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Need to arrange a funeral? Not sure where to start? We’ve put together this guide to make planning a funeral easier. Go through each step and see what works for you and your budget. Or skip to the parts that you need more help with.

Before you start arranging a funeral

Here's some advice from funeral celebrants and funeral directors on thinking about how you could personalise a funeral for your loved one, and some practical tips on arranging a funeral too.

Find out their final wishes

If the person who died was a close family member then you may already have an idea of what they wanted for their funeral. They may have left instructions telling you what they’d like. Some people leave instructions in their will or write down simple notes. Or they might just have told you what they wanted.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to carry out all their instructions if it costs too much, even if they put it in their will. There’s no legal requirement. But you may want to do as much as you can to give them the send-off they wanted.

Work out how much the funeral will cost

Before you get too far into arranging the funeral, it’s a good idea to work out how much you can afford to pay. The average cost of a funeral in the UK is around £4,000 but you could pay a lot more or less, depending on what you want. Prices for a direct cremation, for example, start at around £800. On the other hand, choosing extras such as a horse-drawn carriage for the hearse will cost you an extra £1300 or more.

To get an idea of how much it will cost for the funeral you want, try to get quotes from at least three different funeral directors in your local area.

Find out more about funeral costs

Decide how to pay for the funeral

Check if the person who died left money behind to pay for their funeral. They may have a savings account just for their funeral or a life insurance policy that covers the costs. Or they may have organised a pre-paid funeral plan before they passed away. If you’re not sure, check their will for more info. You can also search for funeral plans online with the funeral planning authority.

If the funeral costs aren't covered then you may need to pay for the funeral yourself. If you’re not sure how you’re going to pay for it read about getting help with funeral costs.

Choose a funeral director (if you want to use one)

If the person who died arranged a funeral plan then the cost of a funeral director may already be covered. If not, you can find a funeral director yourself. Use our funeral director finder to find local funeral homes and compare options.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use a funeral director to make the arrangements. You could organise the funeral yourself without a funeral director if that would be more suitable and help you keep costs down. Or you could ask a funeral director to take on the essentials. You may find it easier if they do things like taking care of the person who died and transporting them to the venue. That way you can deal with the more personal touches yourself and still have the guidance you need.

Decide between a burial or cremation

If the person who died told you what they wanted you may have already decided. But if you’re still not sure, this info may help.

With a burial you’ll need to think about:
  • Where you’d like the burial plot to be?
  • What type of headstone you’d like? And what to engrave on it?
  • Whether you’d like a ceremony before the burial or a graveside service?
  • Whether the cost of the burial will fit with your budget?

With a cremation you’ll need to think about:
  • What you’d like to do with the ashes? Scatter them somewhere special or keep them close by?
  • What type of urn you’d like to keep the ashes in if you decide not to scatter them?
  • Whether you’d like a ceremony before the cremation and where you’d like it?

Choose a coffin

If you’re using a funeral director they’ll have different coffins to show you, whether it’s traditional wood or an alternative biodegradable coffin. And they’ll be able to tell you what’s suitable for a burial or a cremation. They’ll also make sure you get the right size coffin. But keep in mind that you can find a coffin yourself from an independent company if it helps you stick to your budget or makes the choice more personal.

Learn more about choosing a coffin

Choose the type of funeral service you’d like

The person who died might’ve asked for a specific type of funeral service. If not, there are a few different types to choose from:

  • Religious funeral
  • Non-religious funeral
  • Graveside service
  • Cremation
  • Woodland burial
  • Burial at sea

Remember there’s no need to have a service at all, if that’s what you’d like or if you’re on a small budget. A direct cremation or burial (also known as an unattended funeral) might be suitable. This is when the person who died is buried or cremated privately. There’s no service. This can make arranging a funeral simpler and keep costs down.

Danielle Image Cropped
“Grandad wanted an unattended funeral. Low costs. Something straightforward”

Choose a funeral venue

The venue you choose may depend on the type of funeral you’re arranging and whether the person who died is being cremated or buried. You may also have to book several different venues depending on the funeral arrangements. For example, some people choose to have a ceremony at a place of worship followed by a cremation and a wake. All of these could be at different venues. So think about what will make the most sense for your plans and your budget.

Choosing a venue will help you set a date so you can invite guests. It will also help you decide on who will lead the funeral service. This could be your faith leader, a non-religious celebrant, a funeral director, or a friend or family member.

Read our guide to choosing a funeral venue

Arrange transport (hearses, limousines, etc.)

When you’re arranging a funeral you’ll have to think about how the person who died should be transported to the service. Coffins are sometimes transported in hearses and close family and friends may travel to the funeral in limousines. But you don’t have to. A funeral director could transport the coffin in a private ambulance and you could drive to the funeral yourself. Talk with your funeral director about what your options are especially if the person who died didn’t want a lot of fuss.

Black hearse outside church

Choose flowers, readings and music

When you’re arranging a funeral service there are many ways to make it more personal to you, your family and the person who died. Their favourite flower can be used in the arrangements or a favourite song can be played during the service as a tribute.

Think about what you’d like to add to the service using our suggestions below:

  • Would you like any flowers at the venue?
  • Should guests bring flowers or would you like them to make a donation to charity instead?
  • Would you like a speech (known as a eulogy) about the person who died? Who should read it?
  • Would you like any readings or poems?
  • Would you like religious songs to be sung or prayers to be said?
  • Would you like other music to be played?

Make an order of service

An order of service is the schedule for the funeral service. It helps the guests know what to expect.  It can be a small, printed booklet ordered from a professional or just one sheet of paper that you print yourself. You can add some personal touches to the order of service such as family photos or song lyrics that are played during the service. Guests can keep this as a token to remember the person who passed away too.

Learn more about making an order of service

Plan the wake or get-together after the service

After all the funeral arrangements have been made you may want to plan a wake or get-together after the service for guests to attend. This can be a good way for people to pay their respects or to swap stories about the person who died. You can organise catering or keep things simple by inviting guests back to your home for a hot drink and a chat.

The wake could be held anywhere you like. But here are a few ideas to help you decide:

  • Local town hall
  • Your home
  • Your local pub
  • A hotel function room
  • A local beauty spot or park

We hope we’ve made arranging a funeral simpler for you. If you’re struggling with the planning yourself a local funeral director may be able to answer your questions. Use our funeral director finder to get the help you need.

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash.