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What is a funeral director? And what do they do? In this guide we’ll take you through the role of a funeral director and how they can help you arrange a funeral. It’ll give you a better understanding of how much support you can get from them and how to find a good funeral director too.

What is a funeral director?

A funeral director (also known as an undertaker) is a professional who helps you plan a funeral. They’ll offer you the emotional and practical support you need to arrange it. And behind the scenes, they’ll manage everything from collecting the body of the person who has died, through to the legal paperwork and planning the service. A funeral director takes on a lot of the practicalities so that you can concentrate on the things that really matter to you and your family.

What’s the difference between a mortician and a funeral director?

You might have heard of professionals in the funeral industry called morticians. Sometimes the terms mortician and funeral director are used interchangeably. But the word mortician is more commonly used in the US to refer to a funeral director. In the UK the term mortician is sometimes used to refer to someone who works in a hospital morgue. Sometimes they’re responsible for taking care of the body of someone who’s died, before the funeral director comes to collect them to take them to the funeral home.

What does a funeral director do?

What is the role of a funeral director? And how exactly do they support you when you’re organising a funeral?

A funeral director has a lot of responsibilities – they will help you before, during and after the funeral. We’ve outlined the role of a funeral director below. That way, you can get a better idea of how they can assist you.

What funeral directors do before the funeral:

  • Collect the person who has died and take them to the funeral home
  • Meet with you and your family to begin planning the funeral
  • Prepare and dress the body of the person who has died.
  • Prepare for a viewing in a chapel of rest, if this is something you’d like to do
  • Take care of the paperwork including making the application for the burial or cremation
  • Arrange the venue for the funeral service and cremation or burial
  • Find an officiant to lead the ceremony – this could be a minister, imam, rabbi, celebrant or other religious leader, depending on your choice
  • Organise transport including hearses, limousines and any special requests such as horse-drawn carriages
  • Organise the design and printing of the order of service
  • Coordinate with florists for the flower arrangements
  • Help you choose a coffin or shroud
  • Arrange any obituaries or notices
  • Help with any other special requests you have to make the funeral the perfect send-off for your loved one

What funeral directors do during the funeral:

  • Make sure that everything runs smoothly and answer any questions
  • Make sure that everyone who attends the funeral understands where to go and what to do
  • Help the pallbearers to carry the coffin properly and safely
  • Speak with the person who is leading the ceremony, to make sure that everything is ready
  • Lead the service – some funeral directors can officiate the funeral service for you.

What funeral directors do after the funeral:

  • Collect the ashes and keep them until you’re ready to collect them
  • Help you with choosing where and how to scatter the ashes
  • Help you to choose and arrange a memorial such as a headstone
  • Distribute any charity donations collected as part of the funeral
  • Help you to find bereavement support

It’s up to you how much support you’d like from your funeral director. You can choose to have a funeral director arrange every part of the funeral, or just some parts. But keep in mind that you can lean on your funeral director. It’s their job to organise even the small details that you might not have thought of yet, such as sending floral tributes onto family members after the service. And even if you do take on some of the planning yourself, know that your funeral director can answer questions you may have about the process.

What a funeral director will ask you

As part of the funeral planning process, a funeral director will ask you questions to help them understand what you’d like.

They’ll ask you questions about your loved one, such as:

  • What were they like?
  • What were their interests and hobbies?
  • Were they religious?
  • Did they leave any final wishes?

They’ll also ask you practical questions, including:

  • Do you have the death certificate?
  • How many people will be going to the funeral?
  • Where would you like the funeral to take place?
  • Do you want to have a cremation or burial?
  • What is your budget?

Answering questions about your loved one when you’re making these arrangements might be upsetting. But your funeral director is there to help you through it. They won’t rush you. And they won’t expect you to have all the info to hand first time round. Rely on their expertise so that you can take the time you need to grieve.

Are funeral directors regulated in the UK?

Funeral directors are not currently regulated by the government. But there are two organisations that funeral directors can be part of:

These trade organisations set out codes of practice for the funeral industry. So when you’re choosing a funeral director, it’s a good idea to check if they’re a member of the NAFD or SAIF.

How to find a funeral director

Most people choose a funeral director who’s local to them or the venue where the funeral is taking place. You can find funeral directors near you using the following tips:

  • Use our directory of funeral directors to search your options and compare prices. We’re impartial so there are never any ads and the directory has over 5,000 funeral directors listed across the UK.
  • Ask family and friends for recommendations about who they have used. What did they find helpful about their funeral director?
  • Speak to your local authority or Citizens Advice Bureau – they may have a list of funeral directors in your area. Still not sure how to find a good funeral director?

Read our guide on how to choose a funeral director. It’ll help you prepare with a list of questions to ask and things to look out for so you can find the right funeral director for your circumstances.


Photo by The Good Funeral Guide on Unsplash