Do I have to have a funeral when I die?
In the UK, you don’t have to have a funeral when you die. In fact, around 2,000 people per year are already choosing to have no funeral service, either to save money or for personal reasons.
The law does say you must arrange a burial or cremation. But that doesn’t mean you have to have a service with mourners, readings or music.
Here are a few options to consider.
A direct cremation (or ‘no funeral cremation’)
A direct cremation is a type of unattended funeral. This means there’s no service and nobody goes to the crematorium, except for the staff.
Many people choose this option to save money or because they simply don’t want a formal funeral. Some opt for an informal memorial service, which takes place after the body has been cremated. This could be at a favourite pub or even the family home.
If you choose to just have a cremation with no funeral service, a funeral director will still usually be involved. They’ll arrange the cremation and return the ashes to the family within a few days.
Can you cremate someone yourself?
The short answer is no. UK law says that cremations must be carried out in licenced crematoriums.
In 2007 this law was challenged. A British Hindu man argued that it should be legal to have a funeral pyre, in line with the religious beliefs of the person who had died. While the Court of Appeal eventually agreed, it pointed out that pyres were impossible under current planning and environmental regulations.
A natural burial
In a natural – or “green” – burial, the body is buried in a meadow or piece of woodland. This type of burial is becoming more popular, in part because it’s better for the environment.
Natural burials allow for more flexibility over timings and the funeral service. If you like, you can have a ‘straight-to-grave’ burial, without a funeral. Or you could choose a simple graveside funeral without much ceremony.
A silent funeral
In a silent funeral, there are no songs, readings or speeches. Instead, people sit or stand in silence to remember the person who died. While silent funerals are traditional in the Quaker faith, you can also have a secular funeral without readings or music. To arrange this, you’ll need to make it clear to the celebrant, or in your final wishes, that this is what you’d like.
Do I have to use a funeral director?
No, you don’t have to use a funeral director. Some people choose to handle the arrangements themselves instead. This approach is sometimes called a “DIY funeral” or “family-led funeral”.
Your responsibilities might include:
- Collecting the person who has died from the mortuary
- Taking care of the body at home
- Transporting the body to the funeral
- Arranging a burial or cremation
It can be a lot of work and organisation to plan a funeral yourself. There are charities and advocacy groups that can help you arrange a “do-it-yourself” funeral. You could start by contacting the Natural Death Centre, a charity that promotes choice and education in funeral planning.