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When people in the UK say ‘traditional funeral’, they usually mean a service that follows British funeral traditions.

Funeral traditions in the UK are heavily influenced by Christianity, so this kind of service often has a religious feel. Every faith has its own funeral traditions though – and a traditional Christian funeral will look quite different to a traditional Hindu funeral, for example. It’s also possible to have a traditional funeral that’s completely non-religious if you prefer.

In this article, we look at what’s included in traditional British funerals, how much they cost and how to get help arranging one. We also cover a few alternatives to traditional funerals.

What’s included in a traditional funeral?

A coffin

Traditional funerals almost always use a coffin. In the UK, coffins tend to be made of solid wood and have metal handles. However, simple coffins made of paper or woven grass are becoming more popular.

Most traditional funerals are closed casket, meaning the lid of the coffin stays closed throughout the service. Open-casket funerals are rare in the UK.

Learn about different kinds of coffins.

A hearse

Hearses are specially designed to carry a coffin. In a traditional funeral, a hearse often takes the body to the funeral venue and burial site. It also leads the funeral procession. In a traditional funeral, the hearse is usually either a car or a horse and carriage.

A funeral procession

Originally, funeral processions happened on foot. People carried the coffin from the person’s house to the church, where the person was buried.

Nowadays, funeral processions usually use cars. A hearse leads the procession and the people at the funeral follow behind in a slow-moving line. People might use their own cars or hire a special vehicles, such as a limousine, for the occasion.

A funeral procession can happen before or after the service. If it happens before, it might start at the person’s home or a funeral home and end at the funeral venue. If the person is being buried, the procession often takes the person’s coffin from the venue for the service to the burial site.

You can learn more in our guide to funeral processions.


Pallbearers are people who carry the coffin. Usually, they only carry it for a short distance – from the hearse into the funeral venue.

You can choose pallbearers when you arrange a funeral. Often, people ask friends and relatives to do it. But your funeral director can arrange professional pallbearers if you’d prefer.

If you’ve been asked to be a pallbearer, the funeral director will show you what to do. Learn more about being a pallbearer.


Flowers are very common at traditional funerals. It’s not unusual to see elaborate flower arrangements, which often decorate the coffin. The person arranging the funeral may buy the flowers themselves or let the funeral director handle it.

People will probably bring flowers to the funeral too. This is to show respect for the person who has died. There’s often a dedicated area for people to leave flowers.

Are you in charge of ordering flowers for a funeral? Our guide to choosing funeral flowers should help you decide what to choose.

What is a traditional funeral service order?

Traditional religious funerals usually follow a set structure. You might be able to choose some of the music and readings or you might not.

Non-religious funerals are more flexible. You can change the structure of the service, ask for certain readings and choose almost any kind of music.

Traditional Christian funerals

Here’s a typical order of service for a Church of England funeral. This is one of the most common types of traditional funerals in the UK.

  • The gathering: people arrive at the venue and are greeted by the priest.
  • First hymn: the service often starts with a religious song.
  • Words of remembrance: somebody speaks about the person who has died. This could be the priest or a friend or family member.
  • Prayers and readings: the priest will lead people in prayer and read passages from the Bible.
  • A moment of reflection: this is a quiet moment where people can pray or think about the person who has died.
  • The committal: this is an important part of the ceremony that acts like a final goodbye. This might happen in the funeral venue or at the person’s graveside.

Learn more about Church of England funerals and how they work.

Traditional funerals in other faiths

Every religion has its own funeral traditions. You can learn more below:

Where do traditional funerals take place?

If it’s a Christian funeral, it will probably happen in a church or crematorium. Sikh funerals take place in a gurdwara. Islamic funerals usually take place at the mosque (but not inside it) and are followed by a burial service at the graveside. Non-religious funerals can take place in all sorts of venues, including a natural burial ground or the family home.

Are you arranging a non-religious funeral? If you want it to have a traditional feel, you could choose a cemetery or crematorium chapel. You probably won’t be able to have a non-religious funeral in a church, mosque or temple.

What is traditional funeral dress code?

The most popular traditional funeral attire in the UK is smart, dark and not too showy. A typical outfit includes polished black shoes, a dark skirt or trousers and a plain shirt or blouse. It’s not unusual to see people wearing suits.

But keep in mind that this isn’t the same for all faiths. For Hindu and Sikh funerals, people often wear white or light colours instead. For some religions, such as Islam or Sikhism, you’ll usually be expected to cover your head at the funeral too.

Learn more about what to wear at a funeral.

“The dress code was traditional black and we chose white roses and white lilies for the flowers. We wanted to keep it nice and classic.”

How much does a traditional funeral cost?

In 2023, a basic funeral cost an average of £4,141. You can expect to pay another £2,768 for a traditional send-off, which covers things like a headstone, flowers and transport (SunLife 2024).

These prices aren’t based on any one type of funeral service. However, they should give you a good idea of the average cost of a traditional funeral.

What are the alternatives to traditional funerals?

Not everyone wants a traditional funeral service. Some people just don’t want a solemn send-off and would rather have an informal ceremony that celebrates their life. Others choose non-traditional funerals to save money or protect the environment.

Here are some alternatives to traditional funerals:

  • Humanist funerals: these are always non-religious and are based on Humanist beliefs.
  • Civil funeralsthese are very flexible and can follow almost any format. Civil funerals can be religious or non-religious.
  • Green funeralsyou might know these as ‘green burials’ or ‘woodland burials’. They use biodegradable coffins and avoid embalming to help look after the environment.
  • Direct cremations and burials: these are the simplest and most affordable types of funeral. The person who has died is buried or cremated without a funeral service.
  • Living funerals: living funerals are a fairly new idea. They’re a kind of funeral that happens while the person is still alive – often because they’re terminally ill.

Alternative funerals are becoming more popular in the UK. In a 2019 survey, just 10% of people said they’d like a traditional religious funeral when they die (Co-op).

How to get help arranging a traditional funeral service

Most people ask a funeral director for help arranging a funeral. A funeral director handles things like paperwork, booking a venue and looking after the body of the person who has died.

You can use our search tool to find local funeral directors and compare their prices and services. You could also ask friends and relatives for suggestions.

Traditional funerals are still the most popular type of funeral in the UK, so most funeral directors have plenty of experience with them.


Funeral Choice is a free online resource that helps people find and compare funeral directors. We also offer advice on funeral planning and funeral costs.