Anything goes with funerals these days, writes Rosie Inman-Cook. That applies to both parts of a 'funeral', the essential disposal of the body and also the ceremony.
The newest trend in the UK is to separate the two. This is called a direct funeral and involves the immediate, discreet burial or cremation carried out usually by a specialist undertaker followed by a less rushed and finely tailored, memorial service or party at a later date. This type of funeral costs one-third of a regular, basic funeral. Saving families or estates a further two to three thousand pounds. Most independent undertakers can offer this choice but they may not get the price down to this level.
Most people assume that there are laws and regulations regarding funerals, what many folk don't realise is that there are only three rules that apply to the whole business of death and funerals.
- You must register the death or obtain permission from the coroner to go ahead with the funeral arrangements.
- You must dispose of the body in an approved manner – burial, cremation etc
- You must not expose a dead body on the public highway.
So, you do not need to:
- Employ a funeral director; though most people do.
- Embalm a body; entirely unnecessary unless being repatriated abroad.
- Use a hearse for transporting the deceased; any vehicle is acceptable as long as it is safe to do so.
- Use a coffin; there are now some lovely shrouds on the market which have integral carrying straps. You can bury someone simply wrapped in their favourite eiderdown if that is what they want.
and you can keep the dead at home; with some further advice.
This means you can direct a funeral yourself or compromise and use a flexible undertaker for just the bits you cannot manage yourself. It is now possible to buy coffins direct, book the crematorium or cemetery yourself ** and drive the dead in any suitable vehicle playing their favourite tunes on their final trip. You can even bury someone on your own land without anyone's permission; advice on what records have to be kept available from the NDC charity for free.
The take home message regarding undertakers is shop around they vary hugely in standards, mission and price. A standard, basic, default cremation via the usual channels will cost in the region of £3,500 (2016)
Ceremonies can be of the default, convey belt variety too or as individually simple or flamboyant as the deceased or the family want. Again there are no rules and for the non religious there are funeral celebrants who can support families and help them formulate a personal and fitting send off at a venue of their choice. They charge up to £200.
**some funeral firms operate some crematoria and cemeteries. They will probably be unhelpful and obstructive as they want you to employ a funeral director for an extra £2000 plus. Stand your ground or go elsewhere or go to the press.
My funeral wishes
This fill-out-and-keep downloadable template can help you share your funeral wishes with your nearest and dearest and ensure you have the send off you deserve.