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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 clear idea of what funeral directors do before, during and after a funeral, and answer questions you may have about how they help you prepare.

That way, you can get 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 manage everything from collecting the body of the person who has died, through to the legal paperwork and planning the service. They’ll offer you the emotional and practical support you need to arrange a funeral for someone you’ve lost. Behind the scenes, 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. 

In the video below, funeral directors Simon Pendlebury and Angela Roach talk about the role of a funeral director:

What is the role of a funeral director? 

What are the duties 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’ll 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 support you. 

What funeral directors do before the funeral: 

  • Collect the person who has died and take them to the funeral home or advise you on looking after them at home if that’s what you’d like to do
  • 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, such as helping you find a venue for the wake

What funeral directors do during the funeral: 

  • Make sure that everything runs smoothly and answer any questions
  • Lead the funeral procession and walk in front of the hearse if requested
  • 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
Alastair 1
"They really cared and we could tell they really wanted him to have a nice send-off too"

How much support can you expect from a funeral director? 

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 on to 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. 

In the video below, Angela Roach and Simon Pendlebury talk about how there are lots of different ways that funeral directors help grieving families that you may not be aware of.

What questions will a funeral director 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. Let them guide your through the process so that you can take the time you need to grieve. 

FAQs about funeral directors

Are funeral directors regulated in the UK?

Funeral directors aren’t currently regulated by the government in England and Wales. But in Scotland a code of practice for funeral directors has been introduced, and all Scottish funeral homes will need to be compliant by March 2025. There are also 2 organisations that funeral directors can be part of across the UK:   

These trade organisations set out codes of practice for funeral homes. 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. 

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

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’s the difference between a funeral director and funeral arranger?

Funeral arrangers work with funeral directors to make funeral arrangements. They’ll usually be office-based and take care of contacting third parties such as florists and caterers, while the funeral director will be there on the day of the funeral to supervise everything at the service. 

Are funeral directors open 24 hours a day?

Yes, you can usually contact a funeral director at any time of day or night. The funeral home may not be open but most funeral directors provide a service so that they can receive and respond to phone calls 24/7. This means you can contact them at any time if your loved one has passed away and you want to talk about next steps. 

How long after death do you see a funeral director?

This depends on how soon you contact the funeral director after the person has passed away, and where they passed away. If they died at home, for example, there’s no rush. You might want to spend some time with them before you ask a funeral director to take them to the funeral home. Or you might feel more comfortable if the funeral director looks after them as soon as possible. Read our guide about what to do when someone dies for more info on what you’ll need to do in different circumstances. 

Can a funeral director register a death?

No, a relative of the person who’s died will need to register the death. It can also be registered by  someone who was there at the time of death. But your funeral director can help you with the process. Our guide on how to register a death will give you the info you need too. 

Do funeral directors have to embalm bodies?

No, it’s not a legal requirement. But you might want to check with your funeral director whether embalming is appropriate as it can depend on where you’d like the person to be buried.. If you want to learn more read our guide about what embalming involves and if it’s necessary.  

Do you have to use a funeral director?

No, you’re not required to use a funeral director to arrange a funeral. But you’ll have to make sure you follow all the legal rules that apply. To see if arranging everything yourself is something you’d like to consider, read our guide on how to organise a funeral without a funeral director. 

How to find a funeral director 

Most people choose a funeral director who’s local to them or near 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.