Arranging a funeral in the UK

How to arrange a funeral

Arranging a funeral for a recently deceased relative or friend is a daunting task, but there is help available. We have created this step-by-step guide on how to arrange a funeral to help make this difficult time a little easier.

If you need help urgently from a funeral director, don’t hesitate to call us on 0800 090 2336.

1. Find a funeral director

Once you have taken care of the initial requirements following the passing of a loved one, you can start arranging a funeral for them. The first step is finding a funeral director. If you have suffered a loss in the past, you may be able to contact a funeral director that you have previously used. Alternatively, can help you find an independent funeral director in your local area. Our easy-to-use service will ask you a series of simple questions before arranging for a funeral director to call you back at a time that suits you.

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2. Respecting final wishes

Before their passing, your loved one may have left specific instructions to be carried out during their funeral service. Some people choose to include these in their will, or to discuss them with a family member before their death; whilst others might choose to leave separate documents or files specifically for their funeral. You should aim to carry out these final wishes whenever possible; doing so will make arranging the funeral much easier, with much of the difficult decisions already made.

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3. Choosing music and flowers

If your loved one did not leave any instructions regarding music and flowers for their funeral service, you will need to make some decisions. Traditionally, hymns are sung at funerals, but this may not be appropriate depending on the deceased’s religious beliefs. Classical music is also common, but increasingly there has been a trend for people to choose more ‘popular’ music that is personal to them. Friends and family once sent flowers in memory of the deceased, but many choose now to collect donations for charity.

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4. Inviting guests

On some occasions, your loved one will have left a list of close friends or relatives they wish to have invited to their funeral. In other cases, they may have left no instructions at all, in which case it is up to the family or executors to decide. Choosing and inviting guests is an important part of arranging a funeral and you will need to consider the size of the venue, as well as the needs of those attending. You should choose to let people know as soon as possible, allowing them the time to travel or arrange time off work.

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5. Arranging transport

There are several things that you may want to consider when arranging transport between the funeral directors and the funeral venue, from cost to personal taste. The most popular choice tends to be a hearse with a procession of limousines or private cars behind. These sometimes follow a favourite route or pass a certain landmark that was special to the deceased. There are other funeral vehicles available too and, if you are choosing something different, it is important to consider carefully a vehicle that would have meant something to your loved one. Tanks and tractors are among the more unusual choices.

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6. Organising the funeral reception

A funeral reception (sometimes known as a funeral tea) is traditionally held after the funeral service. The gatherings, attended by family and friends, provide an opportunity to remember and celebrate the life of your loved one. Where the funeral service itself is an occasion for quiet reflection and a final goodbye, the funeral reception is a chance for people to share stories, memories and even photos of the person who has passed away. You may choose to extend an invite to more people than those invited to the funeral service, allowing you to reserve the service for close family and friends

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Find a funeral director

Choosing a funeral director can be difficult, especially if you have to make a quick decision while arranging a funeral.

However you select a funeral director, you should make sure that the funeral director you choose is a member of either the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) or the National Association of Funeral Directors. Both of these organisations operate strict codes of practice, including giving you a price list or written quote when asked for one.

Often, people will use a funeral director that their family has used previously, or one that has been recommended by friends. If you don’t have experience with a specific firm, the search facility on can help you find a funeral director nearby that offers the services that best suit you.

Once you have chosen a funeral director, you will need the death certificate before the funeral can take place. You don’t need to have registered the death to begin arranging a funeral, however. Your first request may be that your funeral director collects the body from the place of death, to be kept safely until the funeral is held.

Find a funeral director

Respecting final wishes

After a loved one has passed away, you should check their will, or any other documents they have left, to discover any final wishes they had for their funeral. These may include arrangements for location, the choice between burial or cremation, specific music or decorations they wanted and even the people who are to be invited to the service. Respecting these wishes can help with the grieving process and can help to make arranging a funeral service a truly personal occasion.

If your loved one did not leave any final wishes, or if they cannot be found, you should arrange to meet with other close relatives or friends and come to a consensus on plans for the funeral. Of course, it is important to try to keep the deceased’s best interests at heart when planning the funeral.

While you should take your time and do whatever you can to respect the wishes of your loved one, the final wishes of the deceased are the only parts of their will which are not legally binding. If, for financial or practical reasons, something is not possible, the family should do what is appropriate.

Choosing music and flowers

When choosing music, the most important thing to consider is the songs that mattered most to your loved one. Whether these are tracks that they have specifically asked to have played at their funeral or you are looking to have their favourite song or pieces of music included, the aim is for the funeral service to be as personal as possible.

Many churches and crematoria have CD players or other music systems so that you can bring your own music to be played during the service. Although hymns are the traditional choice, you may not want singing during the service and, if this is the case, you should not feel pressured into it.

People often choose to decorate the venue when arranging a funeral service – crematoria or church – and your funeral director can offer advice on flowers or other decorations prior to the service. Instead of friends and family sending flowers ahead of the service, many people ask for donations to the deceased’s favourite charity.

Inviting guests

Beyond close friends and family, if you wish for the funeral to remain small or private, keep the deceased’s wishes in mind and only invite those who they would want to be at the service. You may want to consider whether they would want younger children to be present at the service itself.

When arranging a funeral and inviting guests, you should let them know the venue, time and date; as well as informing them of the dress code and any arrangements regarding the funeral tea/reception or any collection of donations. You may also choose to ask certain people to read a eulogy or tribute to your loved one and you should do this as soon as possible, to give them adequate time to prepare.

Arranging transport

The first thing you may want to think about when arranging a funeral is the method of transportation for the coffin, between the funeral director and the place of rest or crematorium. You may choose to opt for the traditional hearse or an alternative mode of transport that that would mean something to the deceased. You can discuss options with your funeral director.

Most funeral directors will provide the hearse in their general costs but be sure to inform them of any special arrangements you’d like to make. Often people will place flowers or decorations inside the vehicle, as well as choosing a special route to take on the way to the funeral service. Your funeral director can help with this during the funeral arrangements process.

Typically, close relatives will travel behind the hearse in a procession of limousines provided by the funeral director at an additional cost. If you have family with wheelchairs or disabilities, let the funeral directors know in advance – most will be able to accommodate.

Organising the funeral reception

Most people organise the reception at the same time as they are arranging the funeral service, with the reception generally being held immediately afterwards. Some people will cater themselves at home, baking cakes and making sandwiches, but most people organise external catering at a local hotel or pub, especially if it was a favourite of the deceased.

If your loved one planned for the reception, they may have included a list of people to invite within their final wishes. When you organise the reception, you may choose to extend the invite to more people than attended the funeral service. You may also take the opportunity to allow children to attend, if they were not attending the main funeral service. But you should not feel pressured to throw a large gathering; invite the number of people that you are comfortable with.

You can also plan for a book of condolences at the reception, where people can leave a short message of remembrance for your loved one. This can allow you to see, and remember, the happiness they brought to lots of different people throughout their life.