The first decision you’ll need to make is whether to choose a burial or cremation.
Burial used to be the only option available and is where the term ‘laying to rest’ comes from. Many consider it a gentler and more natural process than cremation, providing a physical point of contact and a place to visit can help with the grieving process. Burial also offers greater choice over the possessions that can be placed into the coffin and what the person who has died can wear. With burial there are two main options:
Burial in a Churchyard or Cemetery
Most burials take place in a churchyard and you may already have an existing family grave. However, you still need to check there is space available. In this instance, the Funeral Director will need to see the exclusive right of burial, known as the deeds for the plot to assist in their arrangements. Remember, there will be fees for reopening an existing grave and amending the headstone.
The cost of a new plot varies across the country, and you buy the exclusive right of burial, a leasehold interest, in a particular plot for a period of time, no longer than 100 years. Your Funeral Director will be able to advise you on the local availability of plots and options.
Natural and Woodland Burials
Set in peaceful, natural countryside, woodland burials provide a non-religious or more sustainable alternative to traditional cemeteries and churchyards.
Natural burial sites do not usually allow the grave to be marked with a permanent memorial. Those that do, allow you to plant a tree on the grave with a simple metal, wooden or slate memorial plaque. Usually, no other grave ornaments are allowed, which means that visiting the precise site of the grave may be difficult without the aid of GPS.
With no headstones or other markers, the whole site acts as a memorial to everyone who is buried there, rather than just the grave itself, and retains the splendour of the surrounding landscape and enhances biodiversity.
Burial at Sea is another less common option – speak to your funeral director or arranger for more advice.
Cremation is usually less expensive than burial, and enables you to keep the cremated remains, (often referred to as ashes), and can give you more choice after the funeral for a memorial event. It also avoids the need to find a suitable burial plot.
When choosing a cremation, you can decide on a church service followed by a short committal ceremony at the crematorium, or just a service at the crematorium. Alternatively, you can just have the cremation with no ceremony at all, or have a ceremony and memorial at a later date with the cremated remains as the focal point.
Due to the popularity of cremation, a specific time is allocated to each service, leading some families to feel that they are in a queue, especially if they are met by the next group of mourners when leaving the service. A double slot can be booked to give you more time, although this would involve an extra fee. Alternatively, you can choose a service in a church with a separate memorial service elsewhere, and just attend the crematorium for the committal.
Once you’ve made your decision about burial or cremation, you’ll need to think about details such as the type of coffin, travelling to the funeral and the kind of floral tributes you’d like to see.
The person who has died may have expressed their wishes for the kind of funeral they wanted which you can discuss with the funeral director or arranger. Without this information, it may be worth thinking about the following to help you decide on the most appropriate arrangements:
- Would they want a religious, semi-religious or non-religious ceremony?
- What style of funeral would they have liked, elaborate or simple, traditional or modern?
- Do you want to express their unique personality in elements of the ceremony?
- How much family involvement would you like in the planning of the funeral and participation in the ceremony?
- Are there any ethical considerations such as a ‘green’ funeral?
You can find a full list of everything you’ll need to consider in Steven Mears Funeral Directors step-by-step guide.