The death of a loved one is never easy, and planning a funeral can be a difficult thing to organise in the wake of grief. There are many things to consider when planning a service.
Before we break down the logistics, it is important to find out whether or not the deceased had funeral instructions written into their will, as well as whether or not life savings or funeral cover was already in place to help contribute to funeral expenses.
How soon after their passing should the funeral be?
The average funeral takes place between 13 and 16 days after a death. Some religions, such as Judaism and Hinduism, prescribe that the funeral be held within 24 hours.
Steps to planning a funeral:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Reach out to family and anyone that has offered to help with organising the funeral. Not only will it ease the pressure off you, but others close to the deceased may want a say in the kind of service their loved one will receive. You may have already had a discussion about this prior to their passing.
What’s your funeral budget?
In the UK, the average cost of a funeral is £4,056. This only covers funeral director fees, doctor’s fees, the price of the coffin, and clergy fees, not other costs such as transport, flowers, etc. As a general rule of thumb, burials are slightly more expensive than a cremation. If a burial is chosen you will need to look around for a coffin, or shroud.
Nowadays there are many different coffins, from fully biodegradable options, such as wicker coffins, or the possibility of a mushroom suit to make sure that the local environment isn’t negatively impacted by the burial. Naturally, you will need to know the deceased’s height and weight when buying a coffin.
As well as the funeral service, there are other potential costs you might need to consider. Don’t forget to put money aside for the wake, if you are planning on having one.
Their will may include life savings which can help to cover some, or all, funeral costs, or they might have a life insurance policy that assists with this. If not, family, or a close friend perhaps, will have to cover the expenses.
There are ways to cut costs, however, such as:
Embalming. This is not a necessity, you can always opt-out of this tradition.
Make the food at the wake yourself, or have a potluck.
You could always buy a cheaper coffin. Cardboard coffins will break down more easily and are relatively inexpensive (around £150).
Don’t splurge on things like flowers if looking to reduce expenses. You might even want to suggest that your guests donate to a chosen charity instead.
A direct cremation (without the ceremony) will likely save you around £3,000. You could instead hold a wake and organise speeches and other ways to commemorate the deceased.
There are charities that can help with cutting funeral costs. In some cases, you might be eligible for government support, or assistance from the local council.
Location of the funeral
You’ll want to choose a funeral parlour, chapel, village hall, or specific venue, near to your loved ones' home, or at least a location that is easy to access by family and friends.
Choosing a funeral director
Once you have a place in mind, you might want to consider hiring a funeral director to assist you with things, and take away some of the hassle of organising all of the proceedings yourself, or amongst family members. Not only will they be able to give you expert advice and guidance, they will also take care of the deceased, the funeral service, and the organisation of a wake if so desired.
A funeral director may have already been pre-chosen, so make sure to double-check this before finding someone, if you do choose to follow this route. The National Association of Funeral Directors is a very helpful resource that can help you with finding a local funeral director.
It can be more cost-effective to not have a funeral director, but if it is within your budget, it might be worth your while.
Type of service
Was your loved one religious? A humanist? Did they want a burial at sea, or in a woodland? Not only should their funeral be in keeping with their religious leanings and belief systems, but you must also respect their wishes, if already known. If you are not sure what they wanted, you can ask family and friends what kind of service they think would be best.
Personalising a funeral
Did the person who passed away have a favourite song? Were they passionate about poetry or literature? You will need to choose the music that the coffin curtains are drawn to as well as any readings and speeches in advance, and write them into the order of service. You might also want to have a musician from the family, perhaps, perform a song, or an instrumental piece.
It is customary to have the celebrant host the funeral. They will typically introduce friends and family members to come to the front to speak as well as run the service. However, you don’t have to follow this convention if it doesn’t sit right with you. You might want to have a chosen family member lead the proceedings for a more personal service.
What will the order of service be?
After you have established who will speak, you will need to put together a running order for the service. This can be made known through a booklet placed on the guests seats at the funeral parlour/chosen venue.
How will guests get to the funeral?
The coffin is usually taken to the funeral by a hearse with family members following behind in rented cars. This is not compulsory, you could have a more personalised mode of transport arranged instead.
Planning your own funeral?
It might be an uncomfortable thing to think about, but planning your own funeral will relieve some of the difficulties from loved ones in the future. It is also worthwhile to make financial plans in advance, i.e. taking out funeral cover. Talking to family and friends about the kind of funeral that you’d like is also a wise choice, so that they know what to do when the time comes.
An alternative ceremony?
The deceased may have wanted something a little different to celebrate their life. If they were a keen explorer, a sci-fi fan, someone who worked in aviation, or a general space fanatic, a space memorial service in association with Aura Flights is the perfect final sendoff.
Ash scattering in space is a beautiful way to commemorate a life well lived. The memorial can even be revisited through the video footage gathered during the flight. If this ceremony is of interest, please get in touch. Our expert team of compassionate staff are happy to help.