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Whether you’ve planned a funeral before or you’re doing it for the first time, it’s worth knowing more about the different types of funeral providers out there. Here, we’ll take you through what a virtual funeral director is so you can decide if making funeral arrangements online is the right choice for you.

Online funeral planning: is it possible?

After the death of a loved one many people simply go to a local funeral home on the recommendation of a family member or friend. In fact, 57% of people didn't compare funeral director prices (SunLife 2024). This could be because the person who died specified which funeral director they wanted. But there are other options – if you’d like to, you can arrange a funeral online with a virtual funeral director. And you won’t need to go to a funeral home at all.

But what is a virtual funeral director exactly?

What is a virtual funeral director?

A virtual funeral director provides the similar services to a traditional funeral director but they don’t have any physical branches. This means that you can arrange a funeral online with no need to visit the funeral director in person to work out the details. All of this will be done on their website and over the phone or by email.

How are online funeral directors different from traditional funeral directors?

Even though it’s possible to arrange a funeral online with an virtual funeral director it’s important to know how they differ from a traditional funeral director. It’ll help you decide which option is right for the funeral you’re planning.

So what’s the difference?

An online funeral director or virtual funeral director

An online funeral director usually only offers one type of funeral service – a direct cremation. A direct cremation is cremation without a funeral service. The ashes of the person who died are then returned to the family afterwards.

A direct cremation is cheaper than a cremation with a service. According to the latest research a direct cremation costs £1,498 on average (compared with a cremation with service which costs an average of £3,795 (SunLife 2024). What’s more, virtual funeral directors are often able to offer a direct cremation for less than the £1,498 average – prices can start from as little as £900. This is because they’re able to pass on savings they make on premises and by offering fewer options.

A traditional funeral director

A traditional funeral director provides more options. You can choose from a burial or cremation, and a religious or non-religious service. And you can tailor the service to your requirements too. So you can choose the coffin, the venue, the transport, the flowers and who leads the service. A traditional funeral provider can offer you more flexibility. But it will be more expensive than working with an online funeral director.

So why choose an online funeral director?

An online funeral director that only offers direct cremations may be right for you if:

  • The person who passed away asked for a direct cremation or simply didn’t want a lot of fuss.
  • You need to plan a funeral on a small budget.
  • You’d like to plan your own memorial service, wake, or celebration of life that feels less formal than a traditional funeral.
  • You don’t want to visit the funeral home.

Even though a virtual funeral director offers limited services, they allow you an easy way to arrange a funeral online. So it’s a straightforward process. You can keep costs down and, if you want to, you can plan a separate wake or memorial service that celebrates the life of your loved one in the way you’d like. It’s a good alternative when a traditional funeral isn’t suitable or what you had in mind.

Virtual funeral director Traditional funeral director
Contact on the website, by phone or email Visit in branch, and contact on the website, by phone and email
No chapel of rest Usually has a chapel of rest so you can sit with the person who has died
Arranges direct cremations Arranges direct cremations, attended cremations and burials
Offers a small number of options for the funeral Offers a wide range of options for the funeral and helps you to personalise the service
You usually won’t be able to attend the funeral You’ll be able to attend the funeral, or arrange an unattended funeral if you’d prefer
Low-cost funeral fees, starting from £800 Funeral costs will vary, depending on the type of funeral you choose, but start from around £1,500 for a direct cremation
Has a flat nationwide fee Fees vary by location

How to find a funeral director that’s right for you

The best thing you can do before choosing a funeral director is research. Look at your local options as well as online funeral directors to see what best fits your requirements. Getting a few quotes will help you make an informed decision and plan a funeral service that fits your budget.

Start your search with our directory of funeral directors. It’ll help you compare traditional and virtual providers, funeral homes in your local area, as well as costs and services.

Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.