Most people have never arranged a funeral before and the responsibility can feel overwhelming. Here’s our advice to help you find the right funeral provider for your family.
Did you know that there is no legal requirement to have a funeral at all? The law only requires that a death is registered, and the deceased is either cremated in a licensed facility or buried in a suitable plot.
Many British traditions are a legacy of the Victorian era, which set out strict rules regarding how a person should be mourned. But times have changed and now we’re finally creating our own mourning traditions, ones that reflect what makes our family unique.
You only get one chance to do this…so take your time, and think about the following questions before you make decisions about the farewell itself:
Question 1 – What is the purpose of this event?
Any of the following may apply:
Saying goodbye, celebrating life, commending into God’s care, giving thanks, spiritual support, meeting community expectations, expressing love, releasing the soul, gathering together, reflecting on our own mortality, putting on a good show…
Question 2 – Who should be there?
Allowing enough time to gather all the important family members and friends will result in a more satisfying and supportive event. In today’s busy world this could take weeks, especially if you’re negotiating with an unhelpful ex-partner or a dysfunctional family.
If Mum was a “Spring Person” why not hold her farewell during her favourite time of year?
One solution is to separate the committal from the main farewell event. A private or unattended cremation takes care of the practical aspects with dignity and respect. It can be less stressful, minimise absentees and allows time to craft the perfect goodbye.
Question 3 – Which is the right venue?
Most funerals take place at the local crematorium – familiar to many, ample parking, lovely grounds and the coffin can be present during the service…
There are no happy memories here, the time is very limited, yours will be one of several funerals on that day and most people would avoid bringing children to this place.
Why not try taking a memorial photo of your loved one or the Ashes urn as a focal point, then hold your own style of farewell somewhere you feel relaxed, able to make as much noise as you like.
Question 4 – Which elements of a funeral really matter?
This is very personal and different for everybody.
There are many ways to reflect the things that made this person special (without spending more than you should).
For some the coffin itself is a final expression of care and must reflect how special this person was, others take an entirely pragmatic approach. The number of vehicles in the cortege indicates the deceased’s importance and community standing – the quantity and scale of the floral tributes achieves the same thing.
A traditional funeral Mass or Thanksgiving service may be the central event for some, with the wake described as the “best” bit by most of us, but others focus on the scattering or interment of the ashes as the point of closure.
Shared ritual can be moving and comforting – you can employ a professional celebrant (religious, humanist or civil) or devise a service that is truly personal and original.
Question 5 – Which funeral director can give me what I need (and within my budget)?
Now that you have a better idea about the kind of farewell that’s right for your family you are equipped to choose the right service provider. This could be a traditional local undertaker to arrange a full service, a direct cremation specialist who will look after the essentials, or something in-between.
A good funeral professional will always want to help you achieve the perfect send-off, but you need to tell them what that looks like!
Don’t use a funeral provider that doesn’t listen to what you want and remember: even if your loved one is already in their care you can simply appoint a better firm to take over the arrangements.
As the farewell ceremony is the most important part of the proceedings, you might want to begin by choosing a celebrant. They work alongside the local funeral firms and will be able to recommend someone who can give you what you want and need.
Local clergy are the most experienced caregivers and many will listen closely to your wishes. While it isn’t common to approach them direct there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. There are a number of different church types to choose from – Church of England, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed Church, Salvation Army.
If you prefer a non-religious funeral then you can search online (or via personal recommendation) for a Humanist or Civil Celebrant. Check their credentials and ask about their training or experience, but at the end of the day choose someone you feel you “connect” with. A funeral is so much more than a way to say goodbye, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the life of someone special and begin the healing process.