Funeral Planning | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

Funeral Planning

How to plan the type of funeral ceremony you would like.

Not surprisingly, most of us are quite happy to avoid thinking and talking about our own funeral.

And yet thinking ahead and making decisions about our funeral can make sure that our wishes are honoured as fully as possible. It also takes a stressful burden of decision-making at a time of grief off our bereaved family and friends.

That burden is not only an emotional one. Funeral costs are considerable – on average a funeral in the UK now costs £3,600!

In terms of the style and content of a funeral, many choices are available. Naturally, making the most of these choices requires making decisions and planning ahead. And remember; once you have made some decisions these can always be revised at a later date if you change your mind about some aspect of your funeral. So being slightly undecided about some detail of your funeral is not a good enough excuse to delay your planning!

Making decisions about your funeral in advance of your death is the key stepping-stone to having a funeral ceremony that reflects your personality, life and beliefs. If you have made those decisions it is of course essential that your family, next of kin or carers know your choices. They are the people who will be organising your funeral!

The key choices facing you are:

  • Which Funeral Director? You may already have a preference or may decide to use a firm who have traditionally been involved with funerals in your family. You may even have a funeral finance plan already established. One way of selecting one is to talk to them in advance about the type of funeral ceremony you would like to be clear they will honour your decisions.

Lists of Funeral Directors are available from the National Association of Funeral Directors and also the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.

It is also possible for your family and friends to arrange many aspects of your funeral themselves. This not only reduces the overall cost but can make it a very personal farewell. The Natural Death Centre provides an excellent range of resources if this is something you would like to consider.

  • How will be your funeral service be paid for? The current estimate for a funeral service is £3,600, which is a substantial sum and can provide problems for your family if it has not been anticipated or prepared for.

This is why increasing numbers of people now subscribe to a funeral plan. Most plans offer you a choice of a range of funerals that include different features and therefore have different prices. Effectively these plans freeze the cost of your funeral at a price you know today and prevent any burden falling on the bereaved. It is now possible for you to pay into a funeral plan either with a lump sum or through monthly instalments.

Most Funeral Directors offer funeral plans and will be glad to talk to you about the plan details. However, there is a wide range of funeral plans available to you and it is worth doing your research! In particular, it is wise to choose a plan that is provided by a company approved by the Funeral Planning Authority. This offers peace of mind as to how your money is looked after and also has a dispute resolution process.

  • Cremation or burial? This decision will come down to personal beliefs. Currently, just over 70% of funerals in the UK are followed by cremation. If you elect for cremation, the next decision you face is what you would like to happen to your ashes. Here, your choices are almost endless – perhaps scattered at a favourite beach, interred in a cemetery or even fired into the night sky on a firework rocket! 
  • One of the noticeable trends in recent years has been the growing popularity of green funerals, which are also known as natural burials.

People will typically choose this style of burial because they are concerned about their impact on the environment. They wish to be as careful in death as they have been during their lives to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

A natural burial seeks to minimise its impact on the natural environment. So certain rules are usually followed – embalmed bodies are not typically accepted due to the later release of the chemicals used. Coffins must be fully degradable. Also memorials are usually not permitted, although the grave location is carefully plotted. Some burial grounds mark a grave by planting a tree, while others maintain the burial grounds as natural wildflower meadows, which look absolutely beautiful!

Many natural burial grounds are members of the Association of National Burial Grounds. Their website offers a search facility to find a burial ground near you and also has some wonderful photographs of their setting.

  • What type of service? This is where you have most choice. No longer do you need to follow the structure and content of a traditional religious service. Increasingly, funeral ceremonies are a celebration of the life of the person who has died. This means that the ceremony in both structure and content reflects the unique life of the person who has died. Not only is this a very honest and warm way to remember someone but also it is a way to instil special memories in those who attend.
  • Who will perform the service? Funeral Directors will have lists of clergy and other celebrants who they work with on a regular basis. Unless you offer specific instructions, you are leaving this vital choice to a Funeral Director who in all probability has never met or known you. Therefore your choice of celebrant is crucial. If you do not follow a particular religion, a list of non-religious funeral celebrants is available from the British Humanist Association.

    And remember, it is also possible for your family and friends to lead the ceremony themselves – not only a very personal farewell but also something that reduces the overall cost of your funeral.