Organising a funeral
Organising a funeral can seem a never ending tick-list of to-dos – no sooner is one task completed than another arrives that you may have completely overlooked. All of which must be diligently slogged through, despite this time being charged with grief. The practicalities of death do not sit well with the raw emotions of loss.
For many, this is a process defined by chaos, feelings of disorganisation and overwhelming emotion; for others it serves as a focus that can delay the acceptance of loss. In either event, this article serves as a gentle step-by-step guide on how to organise a funeral, introducing you to the elements you will need to consider.
How much does a funeral cost?
The average cost of a funeral today stands at an unprecedented £3,702. This staggering figure (which is continuing to rise) leaves one in ten people struggling to meet funeral expenses, racking up an average debt of £1,318 (Royal London, October 2015).
Should those close to the person who has died be unable to cover the cost of the funeral, some help may be available in the form of Funeral Payments. These are usually for those on a low income, and how much you get depends on your individual circumstances. You will usually have to pay back any money awarded from the deceased person’s estate (if they have one).
The first step: notifying the authorities of the death
You can chose to contact the authorities either before or after you’ve approached the funeral directors, if you're using them. (That said, funeral directors will need to be provided with the death certificate when it is available).
If the person died in hospital or in a hospice, then there will likely be a register’s office in the building. If they died outside of these establishments, you will most likely need to report the death at the local registration office. It is a legal requirement to report a death within five days of it happening.
Using a funeral director versus a DIY funeral
A funeral director can provide a complete service, taking care of all the necessaries of a funeral. Moreover, a good funeral director can play an important, supportive role during this stressful time. They can also remove the need to handle tasks that may otherwise feel coldly practical to you as someone who loved and cared for the deceased, such as arranging a hearse and contacting the crematoria or cemetery.
The cost and role of a funeral director
The cost of a funeral director equates to in-excess of 70% of the total amount of a cremation funeral, and 55% of a burial funeral (Money Advice Service). While this is of course a significant amount, funeral directors do offer a wide-ranging services, including:
- Helping with the selection of a suitable coffin (on this note, the selection of coffins today ranges from the beautifully individual, such as those personalised with photographs, to the more affordable and eco-friendly, such as robust cardboard coffins.
- Transporting the deceased to the private chapel of rest.
- Taking care of the deceased (such as washing and dressing them for a final visit from friends and family).
- The provision of a hearse.
- The provision of pallbearers.
- Organising the legalities.
Beyond this, funeral directors can also be involved in a number of other tasks, such as purchasing flowers; arranging an obituary in the press; making catering arrangements for the wake; organising the chapel of rest and arranging any music.
Choosing a funeral director
While the funeral director market is unregulated, there are two leading associations that define certain standards for, and expectations from, their members. These are The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and The National Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).
Do It Yourself funerals
Although still relatively unknown, DIY funerals, in which families undertake all of the tasks that would typically be the duty of the funeral director, are becoming more common.
Some families opt for a mix of DIY and a funeral director. This can help reduce the overall cost of a funeral as well as provide an opportunity for the dead person's loved ones to play a more active role in arranging their final goodbye.
It's important to understand that, as the bereaved, you have a choice. You can decide exactly how to celebrate your loved one’s life and, moreover, whether and to what extent you want a funeral director involved in the tasks you have ahead.
Types of burial
Today there are many more options beyond traditional burial than there was even as recently as a decade ago, each offering a varying amount of flexibility.
That said, the form of burial suitable may depend upon the faith and of the deceased and how closely they adhered to it. A prime example is the preference for burial in the Islamic and Jewish religions.
Traditional burial – a traditional burial may includes many common elements, including a wake, ceremony, eulogy and burial. Choosing this option today costs, on average, £1,645.
Green burial – green burials are simply those that provide care for the deceased in their burial while also ensuring minimal impact to the environment. As the world becomes ever more eco-focused, it’s not surprising that increasing number of people are considering green burials. Many places are now offering more eco-friendly funerals. One suugestion is the Natural Burial Company.
Cremations have become the most popular form of funeral, not least because of the rapidly declining availability of burial space and the costs involved with burials. An average cremation is much cheaper than a burial.
Typically there are three main forms of funeral ceremony: religious, civil and humanist, and each has a specified person who can work alongside you to create the sort of ceremony the deceased would have wanted.
These three forms of ceremony are far from set in stone, and the decision as to whether, or to what extent, religion should be included can be discussed with the funeral director (if you are using one).
The funeral reception
Traditionally, funeral receptions were held in a family member’s or friend’s home. Nowadays it's increasingly commonplace to hire a venue (not least because of the pressure it can lift from someone who would otherwise need to play host and caterer).
Popular venues for the funeral reception include hotels, pubs, restaurants, social clubs, community centres and church halls.
Aside from the cost, you'll probably want to find out:
- Are there parking and disabled facilities, if needed?
- Do they have enough staff to look after the guests?
- Do they serve food and drink, or will you need to arrange this elsewhere?