Organising a Funeral

Most Funerals are organised by professional firms of Funeral Directors although some people prefer to organise funerals themselves

We cannot advise you about funeral arrangements and we are not able to recommend a particular funeral director, however, you can obtain details of your local funeral directors in telephone directories, newspapers, or at the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Most people are unaware that funeral directors can setup business without training or qualifications and that no "licence" is necessary. No universal standard applies and consequently, separating a good funeral director from an indifferent one is difficult.. Some funeral directors are members of professional organisations, who may operate a code of conduct and a complaints procedure.

The Role of the Funeral Director

  • The executor or person arranging the funeral contacts the funeral director that will arrange to see them and discuss the funeral arrangements.
  • The funeral director will collect the body and prepare it for viewing.
  • A choice of coffins is usually offered and the deceased can be viewed by appointment in the Chapel of Rest.
  • The funeral director will contact the cemetery or crematorium and arrange the date and time of the funeral.
  • The funeral director will ensure all forms are correctly completed and any necessary forms/certificates delivered to the cemetery/crematorium office. Details will be given about the form of service and music if required.
  • The funeral director will pay the various fees involved, called disbursements. These include cemetery/crematorium fees, ministers fees etc.
  • Floral tributes and newspaper obituaries can be arranged if required.
  • A hearse and following limousines will be provided and the funeral will take place under the guidance of the funeral director.
  • Subsequently an account will be sent after the funeral. The account should be clearly itemized and clearly define the disbursements paid on behalf of the person arranging the funeral.

Organising a Personal Funeral

It is often assumed, quite wrongly, that funerals can be completed only with the use of a funeral director. Although a funeral director will be invited to organise the majority of funerals, some people prefer to organise funerals themselves. The funeral director typically organising the funeral by collecting and moving the body, arranging embalming and viewing of the deceased, providing a coffin, hearse and other elements.

Carrying out these services relieves the bereaved from doing what they may feel are unpleasant and difficult tasks. Ultimately, the funeral director must operate commercially and in charging for his or her services, funerals can be expensive. In addition, the funeral director imposes him/herself on the arrangements to a greater or lesser degree.

Some people do not wish to use a funeral director. This can be for a wide variety of reasons. They may feel that passing the body of a loved one over to strangers is wrong. Some feel that personally organising a funeral is their final tribute to the deceased person. Others may simply wish to save money by doing everything themselves or may have used a funeral director on a previous occasion and found the experience unsatisfactory. Some may feel that funerals arranged with a funeral director are routine and processed, and some may desire an innovative and different approach. It is, of course, your right to make this decision without giving a reason.

The entire funeral can be handled by the bereaved family. Such a funeral is referred to as 'Personalised' or 'Independent', rather than the possibly offensive term 'DIY' funeral.

These funerals will be different because traditional funeral elements may be unobtainable. Currently, many funeral directors will not sell coffins separately, neither will they offer a hearse for use, unless the entire funeral package is purchased.

Consequently, personalised funeral arrangers use their own vehicles or hire vans in lieu of a hearse. They may also make their own coffin or use a biodegradable type.

These actions often attract comments that such funerals lack 'dignity'. It is important to refute this comment.

Firstly, dignity is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as 'true worth' and where a personalised funeral accords with the wishes of the deceased or the bereaved, it obviously possess this quality.

Secondly, dignity is too often ascribed to standard set by commercial organisations. Consequently, using this argument, the more you spend, the more dignity you can obtain. This is evident in funerals, where the use of a Rolls Royce hearse is perceived to possess a higher level of dignity than, say, a Ford hearse. It is important not to allow such sentiments to deny any individual the right to arrange a funeral without commercial involvement.

Funerals arranged by the bereaved contain a far higher personal input, which evokes more emotion and often celebrates the life of the deceased in a more moving and individual way.

It is possible that the dominant and traditional role of funeral directors is diminishing, as new approaches are sought.

A new type of 'green' funeral director is emerging, promoting bio-degradable coffins and a more personal approach. Funeral facilitators are also appearing. They are people who will assist the bereaved in organising a funeral for a fee. They may offer a vehicle to carry the coffin and assist in handling the body. Other people, such as nurses, may offer laying-out or body preparation services, to avoid people having to do this themselves. this may be particularly relevant when a person dies at home within a 'hospice at home' scheme. These changes are evidence of a return to past times, when various members of the community helped in the completion of a funeral.

Please see our funeral expenses for the cemetery charges that will need to be paid when organising a Personal Funeral.

Useful Contacts

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)

618 Warwick Road,
B91 1AA

Tel:           0121 711 1343
Website:    www.nafd.org.uk

The Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)

Crowndale House,
1 Ferdinand Place,

Tel:      020 7267 9777
Web:    www.saif.org.uk