25 November 2019

A guide to making funeral arrangements

5 min read



What will it cost? Who chooses the readings? Who needs to do what? These are just some of the immediate decisions that you’ll need to make when you’re arranging a funeral. Our simple guide breaks down the steps for you.

When someone dies, dozens of decisions must be made in a short time. But where do you start? This quick guide can help you with initial arrangements such as where to get a funeral director and also give you an indication of average funeral costs.

Step 1: Choose the type of funeral: direct cremation or traditional service

Typically, a traditional funeral is a cremation or a burial with a service. A direct cremation – usually seen as a more affordable option - is without a service, so friends and family won’t get to attend.

Step 2: Research costs and set a budget

According to the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index (2019), the average funeral costs £3,785. Costs vary and do depend on your location, so it’s worth asking around for quotes and details of services provided. Funeral costs typically include funeral directors, cremation or burial costs and fees for doctors and the minister or celebrant. You might also have to pay for a memorial plaque, hiring a venue and catering, flowers, limousines, printing costs, death and funeral notices, copies of the death certificate and a funeral urn.

Some people have an insurance policy to cover the cost and prepaid funerals are becoming common. At the time of writing, there isn’t a database of all funeral plans. However, the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), who regulate funeral plans in the UK, can, through their Trace a Funeral Plan service, ask their registered providers whether they have a funeral plan in place for your loved one.

Step 3: Select a funeral director

Most people ask friends or family to recommend a funeral director they’ve used. You can also search online with either the National Association of Funeral Directors or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.

If you wanted to, you could organise the funeral yourself as there’s no legal requirement to use an undertaker or hold a funeral. It might feel more personal and cost less, but be aware that it can take up quite a bit of your time. The Natural Death Centre charity can give advice and guidance in arranging and conducting a funeral independent of a funeral director.

Step 4: Meet your funeral director

When you meet the funeral director, typically, they’ll ask about your choice of coffin, music and readings. You can pick your own readings and music, or choose from the funeral director’s.

Some funeral director might offer to visit you at home; if you prefer this service.

Step 5: Make arrangements for the body

Once a death is registered, funeral directors collect the body from your home or the mortuary and keep it in a chapel of rest. You can select the clothes in which to bury your loved one and specify how the body is prepared. You can see the body privately before the funeral – some find this a comfort, others prefer not to.

Step 6: Inform family and friends

Many families send printed announcement cards, while others prefer to phone or write personally. Some others put a notice in a local or national newspaper. Friends can also help spread the word.

Step 7: Decide order and content of the service

Talk through options with the funeral director, family and close friends. Whether it’s a humanist or religious ceremony, the vicar or celebrant will usually talk to family and friends to prepare a eulogy (commemorative speech). Friends and family might also want to speak or give a reading. Think about music for the beginning and end of the service. Families often use photographs on the order of service.

Step 8: Decide about flowers or charity donations

Flowers can be placed on the coffin. Some families may ask for donations to charity rather than flowers.

Step 9: Consider what to do with the ashes

You can scatter them at a meaningful place later or inter them in a family grave or at a crematorium memorial site. Churchyard burials are rare nowadays but it’s possible to be buried in a family grave.

Step 10: Opt for a dress code if appropriate

Not many people wear traditional mourning clothes these days, although some see sombre attire as a mark of respect - it’s your choice.

Funeral services are a way of saying goodbye; a personal tribute to a beloved friend or relative. Families face many choices around the type of ceremony, from music to readings, eulogies and structure of the service. By taking these initial steps you should be to arrange a funeral which is in keeping with a loved one’s personal wishes.

Funeral Plans from Royal London