Before engaging the services of a Funeral Director, there’s a few key decisions it helps to make before you arrive.
Namely, and firstly:
Do you even want a Funeral Service for your person?
When we talk about funerals, people generally think of the service that’s held at the cemetery/crematorium:
Traditionally, and on average, a funeral service is between 20 and 40 mins long. This usually includes music, a reading or two, a prayer or two, and the Committal is either incorporated during the middle of the service (as in, the curtains close around the coffin at a crematorium), or else is carried out at the end (as in, the coffin gets lowered into the ground at a cemetery).
So often, a traditional funeral service as outlined can feel a little… flat. Generic. ‘The done thing’. For most, there’s little room for personalisation, except for maybe in choosing the music you have for when the coffin comes into the chapel, for during the committal, and for when the congregation leaves at the end. Guaranteed, the last funeral you went to included one – if not all – of these tropes…:
In the end, you’re left feeling a little … flat. Not least because you’ve just said goodbye to your Person, but because it all felt a bit… maybe a bit inadequate.
It seems so wrong that someone who was such an important part of your life is gone. And to commemorate that fact – the fact that someone who’s been there since birth – be that your own birth, or the birth of your relationship, the births of your own children, the birth of a beautiful friendship – the fact that that venous, throbbing life force is gone, has been diluted into a 30 min half-baked muted showreel. Rushed. Dull. And so very unlike them.
We’re here to tell you that there is another way.
Often, you can be more flexible, personal and involved with saying a proper goodbye to your person when you separate the “Service” from the “Committal” elements of a funeral.
The ‘Committal’ is as simple (as these things possibly can be!) as choosing between a burial or a cremation for your loved one (a matter we discuss [here])
The Service can be as fizzy or as controlled as the person who has died. Truly, it can be whatever you like, held wherever you like and can go on for as long as you like! It doesn’t have to be held at a cemetery or a crematorium. It needn’t be held at a church, either – unless you feel that’s what makes sense for you and your family, of course. You needn’t have a service at all.
Your Auntie was a colourful hippie-sort, known for her open-house policy and estate-wide legendary parties?
The ‘Funeral Service’ could be an all-nighter at her place, catered by Iceland’s finest party platters and a case of Frosty Jacks.
Dad’s known for being a man of few words, for liking a flutter on the horses and a pint on a Sunday afternoon?
The ‘Funeral Service’ is made up of a gathering down the local with a pint of left on the bar, then poured down the alley at the side of the pub at kicking out time. It includes a bet on the three-legged animal running the 3 o clock at Cheltenham. It’s Bazza the Builder getting sloshed and telling the story of the time your Dad fell through the ceiling of the new-build they were working on because he hadn’t put the floorboards down in the loft yet.
Traditionally, the coffin of the person who has died is on display throughout the Funeral Service; sat quietly waiting for the cremation or burial.
For either of the examples mentioned, does the body of the person who has died really need to be there?
It’s certainly possible they could be – lying in repose the night before the committal, perhaps. We, or your chosen funeral director, can advise on how best to take care of your loved one while they’re resting somewhere that’s not the funeral director’s premises.
Otherwise – what’s stopping the committal happening the week before?
A small gathering of immediate family to lay the body to rest in the family plot at the local cemetery.
Or, a direct cremation, where the funeral directors take care of the committal, privately and with dignity.
“They didn’t really look like themselves the last time we saw them, their body wasn’t really theirs anymore.”
Often, where a burial or cremation take place without mourners in attendance, you can make considerable savings on the cost of using a funeral director. In addition, most crematoria offer significantly reduced cremation fees for completely unattended services, or services that have very few mourner numbers and ake place first thing in the morning (usually before 10am, and no earlier than 8am).
You’re less restricted by time, and you may want to wait for a significant date to roll around before initiating your gathering – on what would have been their next birthday, for example.
Where the cremation takes place separately from the ‘funeral’, you could incorporate the cremated remains instead of the person’s coffin as a symbol of that person. As in Dad’s service above, the cremated remains could be popped on the bar for the night. Or, their favourite hat and glasses instead. For the wacky Aunt, her ashes could stay in their box on the side in the hallway, for people to pat the top of on their way in, covered in glitter and confetti as she would’ve been at the party when she was alive.
Funerals are events for the living. Mum might’ve hated being the centre of attention, said something along the lines of “just roll me up in a carpet and chuck me off the end of Clacton Pier”. Other iterations of this sentiment include, but are not limited to: “Put me in a cardboard box and be done with it”, “leave me for the cats to get” and “do you mind, I’m trying to eat my tea?!”. (A quick aside on this: cardboard coffins tend to be quite expensive when buying from a funeral director (find out Here [coffin types piece]).
Rightly so however, you think she was a brilliant, caring, kind, loving woman who deserves the earth. While you might not have been allowed to show her all the ways you’re grateful for her in life, in death you need a way to commemorate her and share who she is with others. Funerals are a wonderful occasion to acknowledge the profound impact your loved ones have had on your life.
The long and the short of it is, funeral services are cathartic things and serve different purposes depending on the person. They can be:
Mum doesn’t want a fuss? Why not arrange a Direct Cremation, and have a cup of tea at home with the cats at the proposed time of cremation? (The best funeral directors will be able to tell you what time a cremation will be, even if there are no members of the public due to attend – see more about our “How to Assess Your Funeral Director”).
Whether you choose to go down the Traditional Funeral Service route – your person was a traditionalist, after all! – or, you choose to separate out your Funeral Service from the Committal, your Funeral Director should be willing and happy to discuss all the choices that are available to you.
At FuneralExperts.com, we will help you by sharing the contact details of Funeral Directors that are closest to you by location, and also by the costs advertised on their Standardised Price List. We’ll collate all your initial decisions in one place, so that you can focus on speaking to your chosen funeral director about the little things that really matter.
We hope that this has been helpful, and wish you the very best during the next stages of the funeral arrangement process.