Church of England funerals: a step-by-step guide

man at funeral holding a bible

What happens at a Church of England funeral? We’ve put together this guide so you know what to expect.

What is a Church of England funeral?

A Church of England funeral is the traditional funeral service of the Church of England, which is a type of Christianity. It’s the official religion of England and has about 26 million members, who are called Anglicans.

The structure of the funeral

Most Church of England funerals follow a similar structure. Usually, the people organising the funeral can adapt some elements of the ceremony. This might include choosing songs or readings that remind them of the person who has died.

The funeral venue

The funeral is often held in a church, but it doesn’t have to be. Church of England funerals can also take place at crematoriums, cemeteries or woodland burial sites.

What to wear

You’ll usually be expected to wear formal clothes in dark colours. It’s best to assume this is the case unless the family has asked for a different dress code.

Who leads a Church of England funeral?

Church of England funerals are led by a minister. Usually, they’ll be the vicar for the church where the funeral is being held. If you’re organising the funeral, you’ll be able to meet with them before the service to agree what readings, prayers and hymns you’d like.

What happens at a Church of England funeral service?

These are the main steps in a Church of England funeral service:

The arrival

The people going to the funeral are given time to arrive and assemble before the funeral begins. The coffin might already be inside the venue, or it might be carried inside when the ceremony starts.

Sometimes, family members or friends help to carry the coffin (known as pallbearing). If so, this will have been arranged in advance. You can learn more about being a pallbearer here.

The minister in charge of the funeral may say some words as the coffin enters. Someone might also sprinkle the coffin with water. This is a reminder of the water used in a baptism ritual.

First hymn

The service usually begins with a hymn. Often, the minister will lead the singing and everyone else joins in, although sometimes there will be a choir too. You don’t have to sing along if you don’t know the hymn or don’t want to.

There might not be any hymns at the service. This could be because the person who has died didn’t want any.

If you’re organising the funeral, you’ll usually be able to choose the hymns. Learn about popular hymns in our guide to choosing funeral songs.

Words of remembrance

At this point, someone will usually speak about the person who has died. The speaker might be a friend or relative. Sometimes, the minister speaks instead.

This part of the service is tailored to the person who has died. It’s there to remind guests of the person and to celebrate their life. You might hear poems or music that they liked, as well as stories about them. These stories can be poignant, thought-provoking or funny.

If you’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy you’ll need to prepare it in advance. Learn more about what to say in a funeral speech or eulogy.

Prayers and readings

This part of the service is led by the minister. He or she will recite a few prayers and bible readings. The person organising the funeral can choose a bible verse to be read if they want to.

A moment of reflection

This part of the service gives guests a chance to say goodbye in their own way. People often choose to say quiet prayers or lay flowers on the coffin.

Sometimes this happens in silence. Sometimes music is played and more poems or stories are read out. There might also be another hymn. It’s up to the person who organised the funeral what they’d like.

The committal

This is the final part of a Church of England funeral service. It can be very emotional, as it’s like saying a last goodbye to the person who has died.

The committal can happen at the end of the funeral, or it can be a separate ceremony later in the day. This is common for burials because the committal will often be held beside the grave.

Either way, the minister will say some final words to commit the body to its resting place. Music might be played too. This can be a good opportunity to play some music that meant a lot to the person who has died.

How long is a Church of England funeral service?

It depends on how many readings and hymns there are in the service. On average, a service lasts between 30 minutes and 1 hour.

How much are Church of England funeral fees?

The average cost of a funeral in the UK is £3,953 (Sunlife 2023). This price covers the basics – fees for the cremation or burial, doctor, funeral director and minister or celebrant.

One thing to note: the Church of England charges parochial fees for events such as funerals and weddings. You may also be asked to pay for extras like flowers, administration costs and heating for the venue. This will be on top of your basic funeral cost.

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