Which type of funeral is appropriate?
Each funeral is unique and there are many elements that can be included to remember the person who has died, such as allowing the mourners to express their grief, giving consolation to the mourners if this forms part of their beliefs/faith and remembering and celebrating the life of the person who has died.
Many people find a ceremony that is established and familiar from their faith and/or cultural tradition extremely helpful and comforting. The deceased may have left instructions for the content of their funeral in their will or in an Advance Funeral Wishes document, so it is important to look for this information.
Talk to your funeral director who will help create the right ceremony for you. The funeral director will be aware of all the issues such as timing and other practicalities that you need to bear in mind. They will also be aware of what is possible at your chosen venue, for example how many people can be accommodated, and whether there is an organist or whether recorded music can be played.
Is the funeral to be a burial or cremation?
This is often determined by faith or cultural tradition but sometimes there are practical issues that have to be taken into consideration, such as whether there is space in a particular cemetery or cost.
Where will the ceremony take place?
The entire ceremony could take place at the crematorium chapel, the cemetery chapel or graveside or the service could begin at a faith venue. There is also a tradition of having a service in a parish church and followed by the committal at the churchyard gate to avoid mourners having to travel to a crematorium or cemetery. It may also possible to have a ceremony at a non-religious venue.
With so many religions practicing in the UK, it is usually easy for a funeral director to find the most appropriate faith leader and arrange the funeral with them. Make sure you tell the funeral director of any specific needs as not everyone is familiar with all the different denominations and variations of practice within the different faiths.
Most ministers will be familiar with issues of time and the practicalities of the funeral, but the funeral director will guide them as well as you about these matters.
If you are having hymns or religious readings, you can ask to see the actual text that will be spoken as there may be different translations/versions. Many hymns can be sung to different tunes, but the funeral director or minister of religion will be able to advise you. Many ministers will agree to incorporate a personal element into a funeral, such as recorded music or a non-religious reading. A period of silence as well as formal prayers may also be appropriate.
A growing number of people are finding that a civil funeral ceremony is an appropriate choice for them to make. Your funeral director will know if there is a civil funeral celebrant in your area.
Sometimes the person may not have been particularly religious but there is a wish to have some religious content. Civil funerals are able to include words and music of all kinds including a prayer or a hymn (or both) and by including a period of silence during which those who wish to pray may do so.
A civil funeral ceremony focuses on celebrating the life of the person who has died. It is created by a professional celebrant who will come and talk to you about the wide range of choices for content and the style of the ceremony.
Institute of Civil Funerals
Civil funeral celebrants belong to the Institute of Civil Funerals and a list of them and their contact details can be found on the institute's website.
The Institute of Civil Funerals, PO Box 160, St Neots, PE19 5WL
Tel: 0845 0048608
The British Humanist Association
The BHA offers completely secular ceremonies conducted by their humanist officiants. The BHA has also published a booklet called ‘Funerals without God', for officiants and families wishing to conduct this type of ceremony themselves.
BHA, 1 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HD
Tel: 020 7079 3580
In some areas, individual freelance celebrants, from either a religious or secular background, offer to conduct bespoke ceremonies. They advertise with funeral directors or in the press and some families may know of them by word of mouth.