Do you have to have a funeral by law?

No, you don’t have to have a funeral by law.

Whilst having a funeral is the norm after someone passes away, it’s not obligatory.

People who don’t want to have a funeral tend to opt for a direct cremation or burial, in which a funeral service doesn’t take place at all.

But there are other alternatives to having a traditional funeral too, for example:

  • Eco-friendly funeral
  • Do it Yourself (DIY) funeral
  • Humanist or celebration of life funeral

So, before choosing not to have a funeral, whether for yourself or for a loved one, continue reading our helpful guide: Do you have to have a funeral?

Do you need to have a funeral?

For most people, having a funeral for a deceased loved one is an important part of the grieving process.

But not everyone needs to have a funeral, for example, when:

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


There are many reasons why someone may not need or want to have a funeral:

  • They’d prefer a ‘celebration of life’, where family and friends can have an informal get-together, away from a funeral setting
  • They don’t want lots of money to be spent on a funeral, (especially as funeral costs are rising)
  • They want family and friends to be able to pay their respects privately
  • They aren’t close to their family and there may not be anyone to pay for the funeral
  • The coronavirus outbreak makes it difficult getting everyone together for the occasion


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

Have you considered a prepaid funeral plan?

If you’re thinking ahead for your own funeral and you’re worried about the financial implications for your family, then you may consider a prepaid funeral plan.

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

You can also spread the cost into low-cost monthly payments so that it’s affordable.

Funeral plans arranged through Reassured start from as little as £20.38* a month.

We're an FCA registered, award-winning broker that can provide you with a FREE personalised quotes, so get in touch today.

Do you have to have a funeral service when you die?

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

Usually, a funeral director arranges for a third-party, such as a minister, to hold the service.

However, this isn’t necessary.

In fact, you don’t need to appoint the services of a funeral director or hire a professional to hold a ceremony.

Apart from the final disposition of the body, which is a cremation or burial, all the other elements surrounding this are optional.

Most people opt to have a funeral service because it provides them with the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved one before they are laid to rest.

However, holding a memorial at a separate time and place could also provide this opportunity, it just means that the body of the person who has died isn’t present.

What happens if you decide not to have a funeral?

If you decide not to have a traditional funeral, then you may still use a funeral director or funeral services provider to help you arrange an alternative.

There are a number of alternative options that you may consider, which include:

Direct disposal

  • A direct disposal refers to a direct cremation or direct burial
  • The body of the person who has died is taken straight to a crematorium to be cremated or to a cemetery to be buried
  • There is no funeral service beforehand and there are no mourners in attendance
  • The cheapest way to be laid to rest as only the basic services are required
  • Loved ones can then have a separate get-together for a memorial, at a time and place convenient for them
  • Loved ones may wish to scatter the ashes and say a few words of goodbye at this time


Eco-friendly funeral

  • If you don’t want to have a funeral because you’re concerned about the environment, then you may consider a natural or woodland burial
  • These are the most eco-friendly alternatives to a traditional funeral
  • The coffin or shroud would be made from natural materials, there's no headstone and the body isn’t embalmed, protecting the environment from toxic chemicals
  • There is also the option to buried at sea, which is possible at three different locations in the UK


Do it Yourself (DIY) funeral

  • A DIY funeral is when family members handle all the funeral arrangements themselves, instead of paying to use a funeral director
  • Arrangements include: preparing the necessary paperwork, caring for the deceased until the cremation or burial, booking the crematorium or cemetery, arranging appropriate transport and so on
  • Whilst this option saves money, loved ones may struggle with the responsibility of having to do it all


Humanist or celebration of life funeral

  • A humanist or celebration of life funeral is still a funeral, however, this type of funeral follows a non-religious format
  • There’s a non-religious ceremony which 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.


As you can see, there are plenty of options available if a traditional funeral is not for you (or for your family).

According to a recent survey by Co-op Funeralcare, 44% of participants believe that funerals will become more informal in the future, and 36% said they’d prefer their loved ones to have a get-together to celebrate their life, as opposed to a funeral service[1].

And, due to the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, there was a time that people weren’t able to have the funeral they requested or loved ones weren’t able to arrange the send-off they would have hoped for.

This has meant that funeral directors and providers are evolving their services to ensure that more people can be laid to rest in the way that they want and/or as per the most recent guidelines.

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 the right environment 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

As mentioned, most people choose to appoint the services of a funeral director as loved ones need the support and guidance of a professional during this difficult time.

Especially as there are many elements to consider and all the arrangements must be made in a short space of time.

Do you have to wear black to a funeral?

There is 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.

Do you have to have a wake after a funeral?

No, you don’t have to have a wake after a funeral, however, this usually follows a traditional funeral.

Typically, the wake is held straight after the committal at the crematorium or graveside.

Loved ones may gather at the local church hall, hotel or another nearby venue, to continue the funeral.

There may be food, drinks, music and further tributes to the one who has passed.

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.

Who is a funeral really for?

There are different opinions as to whether a funeral is for the living or for the dead.

On one hand, a funeral is for the living to come together and mourn for someone who has died.

On the other hand, a funeral is to respect the final wishes of the dead.

Some people believe that spending lots of money on a ceremony for someone who can’t attend, doesn’t make sense.

Yet, a funeral allows a bereaved family to deal with their grief and move on from the loss as best they can.

It really depends on your own personal beliefs.

What to do when there is no funeral

If someone has chosen not to have a funeral, then there are other ways that loved ones can memorialise the person, and mourners pay their respects.

These include:

  • Scattering of the ashes at a location special to the person who has 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 has 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 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:

  • Fully guaranteed, which means they include third-party fees and freeze today’s funeral price
  • Are approved by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA)
  • Guarantee acceptance to anyone aged 18+
  • Allow you to spread the cost from 12 months to 25 years

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

Sources:

*£20.38 per month includes a £75 discount only available to Co-op members, based on a 50-year-old purchasing a Simple Funeral Plan at £3,220 after discount with 25 years payment term (total amount payable £6,115.40)

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

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