning team today for your FREE funeral plan quotes, there’s nothing to lose!

Sources:

*£19.11 per month pricing includes a £75 discount only available to Co-operative members and is based on a 50-year-old purchasing a Co-operative Simple Funeral Plan at £3,020 over the maximum term available of 25 years (total amount repayable £5,733.40) as of 1st March 2021

[1] SunLife (2021), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2021

[2] https://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/

[3] https://www.coop.co.uk/funeralcare/funeral-trends

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