Planning a Funeral

There are many benefits to thinking about and talking about your funeral (or the funeral for someone you are close to) in advance.  There are lots of decisions to be made when arranging a funeral but when we’re grieving decision making is difficult.  As a result it makes sense to discuss your wishes in advance, when there’s less emotion involved.  Funeral services are becoming increasingly more personal and individual with a greater range of choices and options available.  Whilst this can result in a more fitting funeral, it’s also stressful for the bereaved to be making these decisions under pressure at the time when they are least able to do so: in the emotionally charged immediate aftermath of a death.  Some people who are terminally ill also find it helpful to be involved in planning their funeral and perhaps even meeting the person who will lead the ceremony for them.

planning a funeralI can help to guide you through thinking about and recording funeral wishes.  I will provide a detailed document outlining the areas to consider and options available, and give advice tailored to your own location and circumstances.  If you would like me to, I can also work with you to write all or part of the ceremony.

So, I can help.  Whether you have general or specific questions, whether you’re just being organised and thinking ahead or whether you’re planning as a result of a terminal illness the information on this page will be useful.  Have a look at the FAQs below, and contact me for further advice or to request a funeral planning document.  This free form, entitled Funeral Wishes will help you to think about and record your thoughts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I plan my funeral in advance?

Arranging a funeral involves a lot of decision making, starting with key choices such as whether to choose burial or cremation, where the service should be held and whether to have a religious or non-religious service.  You will also need to think about what that service should include in terms of music, speakers or readings in addition to more minor decisions such as a choice of floral tributes, a charity for in memoriam donations, transport, or even what type of coffin to choose.

Talking with those you are close to or leaving instructions about your own wishes for your funeral therefore has several benefits for those who survive you:

  • Giving guidance and removing uncertainty – when the time comes your next of kin can be confident they are doing what you wanted rather than trying to guess
  • Removing pressure – your loved ones will not have to make big decisions when they’re emotional and grieving
  • You have the chance to research options available and discuss what works for both you and those who matter to you – for example, some of your ideas may change if it’s clear after discussion that they’re not right for those you love
  • Creating a funeral which is right for you and those close to you – which in turn will help to deal with the effects of the bereavement
  • It’s much easier to talk about death when there’s no immediate prospect of it happening as it’s far less emotional
Do I have to have a funeral service?

In short, no.  There is no legal requirement for a service to be held to mark a death.  Many Funeral Directors now offer what is often called a ‘Direct’ Cremation or Burial meaning that the coffin is simply taken to a crematorium or burial site without any mourners in attendance.  No service is held.

However, a funeral is not just for the benefit of the person who has died, it is an important rite of passage for the bereaved too.  It’s a chance to gather together the community of those who loved, knew or will miss the person, to support each other, to remember, and to say goodbye.  The bereaved will benefit from a funeral service which does these things well; a service which feels ‘right’ for both the person who has died and their close friends and family.  This applies regardless of whether  the funeral is a ‘traditional’ service or a more informal gathering of mourners.  Conversely, a funeral which doesn’t fulfil these needs can mean loved ones feel they haven’t had the chance to say goodbye in a way which is meaningful for them.  This can complicate grief.

You may not want to have to have a traditional service in a church or a crematorium chapel, but do you want to deny your friends and family the chance to gather together to formally remember you and support each other?  A funeral service can be held with or without the coffin present, and at a variety of different venues – a village hall, a hotel, a pub, in your own home or garden, to name but a few options.  It can be anything from a traditional service to a party.  Qualified Funeral Celebrants are specifically trained to assist with funerals at more unusual venues and can help you to put together the type of service which is right for you.

Should I buy a Funeral Plan?

Thinking about and talking about your funeral wishes does not necessarily mean paying for your funeral or buying a ‘Funeral Plan’.  The primary responsibility of your estate is to pay for your funeral, so if you anticipate having savings or sufficient capital then it is not necessary to pay in advance for your funeral.  Providing there are funds in your bank account, your next of kin can simply provide the bank with a copy of the death certificate and instruct the bank to pay the Funeral Director directly.

However, planning your funeral in advance means you will be able to obtain a reasonably accurate idea of what the costs might be (in today’s prices).  If you are anxious to ensure that the cost of your funeral doesn’t fall to your next of kin, you may choose either to reserve some funds in a savings account to contribute to the cost, or to invest in a funeral plan.  The latter is an important financial decision and should be carefully researched to find the best and most cost-effective option to deliver the funeral you want.  I can provide more information on this if required.

How do I start planning a funeral?

There are many aspects to planning a funeral ceremony, some of which may be more important to you than others.   Start by thinking about what the important ones are for you, and make a note of any areas where you already have a clear idea of something you want (or even something you don’t want).  You may want to spend some time doing research – for example: visiting venues, talking to others who have arranged funerals recently, looking up information and resources online, reading books.  Please contact me if you would like a free copy of my Funeral Wishes document, designed to give you guidance and advice on questions to consider and options available and space to record your wishes, or if you would like to make an appointment for a face to face meeting to discuss your ideas or help with writing the ceremony itself.

Do I have to decide on every aspect of the funeral?

Definitely not!  You do not need to specify detailed instructions for every aspect of a funeral service, just record those which are important for you or where you think some guidance from you will help the person who arranges your funeral.  The funeral service will be about you, but it also needs to help those who survive you to say goodbye to you and remember you in a way which means something to them.  So, if you can leave them some space in the service to be able to reflect their own feelings and what they want to remember and celebrate about your life that will be helpful too.  There may be some areas where you don’t have strong feelings or don’t really mind what happens – if so, it’s likely that that’s an aspect of the service that isn’t that important to you.

You may also want to consider noting different options depending on the circumstances at the time of death as some choices may depend on those who will be mourning you.  It’s important to indicate which of your choices are absolute (i.e. you do not want them to be changed in any circumstances) and which are flexible and therefore can be changed if it is better for those who survive you.  For example, if you specify that you wish to be buried or to have your ashes scattered in a location which is geographically distant from where you currently live, is this an absolute?  Or in the event that your parents/partner/children survive you, could they instead choose a location which is closer to them so that they would be able to visit more often if they wished to?

Further Information

As you can see there are many things to consider when planning a funeral.  For more information about funeral venues and options in Winchester and Hampshire, in addition to articles about funerals, see Useful Links.

For recommended Funeral Directors and more detailed practical advice, do use the Good Funeral Guide.