What is an open casket funeral? Open coffin funerals explained

Mourners gathered around a coffin.

When you go to a funeral in the UK, the coffin is usually closed. But sometimes you might attend a funeral where the coffin is left open. This is called an open casket funeral.

Why have an open casket funeral?

People often choose to have an open casket for religious reasons. For example, it’s much more common to see an open coffin at a Catholic funeral. But you might also choose one so that mourners can see the person one last time.

Can you have an open casket funeral in the UK?

Yes, you can have an open casket funeral in the UK. The only exception is if the person died from certain infectious diseases. When this happens, the coffin may need to stay closed to protect people from infection.

If you’re choosing an open casket, it’s a good idea to make sure that other family members are comfortable with this too.

Are open casket funerals common in the UK?

Most funerals in the UK are closed casket. But this wasn’t always the case. Open casket funerals were more popular during the Victorian era.

Today, you’re most likely to see an open coffin at a Catholic funeral.

What happens at an open casket funeral?

After the casket has been brought to the funeral venue the funeral director will remove the lid. People at the funeral will then file past the coffin. If you’d like to you can stop to look at the person who has died. If you’re not comfortable, it’s perfectly okay not to look at the coffin.

The person will be dressed in clothes chosen by their family and the funeral home will have prepared them to look smart. For example, by styling their hair or applying make-up. But keep in mind that the person might not look exactly how you remember them in life.

At the end of the funeral service, the funeral director will put the lid back on the coffin and it will be taken for burial or cremation.

How much does an open casket funeral cost?

In 2021, the average cost of a funeral in the UK was £3,953 (SunLife, 2023). An open casket funeral doesn’t have to cost more than a closed casket funeral, though there are a few additional costs you might want to consider.

If you need more support planning an open casket funeral, a funeral director can help. You can use our directory to find local funeral directors in your area.


Photo by The Good Funeral Guide on Unsplash