Arranging Your Funeral


Here is a short guide of the important things to consider when arranging a funeral.

*     Funeral Director

This is where you should start, as most arrangements are made through a Funeral Director. You should always use one that is accredited by a professional association, such as the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD). This means they are regulated and have to adhere to strict codes of practice.

The Funeral Director will provide compassion and advice when a loved one passes away (including advising on registering the death) and will assist you in planning the funeral and laying them to rest.

*     Funeral Notices

In a final sign of respect and love, a funeral notice or obituary can be placed in a local or national newspaper (depending on who the person is). It can say something that reflects the life of the deceased and explain when and where the funeral will take place.

*      Casket / Coffin / Shroud

There is a huge variety of options regarding the type of casket or coffin you require, These range from a simple shroud to wicker and cardboard coffins and from the traditional wood to highly coloured and decorative coffins. 

Click To See Examples

The Funeral Director will be able to assist with different options and choices. 

*     Flowers

Casket sprays and funeral crosses are usually picked by loved ones, allowing them to add their own personal touches to the service. Particular colours or types of flowers can be specified, such as an arrangement that says ‘mum’ or that matches the insignia of the deceased’s favourite football team.

For some services, mourners may bring flowers to lay by the coffin during or at the end of the service whilst another idea would be to have a basket of individual flowers and allow mourners to select one to place at the coffin if they wish. 

However, it is not necessary to have flowers and other options are available. For example, if the deceased was an ardent gardener who grew his own vegetable, a vegetable arrangement may be more fitting. For some, the preference may be to place objects of relevance (uniform, caps, medals, etc) rather than spend on flowers with a limited life if they weren’t relevant to the deceased or state that they intend give the money to the chosen charity. 

*     The Hearse and Other Forms Of Transport

This is one area where a really personal mark can be made and a reflection of the deceased’s previous work or sense of humour. The arrival of a coffin on a Motorbike and Sidecar, Tracked Armoured Vehicle, Milk Float or JCB bucket is very different whilst arriving in Del Boy Trotter’s yellow van would certainly raise a smile. Do discuss with your funeral director the options available. 

The person in charge of arranging the funeral will decide who travels in the limousines behind the hearse and who will need to use their own car. A prepaid funeral plan could also dictate this, meaning loved ones won’t need to struggle with the decision, as they would be respecting the deceased’s wishes.

*     Pall Bearers

Pall Bearers are generally provided by the Funeral Director and his team. However, there should be no reason why family members, friends and colleagues who may also wish to take part acting as Pall Bearers can’t do so. Depending on the coffin, this could be between 6 – 8 persons. 

Discuss your wishes with the Funeral Director and the Celebrant who will be able to accommodate you and ensure you are properly briefed at the time. Each crematorium may have a slightly different procedure. Furthermore, there are the options between shoulder carriage, waist carriage using handles or trolley mounted and what needs to be done when laying the coffin onto the catafalque (coffin’s final resting place). 

*      Order of Service

This covers what will be included in the funeral and in what order they happen. It can be based on the personal preference of the family, the deceased themselves or it can be dictated by religious traditions.

Once decided on, a written Order of Service can be produced to give to the mourners both as a guide to the service and a keep-sake. This is not compulsory and the look and style can vary considerably. Mourners can have them produced either by the Funeral Director, the Celebrant or create them themselves either at home or via a number of online services.  

Examples include:  Graphic Design      .      My Lasting Words  

*      Clothing

Traditionally, mourners wear black to funerals, as this is seen as a sign of respect for the deceased. However, if the deceased has expressed something different in a Will or prepaid funeral plan, then loved ones can be asked to wear something out of the ordinary. For example, they may be asked to wear a specific colour, such as pink to support breast cancer awareness.

*     Tributes and Eulogies

Tributes and eulogies provide loved ones an opportunity to express their feelings about the person they have lost. It can be something written by a renowned literary figure or something that the mourner has crafted themselves. It can be read by a loved one or by the person leading the service.

The aim of the Civil Funeral service is generally to ‘celebrate’ the life of the individual and the tribute is the opportunity to do so. Here, part of their life story can be told with facts and amusing anecdotes, contributed by family, friends and colleagues. It can provide conversation points to help lift the mood afterwards and those attending reminisce or discuss new found facts they didn’t know.  

*     Poems & Readings

These are another way to express the feelings of family and friends about the deceased. They can be favourites of the deceased and or those left behind or ones found that express certain thoughts and emotions. 

They can also be new poems, verse and readings created especially for the occasion by family members and friends, read by them or a representative during the funeral. 

There can be several pieces during the service if fitting. 

For additional ideas, visit:  Poetry & Music

*     Prayers & Hymns

For a Civil Ceremony, there is no requirement or reason to include hymns or prayers if the deceased or their families were not religious. Some people feel they should, but this is not the case. The ceremony is a celebration of the life of the deceased and should reflect their feelings. 

If however there is a wish to include hymns and prayers, then the celebrant will be able to assist with choice and their order in the service. Music can be either live with an organist or played through the system with both music only or choral versions for most hymns available. 

*     Music

The music chosen should have a connection to the person that died or express how loved ones felt about the person they are saying goodbye to. Consequently, anything that reflects the life of the deceased or invokes happy memories be that classical, pop, rock or country and western can be ordered and played.

There is usually at least three music tracks:

*   Entry:
…  Piece of music played from the time the funeral cortege / pall bearers start to enter the chapel until all people are seated. This may therefore
..  .be shortened if a long piece. 

*   Reflection:
…  Generally after the final farewell and committal to allow mourners a short time of reflection / with their memories or to offer a personal prayer.
…  Tracks are usually played for 1.30 to 2 minutes depending on the piece and faded out if longer unless specifically requested to be played in full. 

*   Exit:
…  Track to be played as people are leaving. Usually on a repeating loop until everyone has left. 

However, this is purely a guideline and more or fewer pieces can be included along with traditional hymns if required. 

It may be that ‘live’ music pieces are also requested with either semi-professional or family members / colleagues wishing to play a piece themselves. This can be discussed with the celebrant and site staff. 

For additional ideas, visit:  Poetry & Music

Music System

Most crematoriums have a computerised music system based on either the Wesley Media or Obitus systems. The Funeral Director or Celebrant will book your choice of music in advance of the service and this will be played back on the day in the order required, controlled either by the Celebrant of the Chapel Manager. 

*    Curtains

The decision to leave open or close the curtains can be a difficult one, but one that needs to be addressed before the service starts. The final decision can be down to traditional views or emotional reason. 

Around the catafalque will be the curtains. All crematoriums will have at least one ‘heavy’ set which can be closed at the required time, usually during the tribute, by the Celebrant. Some Crematoriums will also have an inner curtain called a Voile – a thinner net style curtain which can be closed separately if required.       

*   Open:
….  Leaving the curtains open means the coffin remains in sight to the end. However, it does allows for symbolic gestures such as placing of flowers
….  during the ceremony or the end to happen.
….  Also, there are some who like the ability to be able to walk up to the coffin for a final touch before leaving at the end of the service. 

*    Voile Only (Telford) 
…  .This is seen as not quite as ‘final’ as the full curtain, hiding the coffin in a gesture of farewell, but not closing it off entirely.
……This is seen as a ‘soft’ option for those who cannot bear the finality of a full closure. 

*    Full Closure
….  This is where the heavy curtains are closed at the point of committal and is seen as being the final act of farewell. 

*    Symbolic Gestures

During the course of the ceremony, there may be a wish to have some sort of symbolic action. These should be discussed with both the Funeral Director and as importantly, the Celebrant as they will know what is permitted at each crematorium. 

*    Picture Slide Shows
….  Some crematorium chapels have the ability to play individual or picture slideshows and video clips via large screens within the chapel as part
…  .of the service. These can be a great enhancement and reinforce the idea of celebrating life. 

*    Pictures
…  .Placing of pictures on or around the coffin at the start or during the service. Picture memory boards and compilations

*    Artefacts
…  .Placing of artefacts on or around the coffin to be carried in with it or during the service – can include flags, caps, medals, trophies etc.
….  What happens to them after the service will need to be clarified.

*    Candles
….  Lighting of candles during the service. Note – not all crematoriums permit this 
….  Permitted at Shrewsbury and Bushbury if candle has proper under plate 
….  Not permitted at Telford.

*    Signing Coffins
…  .A cardboard coffin lends itself to having the mourners go up to it during or at the end of the service and sign / leave personal
…  .messages on the coffin sides. This is a lovely way of involving mourners in a final gesture of farewell. 

*    Laying Flowers
…  .Mourners may wish to lay flowers on and around the coffin during or at the end of the service

*     Absent Friends

Some crematoriums have the ability to allow services to be recorded so those who could not make it have the ability to review it later. 

In addition, some locations have the ability for a live streaming / video conference system to allow those absent or in far away places to participate and watch live. 

Ask your Funeral Director or Celebrant for details.    

*     Reception / Wake

The reception or wake is an opportunity for friends and family to come together and mourn the deceased and also share happy memories. It’s a chance to remember them and celebrate the life they lived, while also allowing friends to pass on condolences to the family. It can happen in a pub, at home or in another location, depending on the wishes of loved ones or the deceased.

It can be catered, which could be a few sandwiches or a hot buffet, and a variety of drinks can be provided. You can decide whether or not alcohol will be served, depending on the atmosphere of the wake and the deceased’s wishes.

*     Donation to Charity

Family and friends could be encouraged to make a donation to a charity that was close to the heart of the deceased, as this would be a nice legacy to leave in their name.

If no specific charity has been considered, the following are recommended and supported by myself and any donations are gratefully received: 

*   Child Funeral Charity

*   Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire Blood Bikes


Many of the above are things could be taken care of beforehand in a prepaid funeral plan, taking away some of the responsibilities and decisions that will be placed on the family.