Preparing for a funeral
The following information aims to give you a better understanding of what’s involved in making funeral arrangements. This will help you make a more informed choice when the time comes.
What options do we provide?
By law we are designated as a burial and cremation authority. Therefore we provide cemeteries and the crematorium. Although we do not provide these services as a funeral director.
The options currently available are:
- Traditional grave: With an option to install a memorial or plants over the entire grave
- Lawn grave: Headstones only are allowed, plus a limited space in which to put plants
- Strewing of cremated remains: Permitted on lawns and under trees in the crematorium grounds (some areas are restricted)
- Cremated remains plots: These are available in most of our cemeteries and in some churchyards (you will need to talk to the vicar of the church)
- Collection of cremated remains for strewing or burial elsewhere
Registering a death
- This is a legal requirement and must be done within five days of the death (this can be extended to up to 14 days, if Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages gives permission)
- You should contact your nearest Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages to find out where to go and if an appointment is necessary
- More information on Register a Death.
Where can the body be left at rest?
- If you use a funeral director, they will deal with this on your behalf and on your instruction
- If you choose not to use a funeral director, the hospital may allow you to use their facility (they may charge) if this is where the deceased passed away
- Alternatively, you may be able to arrange for the body to be left at rest in the public mortuary or with a funeral director (both may make a charge)
- It is also possible to have a body at rest in a private house prior to a funeral
Who will transport the body?
- Generally this is done by a funeral director on your behalf. However, it is possible for relatives to collect a body from a hospital or nursing home, although a coffin may be needed to help with this
- You may wish to note that there is no obligation to use the funeral director to move a body to a place of rest for the funeral service itself
- Similarly, there is no obligation for the person who arranges for a funeral director to collect the body to actually pay for a funeral, if the responsibility legally rests with someone else
How much will the funeral cost?
This will obviously depend on what you want included as part of the funeral. Most are optional but the burial/cremation fees are unavoidable. The main costs of a funeral are:
- Funeral directors’ charges, for example: the cost of arranging and conducting the funeral and the hire of vehicles
- Coffin: The cost will vary according to the type you select
- Notice in the paper
- Burial/cremation fees
- Minister’s fee
- Church/chapel fee
- Organist fee
Do I need to use a funeral director?
You will not break the law if you choose not to use a funeral director. However, many people find that the emotion of the occasion, the lack of time, and suitable vehicles means that they need the services of a funeral director.
Embalming (hygienic treatment) – is it necessary?
Embalming is not necessary, but the choice is usually yours. Although circumstances may mean that it is essential. Embalming should not be confused with other procedures such as cosmetic treatment.
Must I use a traditional coffin/casket?
There is no legal requirement to use a coffin, however, public decency dictates that a body should be covered. Coffins came into use because they are an easy and decent way of transporting the deceased to the final resting place.
There are alternatives to a traditional coffin, such as:
- A home-made coffin (advice on construction and regulations should be obtained from the Bereavement Services office)
- A shroud or winding sheet: Where the body is totally wrapped in this. Underneath will need to be incorporated a wooden board to provide rigidity for handling purposes. An outer ‘shell’ may be needed or the wrapped body may be visible to members of the general public
- A cardboard coffin: There are versions of these available, either through funeral directors or wholesale suppliers
Where can I get a coffin from?
Some funeral directors and some coffin manufacturers will sell individual coffins. If you have difficulties, the Bereavement Services office will be pleased to advise you.
What type of funeral service can I have?
Generally, you can have anything that can be legally and realistically accommodated. We are happy for you to have a funeral that suits your needs, no matter how different it may be from any other funeral. Obviously, legal and practical requirements must be taken into consideration.
Many people get comfort from a traditional style funeral. However, you do not have to have a minister. The service does not have to be religious. You do not have to have a service at all.
Services prior to burial or cremation can be held in churches which are often more flexible in terms of the time allowed and number of people attending for a funeral service. Additionally, using a local church may help reduce the travelling time of those attending the funeral.
What are the options for memorials to the deceased?
At Woodlands Crematorium there is the Book of Remembrance in which a permanent entry can be purchased.
In our cemeteries you may have, within guidelines set by us, a memorial made from stone, metal or wood. Although you must request permission from the Bereavement Services office before you place anything permanent on the grave.
Can I pre-pay for a funeral?
There are many pre-payment plans available through funeral directors and other organisations. You will need to check if the plan includes disbursements, part of them or none at all.
For security, of what is essentially an investment, it is advisable to choose a plan that holds the money in a recognised trust fund.
Some people open a savings account in which they put a sum of money specifically to pay for a funeral. A potential problem with this could be that the interest does not keep up with the increase in funeral costs, leading to a shortfall when the money is needed.
How do I make my wishes known?
There are various ways this can be done, for example:
- Naming an executor and telling them
- Leaving a written note with paperwork in your home
- Telling various members of your family
- Including your wishes in a will
Can I have my pet buried or cremated?
Legally, only human remains can be buried in our cemeteries or cremated at the Crematorium. However, there are some specialised pet cemeteries and crematoria throughout the country.
Where can I get more information?
- The Dead Good Funerals Book by Sue Gill & John Fox (ISBN 0 9527 159 0 2)
- The Natural Death Handbook – for inexpensive, green, family-organised funerals, edited by Nicholas Albery, Gil & Joseph Elliot (ISBN 0 9523280 3 8)
- Davies’ Law of Burial, Cremation & Exhumation, 6th edition, by David A. Smale (ISBN 0 7219 0064X)
The above titles should all be available at bookshops or your local library.
Where can I get further advice?
The people who deal regularly with funeral arrangements are:
- Funeral Directors – for funeral arrangements
- Ministers of Religion (contact your local church) – for content of the service
- Bereavement Services Office, Woodlands Crematorium – for general advice and memorialisation after burial or cremation
- Humanist Celebrant – for conducting non-religious funeral ceremonies
Advice can be found in the Muslim Funeral Guide.
Require more information?
For more information on all of our bereavement services please use our online form:
Alternatively, you can contact Bereavement Services via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01724 747555.
Monday to Thursday: 9am to 4.30pm
Friday: 9am to 4pm
Closed Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays