Step by Step funeral planning

When a family member or close relative dies, the last thing you’ll want to do is to start making all the decisions that come with arranging a funeral. Many people leave detailed instructions about their preferences for their funeral or you may find that they have a pre-paid funeral plan, but if not you will have to decide everything from where the funeral is to be held, through to readings and music.

Arranging a funeral can be complicated at the best of times but the emotional upset that comes with bereavement can make the prospect of planning a funeral very stressful indeed. This step by step guide has been designed to guide you through the basics of arranging a simple funeral.

The very first thing you’ll need to do is to find out whether the deceased has a pre-paid funeral plan; pre-paid plans are usually held with a funeral director or with a specialist funeral plan provider. If the deceased has paid into a plan, you’ll need to locate the details as soon possible and then follow the instructions which have been left. You will also need to check whether the deceased has purchased or reserved a cemetery plot as this information will be required before you contact a funeral director.

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The dos and don’ts of funeral etiquette

Whilst funeral services are much less bound by tradition than they once were, if you haven’t been to a funeral for many years or have never attended one before, you may be wondering what the commonly accepted etiquette is, what to wear and where to sit.

The arrangements for funerals are not enshrined by law and as result; funerals can be held almost anywhere at all.  There is a common misconception that funerals have to take place in a church or crematorium, however this is not the case and family and friends are now much more likely to be involved with planning a funeral.  With all this in mind, many funerals nowadays are a celebration of a life well lived and pretty much free from convention, rather than an entirely sombre occasion.

Funeral invitations

Funerals are generally not by invitation and are usually open to anyone who knew the deceased. Remember that a funeral service is an opportunity for friends and family to say goodbye and as such is likely to be attended by anyone who wishes to come.

Wearing black

Many people still choose to wear black as a dress code to funerals as they feel that this is traditional and will be seen as a mark of respect by the bereaved relatives.   However, due to the informal nature of many funerals, the majority of mourners these days choose to wear clothes that they feel comfortable in.  When making arrangements for a funeral, it is becoming more usual for mourners to be encouraged to wear bright clothes, for example, or to follow an informal ‘dress code’ such as team colours at the funeral of a loyal football fan.

When to enter the church or crematorium

When it comes to church funerals, it is usual for the mourners to enter the church and take their seats before the coffin and close family arrive.  However, the protocol at crematoriums is slightly different and it is usual for the mourners to wait outside until the coffin and close family have arrived.  When deciding on where to sit, the front rows of the church or crematorium are usually reserved for close family members but unless the church is very small, there’s no need to sit right at the back.

At the end of the funeral service

Once the funeral service is over, it is usual for the congregation to stand and for the funeral celebrant or minister to leave the church or crematorium.  If the funeral has been held in a church, the coffin will either be carried out by pall bearers or wheeled out by the funeral directors, ready to be taken to the hearse for the burial.  However, if the service has been held in a crematorium, the coffin will either remain on view or may be hidden by a curtain.  The close family and next of kin will leave the church or crematorium first.  For church funerals, it is usual for close family and friends only to attend the actual burial.





Choosing a funeral director
credit redfloor

When it comes to arranging a funeral, the majority of people in the UK still choose to use the services of a professional funeral director in Leeds or UK wide.  There are around 2,500 professional funeral directors in the UK and whilst you are under no obligation to use one to arrange a funeral, it is best to ask friends and family for recommendations.

Arranging a funeral is likely to be one of the most stressful things any of will ever have to do.  By their very nature funerals are sad, sombre occasions and if you are struggling to cope with the thought of making arrangements after the death of a loved-one, asking friends or family members to help by obtaining quotes from different funeral directors can be a good way to ease the strain.  The cost of funeral services does vary and there is a school of thought that good funeral directors are the ones who are prepared to help as much or as little as you want.  As a result, increasing numbers of families are now becoming more involved in the arrangements that need to be made for a funeral.

If you’re looking for a funeral director, it’s sensible to get quotes from more than one company.  When ringing around, ask for a breakdown of the costs of their services and if they can give this to you in writing, all the better.  You’ll also need to check that they are professionally qualified and that they hold a diploma in funeral directing but if you are in any doubt as to their suitability, the National Association of Funeral Directors will be able to offer help and advice.

Increasing numbers of people are choosing to bypass funeral directors all together and arrange a funeral themselves.  A DIY funeral is not only a good way to keep down the cost of the funeral but can also prove to be a therapeutic way to help you come to terms with the death of a loved one.  When someone dies, there is no legal obligation for their body to be handed over to an undertaker it is worth bearing in mind that arranging all aspects of a funeral can be far more complex than it would first appear.  Many bereaved relatives choose to take control of the smaller elements of the ceremony such as planning the service or using family members to carry the coffin but if you are determined to arrange every aspect, thorough research will be vital.

Paying for a funeral can be very expensive so it’s important to find out how the ceremony and burial are to be financed before you make any arrangements.  If someone has paid into a funeral finance plan there should be documentation to show this whilst some people choose to open a savings plan to cover the cost.  There are a number of other possible scenarios including pension schemes that will pay out a lump sum towards funeral costs, or other payment and pension schemes designed to help with funeral costs.  If there is way to pay for the funeral or you are simply unable to finance it yourself, the local council may agree to meet the cost but only in cases where no arrangements have been made so proceed with caution.



Ideas for personalising a funeral

credit: khartonov Aleksey
credit: khartonov Aleksey

Regardless of whether you’re arranging a funeral through a funeral director or going it alone, there are lots of ways to make the funeral a personal send-off, designed to commemorate the life of the deceased.  From choosing a unique mode of transport through to fireworks during the wake, what you do needs only be limited by your own imagination.

Funeral flowers don’t have to be the traditional wreaths or sprays normally associated with funeral arrangements.  Your local florist will be happy to offer lots of ideas but if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, why not choose a bright, eye-catching arrangement or a wreath arranged in an unusual design?  There is a huge number of different options available and if you’re stuck for ideas, why not start by thinking about the deceased’s favourite flowers?  Natural-looking arrangements are increasingly popular and it’s now possible to buy funeral flower arrangements made from meadow flowers, for example.

The choice for funeral music is entirely down to you or the wishes of the deceased and there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to choosing music for a funeral.  You’ll also need to decide when you’d like music to be played during the ceremony and if you’re not sure which will be the most appropriate time, the minister or funeral celebrant will be able to offer further advice on this.

A balloon release at the end of a funeral ceremony is a great way to add a very moving, personal touch to the proceedings.  There are a couple of points to bear in mind, however, as it’s very important to ensure that you only use latex balloons without any strings, ties or ribbons.  Latex balloons are entirely degradable which makes them the only environmentally friendly option and you’ll find that there are a number of companies in the UK who will be able to provide balloons and helium for balloon releases at funerals.  A dove release is another option and because white doves have long been a symbol of peace and love, they can make a beautiful tribute at the end of a funeral ceremony, combined with an appropriate reading.  Again there are companies throughout the UK who provide doves for release at funerals and because the birds will fly back to their home coop the same day, you’ll need to use a service based in your local area.

Whilst photography is more traditionally associated with weddings and christenings, increasing numbers of funerals are now recorded on camera or film.  Although the idea of funeral photography or filming might seem a little macabre, to some people it can become an important way to record a very emotional event.  There are a number of companies now offering specialist funeral photography services in the UK but if you can’t find a service in your local area, you’re likely to find that wedding or portrait photographers will be willing to help.

There are lots of ideas available for personalising funerals and whatever your choose to do, providing you choose memorable touches that reflect the personality or interests of the deceased, the funeral is sure to be a moving and fitting tribute.




Make the final journey in style with unique funeral transport

niels rameckersFinding a unique form of funeral transport can be one of the most difficult aspects of funeral planning as striking the balance between a dignified journey and transport that reflects the character of the deceased is not always easy.

Luckily the range of options for unique and unusual funeral transport is increasing and this is perhaps due to an increasing trend towards funerals as a celebration of a life well lived, rather than an entirely sombre event.  When it comes to funeral transport there’s no need to assume that the dignity of the deceased will be compromised if they make that final journey in a campervan and with this in mind, the choices for funeral transport are only limited by your imagination.

The most traditional and widely used option for funeral transport in the UK remains a black hearse followed by a convoy of black limousines.  However, if you’re looking for something a little bit different but not too wacky, there are funeral transport companies who can provide a white or silver hearse and limousine fleet.

It’s interesting to note that in the UK there is no legal requirement to transport a coffin in a hearse and with this in mind, a whole host of possibilities open up.  Whether you’re planning your own funeral or making arrangements for a family member or friend, it can be helpful to think about your preferred mode of transport in life.  For example, a biker would definitely appreciate a motorcycle and sidecar hearse whilst someone with a strong interest in the past or all-things Gothic might prefer a traditional, Victorian style horse-drawn hearse, pulled by black horses wearing black feather-plumed harnesses.

For the transport enthusiast vintage lorry funeral transport could be the perfect option and there are a number of funeral transport businesses in the UK which now offer a huge range of different transport options, ranging from lorries and heavy goods vehicles, through to milk floats and vintage fire engines.  For outdoor enthusiasts a 4×4 vehicle would make a wonderful send off and it’s now possible to book funeral transport that consists of a fleet of Land Rover Defenders.  Almost any form of transport can be arranged and a simple search on the internet is a great way to find ideas and inspiration.

The alternative to arranging funeral transport through a funeral director or specialist funeral transport company is to provide the transport yourself.  As mentioned earlier in this article there isn’t a law which says that a coffin must be transported by a funeral director or hearse company and increasing numbers of people are choosing to use their own transport.  Whether it’s your own car or a friend’s farm tractor and trailer, the choice is up to you!

Whatever you choose for that final journey, provided it reflects the personality of the deceased and sets a ‘tone’ that’s just right for them; you’ll find there’s a huge range of different options available.