A good Funeral Director will take all of the work out of funeral arrangements.
Many have decades of experience as well as an extensive knowledge of the law and bureaucracy surrounding death. They will liaise with third parties on your behalf, deal with paperwork, pay for services and organise the logistics of funeral planning – making sure everyone’s where they should be, when they need to be.
There is, however, no legal requirement for a funeral director to be involved at all.
Some families are preferring to go it alone or have a ‘Direct-It-Yourself’ funeral.
We do recommend speaking to a reputable funeral director first, at least in an advisory role, even if you don’t wish to use all of their services. There are practicalities to consider, such as storing the body of the deceased, where you may require assistance or guidance.
People have many reasons for arranging a funeral themselves. For some, budget may be an issue and they feel that by doing the work themselves they can control costs. For others, it is from a wish to be actively involved in creating a bespoke ceremony for a loved one. It can be comforting to think you have been personally involved in giving your loved one a customised goodbye. Perhaps your loved one has left a list of specific requests or wishes for their funeral and you prefer to carry them out yourself. Be prepared though, others may find it difficult to understand your reasons and you could encounter lots of questions or criticism for your decision to ‘go it alone’. It will also be a time of grief and emotion, often not the best state of mind for decision making and planning – be realistic about how effective you will be as a funeral arranger under those circumstances. These are all things to consider. However, even if you begin the process and find it overwhelming or too difficult you will be able to find a funeral director to complete arrangements for you.
This article is assuming that arrangements have been made for the body to be stored. If you are unsure contact the hospital mortuary, who may agree to hold the body until the time of the funeral. If it is possible, and you prefer, to keep the deceased at home seek advice from a health professional or funeral director. Although, in general, a body poses few immediate health risks it must be kept cool. A local funeral director may agree to help and allow you to use their mortuary or chapel of rest service.
For most people, the first practical consideration is to collect a medical certificate from the GP or hospital, depending on where the death has taken place. This is required before going to register the death which must be done within 5 days at a registry office. You will then receive the green certificate required for a funeral to take place.
The Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local authority will provide advice and more details about the legal requirements.
Once the date and time of the interment, (burial or cremation), has been confirmed it will be necessary to choose, and buy, a coffin. Please note, if it is to be a cremation check with your local crematorium as there will be restrictions on paint finishes, varnishes or adornments. Some coffin manufacturers will deal directly with the public but many will only sell to funeral directors. There are providers online who allow direct purchase, often from a wide range, and will deliver the coffin to your door.
The coffin will, of course, have to be transported to a ceremony and/or interment. There is no law that states a coffin must be carried by a hearse or any specified vehicle. There are a vast number of options available from borrowing an estate car to hiring a bespoke vintage bus with bunting. See our section on Funeral Transport It is important that whichever funeral transport option you choose to make sure the other party is reliable. As with all aspects of arranging a funeral, timing is essential to ensure that all goes smoothly. Make arrangements and remember to confirm them the day before the ceremony is due to take place.
Creating the ceremony or service is where we can really pay tribute to the individuality of the person who has died. There are, however, practical considerations to take into account. Will it be held at the same venue as the interment or elsewhere? Will it be before or after the interment?
As soon as the time and date of the burial or cremation are confirmed get in touch with your preferred ceremony venue and make sure they are available. How many people do you expect to attend? Who will officiate at the ceremony? Will it be a religious ceremony? Do you need to find a celebrant? Unless you are very confident in your own, or another family member’s, ability to conduct the service we would recommended involving a third party. An experienced celebrant will understand how to construct the ceremony to accommodate your wishes and celebrate your loved one’s life. If an order of service or eulogy is to be included who will write it? Who will deliver it? Think about readings, poems, or songs which could be included – perhaps photographs or props would be appropriate to illustrate the character of the deceased. Will there be a dress code? Are flowers from friends and well wishers welcome or would charity donations be preferred? Do you need to order a floral tribute to dress the casket? There are many aspects to consider in creating a ceremony so be methodical and write lists to ensure nothing is overlooked.
FmA DIY Funeral is possible.
If you wish to have a wake, reception or gathering then it needs to be planned for before or after the interment. Afterwards tends to be the most popular choice. Many people see it as an opportunity to share stories and memories in a more relaxed setting after the emotion of the funeral service. Again, there are practical considerations when choosing a venue – the number of people attending, the distance from the interment and provision of refreshments. Do you need to hire a caterer, provide extra transport or even overnight accommodation? You may want to ‘dress’ the venue with photographs or personal items. In a celebration of life event it is not unusual to have entertainment at the reception.
See our funeral magazine section on Entertainment. Think about how you will let people know about the dates and times of the ceremony or wake. You may choose to use a stationer to design and print announcement cards or an Order of Service. It may be useful to place an obituary in a local newspaper to pass on these details. Similarly an obituary can be used to convey information to others about whether or not you wish to receive flowers or if there is dress code for the funeral.
okAs well as organising and making arrangements it is important to manage the finances. Keep accounts including invoices, payments and receipts to prevent any surprise or unwelcome bills that have been missed!
Taking on the role of funeral director is a huge undertaking, (pardon the pun), but can also be a greatly rewarding experience. If it seems too much for one person then consider a whole family effort. If each, willing, family member takes responsibility for one aspect of arrangements that can lighten the load considerably. If this is how you wish to do it remember that communication is key – keep each other updated with progress, times, dates, costs etc. There will be a sense of satisfaction that you have, personally, created and carried out a unique funeral for your loved one.