How to plan a funeral
Unfortunately, we may all have to plan a funeral one day; maybe for a relative, close friend, or possibly our own.
Fortunately, for most of us, this is a very unfamiliar role and in one we may need help to getting started with all the arrangements.
This is a detailed guide on how to plan a funeral, for both ourselves and loved ones.
Planning a funeral for a loved one
If you’ve sadly experienced a death in the family, the responsibility of planning their funeral may fall to you.
It can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if you’re unsure of their funeral wishes.
We hope this in-depth article provides valuable information and guidance, enabling you to plan a fitting farewell on their behalf.
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.
Planning your own funeral can be simple, whether that’s leaving information behind in your will, informing a family member or writing down your preferences.
Many take out a prepaid funeral plan, which allows you to make all the necessary arrangements in advance, ensuring the emotional and financial burden doesn’t fall to loved ones.
Top 5 funeral destinations
- The countryside
- Favourite beauty spot
- A beach
- A lake
- At home
Funeral planning checklist
In this article we’ll cover the following aspects of planning a funeral:
- When to start planning a funeral »
- After someone passes away »
- Funeral director services »
- The type of funeral »
- Burial or cremation »
- Planning a funeral service »
- How long is a funeral »
- The cost of a funeral »
- Planning for funeral costs »
Nowadays it’s not uncommon to prepay for your funeral.
Over 1.4 million people in the UK hold a prepaid funeral plan and this figure is growing significantly each year.
A 122% rise in costs over 14 years has stressed the need to prepay for a funeral and it’s easier than you might imagine.
You can plan a funeral at any time in your life. (You must be over 18 to take out a funeral plan).
Although, most of us only consider planning for our passing in later life, the earlier you start making financial provisions, the better.
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.
This is why it’s important to let your loved ones know if you have a funeral plan and where to find the paperwork.
Otherwise, they may unknowingly use another funeral provider and your selfless investment will be wasted.
With or without a funeral plan, you’ll need to contact a funeral director at the time of death.
They’ll be able to guide you through the following stages and start making the necessary arrangements.
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).
The death can then be registered by a relative with the registrar and a green certificate for cremation or burial be supplied.
The green certificate is then handed to the funeral director so that planning can commence.
If the death was sudden and a coroner has been involved, then the process may be slightly different.
Top 5 unique coffin items
- Chinese takeaway
- A false leg
- A mobile phone
- Wizard of Oz costume
- A violin
As mentioned above, you can call upon your chosen funeral director at any time after the passing of a loved one.
Their role can take many forms to support you and your family during this difficult time.
You decide on the level (or tier) of service you wish to receive from the funeral directors choice of set or tailored plans.
As well as providing professional advice, guidance and support for you and your loved ones, a funeral director can also:
- Collect and transport the deceased to a place of rest, such as a mortuary facility or private restroom at the funeral home
- Take care of the deceased at the place of rest until the funeral, (embalming to preserve the body if you wish)
- Organise a coffin or casket of your choice
- Liaise with third parties, such as the minister and/or crematorium, to arrange all aspects of the service including time and date
- Creating an order of service from your instruction
- Provision of a hearse to carry the deceased from the funeral home
- Provision of a limousine for the family
- Bereavement counselling with a professional, if required.
It’s not compulsory to use a funeral director, however, for most of us, the planning of a funeral is completely new territory.
Hiring a professional with the necessary expertise to plan the funeral will allow you more time with the family.
Once you have chosen a funeral director, you may have an idea of the level of service you require.
You’ll also have the support in place to move on to the bigger decisions and how you can start to create a memorable day for you (if planning your own funeral) or a loved one.
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:
- Celebration of life
- Direct cremation.
A traditional religious ceremony is still the most common; Co-op reported that these account for 2 in 3 funerals that they arrange.
A religious ceremony is led by a religious leader, such as a church minister, at your (or your loved one’s) place of worship.
The ceremony may contain prayers, hymns or readings that are traditional to your religion.
The funeral director will be highly experienced in making arrangements for a religious funeral service.
There’s no harm in breaking away from tradition and more frequently those without faith are choosing an alternative way to say goodbye.
In the Changing Face of UK Funerals survey, 51% of participants think that more funerals will take place outside of traditional religious settings in the future.
Non-religious or humanist funerals are led by either a humanist or civil celebrant.
This type of funeral can still follow usual practices but would exclude any reference to religious notions.
A non-religious funeral is typically held in a crematorium, cemetery or woodland burial site.
Celebration of life
In the same 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 could help loved ones deal with their loss by celebrating the life of the deceased.
The focus will 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.
It doesn’t have to be all smiles though; loved ones will still need time to grieve.
Top 5 most unique hearses
- Only Fools and Horses Hearse
- Canal boat
- Milk Float
- Converted Steam Train
As we become a more environmentally conscious nation, there has been a rise in eco-friendly or green funerals.
More and more funeral providers are offering this type of ceremony, 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 holding 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.
A direct cremation is 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 is ideal for those who’re unable to afford the cost of a traditional funeral and/or burial.
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.
Firstly, you’ll need to think about which cemetery, churchyard or natural burial grounds you wish to have the burial.
You’ll need to purchase a burial plot if the deceased has not already done so. The funeral director will be able to help arrange this.
If you wish to mark the burial plot, this can be done with a headstone, plaque, tree or another type of memorial.
For a cremation to go ahead certain paperwork is required by the crematorium.
You’ll need the green certificate provided by the registrar, the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death 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 can 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 or buried at a location of your choice.
Your funeral director will advise on the location of the nearest cemetery or crematorium.
In either instance, they’ll be able to make all the necessary arrangements, down to the smallest details.
In the UK, more than 78% of funerals in 2018 had cremations, a figure that has significantly increased over the last 60 years.
So, the type of funeral has been established and you know if it’s to be a burial or cremation.
The other main elements to consider include the coffin, flowers, music, transport and so on.
When tailoring the service, it’s up to you (and your budget) the level of personalisation you’d like for each element.
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.
Top 5 most unique funeral floral tributes
- A 3D Lion
- A Lorry
- A Butterfly
- A Dartboard
- A 3D Handbag
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).
One of the most difficult parts of the funeral service is writing a eulogy (speech).
This usually consists of a few words about the deceased, describing their character and how you wish them to be remembered.
Alternatively, you could read out a meaningful poem or a short passage in their memory.
The eulogy or other readings can be read out by the person leading the funeral, by a family member or close friend.
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.
Most funeral plans or packages will provide a traditional black hearse, however, it’s not unheard of for other modes of transport to be used.
Usually, a limousine is provided by the funeral home to drive the family in cortege behind the hearse to the cremation or cemetery.
Again, this isn’t compulsory and you may decide on a different mode of transport, particularly if you feel strongly about having an eco-friendly funeral or are on a tight budget.
In some cases, you’ll have a choice of the procession route to the cremation or cemetery.
The cortege may start from the funeral home or from your or a family member’s home, and finish where the service will take place.
Pallbearers are commonly family or close friends who are chosen to carry the coffin from the hearse to the burial site or crematoria.
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 the decreased beloved football team.
You’ll need to decide on how the deceased will be dressed. The funeral home will prepare and dress them.
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.
Following the funeral service, 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 their stories of the dearly departed.
Top 5 most popular funeral flowers
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.
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.
A funeral today can be tailored to suit most budgets, but to put it into perspective, the cost of a basic funeral in the UK is on average £4,417.
What’s more, the total cost of dying, including third-party costs and professional fees, is now £9,493, (and rising).
This cost of a funeral can be approximately broken down as follows:
Funeral director services (40%)
- Funeral arrangements
- Professional advice and guidance
- Caring for the deceased
- Provision of funeral personnel for the service
- Provision of hearse, limousine and coffin.
- Order of service
- Memorial (if applicable)
- Venue hire
- Extra transport.
Third-party fees (30%)
- Cremation or burial fees
- Doctor fees
- Minister or celebrant fees.
Factors that may affect the cost of your funeral
- Where you live – the most expensive place to have a funeral is London, the cheapest is Northern Ireland
- The type of funeral – whether having a traditional, religious, non-religious, eco-friendly or direct cremation
- Services from the funeral director – whether you use a funeral director, and if so, the level of service you requested
- Degree of personalisation – what you choose to spend on floral arrangements, transport, the coffin etc.
- Future price rises – unless you’ve a prepaid funeral plan to lock in today’s rate
- Burial or cremation – a burial costs on average £1,000 more than a cremation.
All prepaid funeral plan arranged through Reassured cover both funeral director services and third-party fees.
Prepaid funeral plan
The cost of a basic funeral has risen 130% since 2004 and is likely to continue increasing at this rapid rate.
By 2036, funeral costs are estimated to reach £12,749; 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 of having a prepaid funeral plan. Nevertheless, the key benefits of taking out a plan through Reassured include:
- Services from a local, reputable funeral director from the UK’s largest funeral provider
- Guaranteed acceptance regardless of health or age, no medical required
- Third-party costs included, such as burial, minister and doctor fees
- Registered with the Funeral Planning Authority, ensuring standard of service is met
- Protection of funds using an independent trustee and an FCA regulated insurance provider
- Various payment options; spread the cost over 6 or 12 months or by monthly instalments from 2 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.
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.
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 although it could cover funeral costs, it can also be used as your beneficiaries wish. For example, it could also provide an inheritance.
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.
Top 5 most unique funeral venues
- McDonald’s drive-thru
- Beside a snooker table
- On a golf course
Other ways to pay for a funeral
Paying for a funeral from the deceased’s savings may seem like a sensible option. However, loved ones won’t have access to the funds until probate is granted, which can take 6 to 12 months.
This means they’ll still need to come up with the initial funds to pay for the funeral.
As a result, you may have to dip into your own personal savings to cover costs.
Also, as the cost of funerals are continuing to rise, it’s possible the savings won’t cover the entire funeral in the future.
A funeral can be paid for using funds from your estate, however, as with savings, your loved ones will need to wait for probate for funds to be released.
It’s important to note that by default the proceeds from a life insurance policy form part of your estate.
As a result, it’s subject to 40% inheritance tax on anything exceeding £325,000. You can write your policy in trust to bypass IHT.
A funeral plan is not affected by inheritance tax as the funds are paid directly to the funeral provider.
Family members who are unable to afford a funeral themselves could apply for a funeral expenses payment plan or bereavement support through the government.
Those eligible for a funeral payment will need to be receiving a qualifying benefit, such as income support or universal credit.
A bereavement support payment can be claimed by the husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased, as long as they were under state pension age when they passed away and living in the UK.
Government funding may help cover a small proportion of the funeral, including cremation or burial fees, transport and doctor’s fees.
Death in service (or group life insurance)
Many employers in the UK offer a death in service benefit, which pays out a tax-free lump sum (usually 3 x their annual salary) to the family of the employee who has passed away.
This is a great employee benefit; however, the cover doesn’t remain with you if you were to change employer.
Compare funeral plans, (to secure the best price)
We hope that from this article you’re able to take away plenty of valuable information regards the planning a funeral.
Along the way, you may have decided that a prepaid funeral plan is the right option for you or a family member.
At Reassured, we can help you find the best plan with the appropriate level of service to meet your unique needs.
And with our Co-op best price guarantee you can be confident that we’ll get you a great deal.
What’s more, our award-winning, FCA registered broker service is completely free to use.
Simply get in touch and we can do the rest; saving you valuable time and money.
*Equated to a £165 discount only available to Co-op members. Based on a 50 year old purchasing a Simple Funeral Plan at £3,295 with 25 years payment term
 SunLife (2020), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2020
At Reassured, we will provide you with quotes from Co-op funeral care, as well as any information required regarding the best funeral plans.
This allows you to make a fully informed decision.
All of the funeral plans we provide are fully regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) ensuring you and your money are protected.