Funeral planning checklist

Planning a funeral will never be an easy task. But this funeral planning guide and checklist from award-winning broker, Reassured, should help you get started with the arrangements.

The process of planning a funeral will be different for everyone, and some steps you may decide not to include, but here is a complete funeral planning checklist:

  • Register the death
  • Obtain the death certificate (multiple copies)
  • Gather important documents e.g. the will
  • Check if they have a funeral plan
  • Find a suitable funeral director to help arrange the funeral
  • Decide funeral type e.g. religious or non-religious
  • Decide if it will be a cremation or burial
  • Acquire the necessary documents for disposition
  • Decide on crematorium or burial site
  • Obtain a burial permit if required
  • Write a death notice or obituary for a newspaper
  • Visit the chapel of rest
  • Choose the coffin
  • Decide on flower arrangements
  • Pick keepsakes to go in the coffin
  • Plan the funeral service (time, date, location)
  • Organise transport for family members to and from the service
  • Write a funeral notice and/or send out invitations
  • Put together the order of service
  • Select an outfit for the deceased
  • Choose photos to be displayed at the service
  • Ask someone to write and perform a eulogy
  • Pick the funeral music, hymns and/or readings
  • Decide the dress code
  • Pick a memorial and/or urn
  • Book venue and catering for the wake


Continue reading for our step by step guide on how to plan a funeral...

How to plan a funeral

In this article, we’ll cover the following aspects of planning a funeral, whether that be planning a funeral for a loved one or planning your own funeral in advance:

  1. When to start planning a funeral »
  2. Funeral director services »
  3. The type of funeral »
  4. Cremation or burial »
  5. Planning a funeral service »
  6. Planning a funeral reception »
  7. The cost of a funeral »
  8. Planning for funeral costs »
  9. How long is a funeral »

When to start planning a funeral

You can start planning a funeral when someone passes away and their death has been registered.

A death must be registered within 5 days but can be extended for another 9 days if a medical certificate has been issued.

For a death in the UK, a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death will need to be obtained from the GP (if they passed away at home), or from the hospital (if they passed away in hospital).

Registering a death can be done at the Registrar office by a relative or someone present at the death. You’ll then receive a Certificate of Registration of Death.

Following this, you’ll be able to obtain an application for cremation or certificate for a burial so that you can start planning the funeral.

If you have appointed the services of a funeral director (or if the person who has died has funeral plan in place), they can help you acquire all the necessary paperwork.

If a loved one has just passed away and you're unsure if they have a prepaid plan, you can trace a funeral plan through the Funeral Planning Authority.

It would also be sensible to check if they've left behind any relevant paperwork and/or certificates with the details.

Planning your own funeral

In a recent study, 61% of people said that organising a loved one’s funeral had motivated them to start thinking about their own plans[1].

Planning your own funeral in advance gives you a little more control over what services are included and how much is spent.

To do this you may consider a prepaid funeral plan.

A funeral plan allows you to make all the necessary arrangements in line with your wishes, and pay for your funeral at today’s price.

Prepaid funeral plans can be arranged through Reassured from as little as £20.38* a month.

Top 5 unique coffin items

  1. Chinese takeaway
  2. A false leg
  3. A mobile phone
  4. Wizard of Oz costume
  5. A violin

Funeral director services

Most people choose to appoint the services of a funeral director to help them with the funeral arrangements.

It’s reassuring to have the support of a professional during such a difficult time.

Funeral directors provide a range of services, including:

  • Professional guidance and advice
  • Collecting the deceased and transporting them to the funeral home
  • Care and preparation of the deceased until the funeral
  • Liaising with third-parties, such as the crematorium or cemetery
  • Assisting with all the necessary arrangements
  • Funeral personnel such as pallbearers
  • A hearse and limousine for the procession
  • A coffin

You can select a level of service that suits your needs and your budget.

It’s not compulsory to use a funeral director; family members can take on all or some of this responsibility for the funeral if they wish.

With the help of a funeral director, you’ll have more time to spend with the family and think about the other more personal elements of the funeral.

The type of funeral

A reputable funeral director will have connections with the necessary people, to ensure you get the funeral you require.

There are many different types of funerals, including:

  • Religious
  • Non-religious
  • Celebration of life
  • Eco-friendly
  • Direct cremation

Religious

A traditional funeral with a religious ceremony is still the most common type of funeral; Co-op reported that these account for 2 in 3 funerals that they arrange[2].

A religious ceremony is led by a religious leader, such as a church minister, at a place of worship.

The ceremony may contain religious prayers, hymns or readings that are in line with your beliefs.

A funeral director will be highly experienced in making arrangements for a religious funeral service.


Non-religious

Those without faith can choose a funeral service that follows traditional practices but excludes any religious aspects.

In the Co-op Changing Face of UK Funerals survey, 51% of participants think that more funerals will take place outside of traditional religious settings in the future[3].

Non-religious or humanist funerals are led by either a humanist or civil celebrant.

A non-religious funeral can be held in a crematorium, cemetery chapel, natural burial site or another non-religious venue.


Celebration of life

In the same Co-op survey, 36% of participants said they would prefer a celebration of life ceremony.

These are also led by either a humanist or civil celebrant and the content is usually non-religious.

This type of funeral may help loved ones deal with their loss by celebrating the life of the person who has died.

The focus may be on what made them individual, their personality and unique traits, as well as their life experiences and accomplishments.

The service may include sharing happy memories, looking at old photographs or listening to their favourite music.


Eco-friendly

An eco-friendly funeral is an ideal way to say goodbye to someone who cared for the environment whilst they were alive.

More and more funeral providers are offering this type of funeral, working with private cemeteries offering natural burial grounds and wooded sites.

An eco-friendly funeral requires a coffin or urn made from biodegradable materials. To preserve the natural environment, the grave may be marked with a biodegradable marker or by planting a tree.

If you wish to hold a service, this can take place at the burial site or at a venue on the burial grounds.

A service can also be held before or after the burial at a separate location and this can be religious or non-religious in nature.


Direct cremation

This funeral type has been designed for those who’d prefer not to have a funeral service at all.

A cremation would be carried out as usual, but without any family or friends present.

A separate, less formal, memorial or celebration of life may take place instead.

A direct cremation costs much less than a traditional funeral and therefore, suited for those on a strict budget.

Top 5 most unique hearses

  1. Only Fools and Horses Hearse
  2. Canal boat
  3. Milk Float
  4. Converted Steam Train
  5. Lorry

Burial or cremation?

Deciding to be buried or cremated is probably one of the hardest decisions to make; however, for some, it may be the most natural decision of them all.

This is because family traditions, religion or personal beliefs can have a significant influence on what we choose.

Planning a cremation

Once you have chosen a local crematorium for the cremation to take place, you’ll need to obtain the necessary paperwork also.

This includes the green certificate provided by the registrar, the medical certificate signed by two separate doctors and you’ll need to fill in a cremation application, called a Form 1.

The funeral director can assist you with all the paperwork.

The funeral service tends to be held in the crematoria chapel or at another venue before the cremation.

The day after the funeral you’ll be able to collect the ashes to be scattered at the Garden of Remembrance or at a different location of your choice.


Planning a burial

Firstly, you’ll need to think about which cemetery, churchyard or natural burial grounds you wish to have the burial.

When you’ve chosen the location for a burial, you’ll need to obtain a burial permit for the burial plot.

You’ll also need the green certificate or certificate for burial from the registrar and the medical certificate signed by two separate doctors before the burial can take place.

The funeral director will be able to help sort all the paperwork.

If you wish to mark the grave, this can be done with a headstone, plaque, or statue.

A natural burial may only allow a natural memorial, such as the planting of a tree.

In the UK, more than 78% of funerals in 2018 had cremations, a figure that has significantly increased over the last 60 years.

Planning a funeral service

There are many things to consider when planning a funeral service.

Help from family and close friends to plan the funeral service and decide on each of the elements would be beneficial at this time.

If the person who has died left behind their funeral wishes in their will or by other means, then you may wish to plan the details according to these.

The obituary

Let others know about the death and inform them of the details of the funeral.

An obituary may include an appropriate photo and a few sentences about the life of the deceased.

It can be published in the local newspaper or, more conveniently, posted on social media.


The coffin

A traditional coffin is usually made from solid wood or wood effect materials.

Eco-coffins are made from natural and biodegradable materials such as bamboo, wool, cardboard or willow.

You could have a personalised biodegradable coffin with your own design or image.

It's sensible to check with the burial site or crematorium which types of coffin they allow.


The flowers (or charity donations)

These are a significant part of any funeral and there are many variations you could choose for the day.

The most popular funeral flowers include roses, lilies, carnations, sunflowers and daffodils.

You may like to ask mourners to make donations to a chosen charity instead of sending or bringing flowers.


The hearse

If you’ve opted to use a funeral director, then they’ll probably arrange a traditional black hearse for the procession.

However, at the request of the deceased or loved ones, an alternative hearse can be used – as long as it’s able to carry the coffin.


The transport

Usually, a limousine is provided by the funeral home to drive the family in cortege behind the hearse to the cremation or cemetery.

However, it’s not compulsory to have a limousine at the funeral or any particular transport.

Loved ones can travel to the location of the funeral service by car or public transport if they wish.


The procession

Most funeral directors will give you the option to choose the procession route to the cremation or cemetery.

The cortege may start from the funeral home or from a family member’s home, and finish where the service will take place.


The music

One of the most talked about elements of a funeral, the music, is what makes a service truly personal.

Will it be a favourite song? A classical piece? A song to reflect the personality or life of the individual?

It may even be from the list of most popular funeral songs; the top track in 2019 is 'Frank Sinatra - My Way'.

Or, if there's a specific instrument that was truly loved then this can be played if your venue allows.

Several pieces of music may be required, for the beginning, middle and the end of the service.

For a religious service, you may wish to search for or ask for recommendations of popular hymns for funerals.


The order of service

An order of service can be done by a professional, by yourself at home or the funeral director can create one on your behalf.

A good order of service details:

  • Any hymns or lyrics for songs
  • Times of any readings, speeches or prayers
  • Names of those performing the readings, speeches or prayers
  • A photo of the person who has died and/or quotes
  • Information of the deceased, birth and death date, whether they had a spouse and/or children
  • The details of the wake, (address, timings, whether food/drink is served)


The eulogy

One of the most difficult parts of the funeral service is writing a eulogy.

The eulogy is a speech about the life of the person who has passed.

You could as ask a family member or relative to write and/or read the eulogy.

Alternatively, someone could read a meaningful poem or a short passage in their memory.


The pallbearers

Pallbearers are commonly family or close friends who are chosen to carry the coffin from the hearse to the burial site or crematorium.

The funeral home personnel may be able to carry the coffin if you prefer.

According to research, requests to funeral directors for pallbearers to carry coffins has dropped by 78% in the last 5 years.


The dress code

Will the mourners be wearing traditional black or would you prefer a more colourful dress code?

There may be a colour theme, that all the mourners, including funeral personnel, are asked to adhere to.

Perhaps in the colours of your loved one’s beloved football team.

You'll also need to decide the outfit for the deceased. The funeral home will prepare and dress them.


The memorial

For a traditional funeral and burial, you’ll need to think about the style and wording of the headstone.

For a cremation, this would be choosing a suitable urn, if keeping the ashes, or deciding where to scatter/bury them.

At a natural burial site, the use of a traditional headstone won't be permitted, as it would disturb the natural setting but you may be able to plant a tree or leave another natural memorial.

Certain memorials will require maintenance as time goes on, so bear this in mind when making a choice.

Top 5 most popular funeral flowers

  1. Roses
  2. Lillies
  3. Carnations
  4. Sunflowers
  5. Daffodils

Planning a funeral reception

Following the committal the crematorium or cemetery, you may wish to hold a wake at a nearby venue, such as a pub or hotel.

This usually includes organising some catering for the occasion.

This presents a great opportunity for friends and family to get together and share memories and pay tribute to the person who has passed.

The cost of a funeral

The cost of the funeral you are planning will depend on various factors, which include:

  • Location of the funeral - Funeral costs vary across the UK
  • Burial or cremation - A cremation is less expensive than a burial, and a direct cremation is the cheapest type of funeral
  • Funeral director services - Whether you use a funeral director, and if so, the level of service you choose
  • Degree of personalisation - What you choose to spend on the floral arrangements, coffin, transport, venues and so on
  • When the funeral takes place - Funeral costs are rising and unless you lock-in costs with a funeral plan, you may have to pay higher funeral prices in the future


The average cost of a basic funeral in the UK is £4,417[1].

But, as mentioned, funeral costs vary significantly across the UK so you may pay more or less than this.

Here is a breakdown of average funeral costs in the UK:


Funeral director services cost on average £2,687 and this includes:

  • Funeral arrangements
  • Professional advice and guidance
  • Caring for the deceased
  • Provision of funeral personnel
  • Provision of hearse, limousine and coffin


In 2019, people spent on average £2,309 on the send-off costs which it includes:

  • Flowers
  • Order of service
  • Memorial
  • Venue hire
  • Catering
  • Extra transport


Professional fees cost on average £2,771 and include:

  • Legal advice
  • Probate


Third-party fees cost on average £2,288 for a burial and £1,193 for cremation and include:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Doctor fees
  • Minister or celebrant fees

Planning for funeral costs

Prepaid funeral plan

As mentioned, the cost of a basic funeral has risen 130% since 2004 and is likely to continue increasing at this rapid rate.

By 2024, funeral costs are estimated to reach £5,285; an enormous financial burden to leave behind.

By taking out a prepaid funeral plan, you can lock-in the current price of a funeral, saving your loved ones money in the future.

This is because prepaid funeral plans guarantee the services included, no matter how much prices increase.

A funeral plan can be taken out by anyone, whether you're 18 or 80 years old and guarantees acceptance.

At Reassured, we can offer a number of set prepaid funeral plans, each based on a different level of service.

There are many pros and cons to having a prepaid funeral plan.

The key benefits of taking out a plan through Reassured include:

  • Services from local, reputable funeral directors arranged by the UK’s leading funeral providers
  • Guaranteed acceptance regardless of your health, no medical information required
  • Registered with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) ensuring a standard of service is met
  • Protection of funds using an independent trustee and an FCA regulated insurance provider
  • Various payment options; pay in full or spread the cost up to 25 years
  • Regular contact with the arranging client to advise and provide support during each step
  • Bereavement assistance and free advice from Bereavement Notification Service team
  • Flexibility for your loved ones to add personal touches when the time comes.

Top 5 most unique funeral floral tributes

  1. A 3D Lion
  2. A Lorry
  3. A Butterfly
  4. A Dartboard
  5. A 3D Handbag

How long is a funeral?

Cremation

This can vary, especially if you're having a service elsewhere and then a cremation, but it's typically around 45 minutes.

They can be shorter, for example, a direct cremation has no service at all, but a memorial or other type of ceremony may follow.

It's very rare for a cremation to exceed one hour.


Burial

A traditional funeral service is approximately one hour, which may be followed by a short burial service by the graveside.

At an eco-friendly funeral, you may have just a short burial service, followed by a standard funeral service of 30 minutes to an hour.

Your funeral director will advise of a more accurate length of time once all the arrangements have been made.


Life insurance

An alternative way of protecting your loved ones from the financial implications of a funeral is by taking out life insurance.

When calculating the amount of cover required, you'll need to factor in funeral costs in addition to other expenses.

Life insurance is particularly suitable if you own a home and/or have a young family and want to ensure that when you’re gone they're able to continue to pay the mortgage and/or meet daily living costs.

The main types of cover include term-based life insurance, over 50s plans and whole of life insurance.

Over 50s insurance is commonly taken out to cover funeral costs. The sum assured can be up to £25,000, although this varies between insurers.

The benefit of an over 50s plan is that loved ones could spend the proceeds on the funeral or how they see fit.

Whilst a funeral plan can only be used to cover funeral expenses. (But remember, doesn't fall victim to rising costs).

The key elements of an over 50s plan include:

  • Guaranteed acceptance for those aged 50-85 years
  • No medical questions asked
  • A quick and easy application
  • Sum assured secured is usually between £5,000 and £25,000
  • Guaranteed pay out after you pass away
  • Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)


Reassured can help you find life insurance suited to your specific needs and within your budget.

We can compare quotes on your behalf from a wide range of leading insurers and assist with the application process.

Sources:

[1] SunLife (2020), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2020

[2] https://www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/arranging-a-funeral/organising-the-day/download-pdfs/

[3] https://www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/campaigns/funeral-trends/

*£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)

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Our Providers

At Reassured, we will provide you with quotes from Co-op Funeral Care, Dignity Funeral Services and Simplicity Cremations.

All of the funeral plans we provide are fully regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) ensuring you and your money are protected.

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