Bouquet of pink roses for a funeral

Guide to arranging a funeral

Say goodbye in a way that feels right for the person you’ve lost, and those they’ve left behind. To help with any questions you may have, here is our essential guide to arranging a funeral.

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1. How do I choose a funeral director?

Where do you begin when arranging a funeral? You won’t be alone in asking this question. As a first step, it’s recommended to choose a funeral director to support and guide you through the process.

Start by researching the local funeral homes in the area the person that has died lived. You can choose to visit and review their services via their website, or, if you feel more comfortable ringing, you can speak to a funeral director over the phone. At this time, you can discuss what you are looking for in a funeral or memorial and get answers to some initial questions you may have.

Once you have decided on a funeral director, the next step is to arrange an in-person appointment (or a call should restrictions be in place). Here, you and your funeral director will discuss the steps in planning a funeral, including costs, ceremony type, cremation or burial, and any tailored or personalised details you would like including. Additional services such as flowers, music, poems and even donations can be arranged with the funeral director.

From registering the death to closing bank accounts, our experienced team can help guide you through what needs to be done when someone has died.

2. How long does it take to plan a funeral after someone dies?

In the case of arranging a funeral, the timing can vary greatly. Whether funeral arrangements can start straightaway will depend on if the person’s death must go to the coroner for an investigation. Each funeral is different, and there is no set rule for how long it should take to plan, but you’ll likely have one meeting with your funeral director and ongoing phone calls to keep you updated.

Your funeral director will work closely with you to plan around a date and time that works for you. If you already have an idea of what sort of funeral you’d like, you can discuss this with your funeral director who may be able to advise you on timescales, considering logistics such as travel by family and friends, availability of burial services, and other factors.

3. What should you consider for a funeral?

Once you have selected a funeral director for your funeral or memorial ceremony, they’ll be able to guide you through what to consider for a funeral. In your initial call with your funeral director, as well as your follow up appointment, you’ll discuss:

  • Your loved one: Your funeral director may ask about your loved one’s personality, their interests, your memories of them, and any suggestions or desires you may have for the funeral.
  • Tributes, eulogies and music: When planning the order of service, the funeral director will ask you to list any tributes, eulogies, poems, and music you’d like to incorporate into the service.
  • Personalised or decorative touches: Some funerals or memorials include flower tributes and displays of personal items such as photographs, military medals, or scrapbooks for example - this can be arranged with your funeral director in your appointment.
  • Dress code: Traditionally black has been worn at funerals, however, more and more families are choosing to dress expressively to remember their loved ones, ranging from bright coloured to themed clothing.
  • Bulletins and notices: At a funeral or memorial, you may want to distribute bulletins detailing the order of service, along with details around your loved one’s life. This can be done through newspaper notices or online memorial notices and social media, whatever works best for you.
  • Funeral type and transportation: Your funeral director will also identify if you’d like an essential funeral, a tailored / personalised funeral, or a direct burial or cremation, and whether a hearse is needed.

4. What does a funeral planner do?

The role of a funeral planner or funeral director is to help you in every step of arranging a fitting funeral. As well as taking ownership of the logistical aspects of arranging a funeral, a funeral planner will also advise you on your options around costs, timelines, and what to expect going forward.

Our funeral planners and directors are there to make sure your loved one’s funeral service is memorable and best represents them and the life they lived, all the while reducing the burden and stress of planning on you and your family.

Key planning tasks and steps arranged by the funeral planner include:

  • Meeting with you to discuss your plans and ideas for the funeral or memorial
  • Supporting you with paperwork and documentation where necessary
  • Once discussed, arranging requests with third parties such as florists and crematoriums
  • Arranging the right service venue and officiant for you and your family
  • Discussing budget limitations, costs, and guiding you through necessary decisions
  • Providing useful support links and resources, including bereavement charities
  • Ensuring the service goes as planned

5. How much does a funeral cost?

Depending on the type of funeral you want, the costs can vary. However, the average cost of one of our funerals in 2020 was £3,740, including funeral directors' fees and third party costs. Generally, funeral costs can be broken down into three main categories and can vary depending on preferences and location.

  • The Funeral Director’s services: Funeral directors fees cover the arranging of the funeral, liaising with all third parties, handling all necessary documents and logistics, and ensuring the service goes as expected on the day
  • Third party fees: Such as doctors' fees, burial / cremation fees, church fees, and musicians
  • Extras: Flowers, funeral stationery, limousines

To best estimate the cost of an upcoming funeral, you can use our funeral cost calculator. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us to arrange an appointment with a funeral director to discuss options. We work with complete transparency around costs and our experienced team can help with whatever needs to be done.

6. What’s the difference between a funeral and a memorial service?

Traditionally, funerals will take place shortly after the time of death, with the person that has died generally present. Memorials, which are used to reflect on and commemorate life, can take place any time after death, even years later.
We offer both funeral services and memorial services. Whatever style of funeral is right for the person that died and those left behind, is the style of funeral we will do. This could include:

If you had a direct cremation for your loved one or a small funeral during Covid-19 restrictions, you may decide to plan a memorial at a later date. From a simple goodbye to a completely personal celebration, we’ll support you to plan a memorial that’s fitting for your loved one. This could include:

  • Celebration of Life Service: Arranged by Co-op, with a funeral director in attendance
  • Family Memorial Tribute: Arranged by you or your family, with our support

To learn more about arranging a funeral or memorial with Co-op, please contact your local funeral director.

7. How many songs do you have at a funeral?

Music can play an important part in any funeral or memorial service. In our experience, 3 to 4 songs are appropriate for a funeral, however some may opt for 2 - one to open the ceremony, and one to close it.

Music has many roles in a funeral or memorial, whether it’s to add structure to the service, to provide background music to a video tribute, to bring family and friends together in song, or to provide a few additional moments for reflection during the service.

Depending on the service, you may want to use traditional songs, or you could play music that best fits the life and personality of your loved one. The choice of music is ultimately up to you and your family, some may opt for religious music and hymns, sombre, reflective music, or something upbeat and light-hearted.

Your funeral director will help you in deciding the length, pace and timing of the ceremony, factoring in music, tributes, and performances by family members or musicians. This will help you navigate how many songs you may want to include.

8. How do you write a eulogy?

Often, funerals and memorials feature a eulogy by either a friend or family member of the person that has died. Eulogies are funeral speeches that reflect on the life of your loved one, usually containing stories, memories and words to the friends and family members present. When dealing with grief and when faced with the responsibility of delivering a eulogy, it can be difficult to know how to approach the speech and find the right words to say. To help you deliver the best possible speech, we’ve provided a short summary which outlines how to think through, write, and deliver a fitting eulogy.

  • Reflect: Start by reflecting on the life of the person, thinking about how you’d describe them. Recall memories, what others might say about them, their accomplishments, and any additional input from family members or friends.
  • Structure: Next, decide how you will want to structure the piece. You may want to have multiple parts to cover different periods of their life or write it in a letter format. Having a clear beginning, middle and end can help you in writing a well-rounded eulogy.
  • Practice: Naturally, delivering a eulogy can be difficult, particularly if you and the audience are dealing with intense emotions. If at all possible, practice your eulogy with a close family member or friend beforehand.
  • Fact Check: When reflecting back on an entire life, it can be easy to confuse details such as dates and names. If in doubt, be sure to fact check the details of stories you have included with a family member or friend.

For more information on how to write a eulogy, read our detailed Eulogy Guide.

9. What do you wear to a funeral?

When thinking of traditional funeral wear, black may immediately come to mind. However, as with all other aspects of a funeral or memorial, this will depend on the preference of the family and the tone of the service. If the family has requested a particular dress code, out of respect for them and their loved ones, it’s best to adhere to their request.

If in doubt, you can try contacting the family or funeral director for details around what to wear to the particular service. If this is not possible, opt for formal, dark clothing - a traditional option that is still observed at many ceremonies today.

If you are planning a funeral and are unsure of how to advise on dress code, your funeral director will support you in choosing what is best for you and your family. Dress code can be as personal a touch as any part of a funeral service. Increasingly, we’ve observed families requesting themed or bright coloured attire to commemorate the life of their loved one in a more personal way. Others may simply want mourners to wear whatever they wish, such as casual, everyday clothing.

10. Who has the right to make funeral arrangements?

Often it will be detailed in a person’s will who has the right to plan and arrange their funeral. This person is appointed prior to the person’s death, and can be a spouse, a sibling, a child, or a friend. This person is legally referred to as the executor and is responsible to make funeral arrangements and cover the incurred costs.

If the person who has died didn’t specify anyone to arrange their funeral (in a will or otherwise), the duty often falls to the next of kin, such as a spouse. Generally, the next of kin will work with the funeral director to plan a fitting funeral for their loved one. In some cases, individuals may leave details around funeral preferences - many families will choose to follow the requests of their loved ones where possible.

In the case that no family members or friends are present to arrange a funeral, the local council will arrange a public health funeral. However, this is usually a last resort - funeral directors will do their best to locate family members of the deceased to try and make arrangements.

For legal advice surrounding funerals and wills, visit our Legal support for Wills & Probate page or contact us directly.

11. How do you carry a coffin at a funeral?

On the day of the funeral, you may wish for your friends and family to carry the coffin of your loved one. If you have been chosen or appointed as a bearer, your funeral director will be present to provide practical guidance, help, and reassurance. Common tips include:

  • Those of similar heights should be next to each other
  • Shorter bearers should remain at the front
  • Always allow the pallbearers and funeral directors to help you lift the coffin onto your shoulder
  • Keep the coffin as close to you as possible as you walk
  • Closely follow the pallbearer’s guidance
  • Walk in unison with the other bearers
  • Maintain an upright posture with your eyes forward

If there is challenging terrain, or it is not safe for bearers to carry the coffin, the funeral director may ask that the coffin is escorted into the funeral on a wheeled bier – a folding trolley used to support and move coffins.
While it can be a touching gesture to be asked to be a bearer, it is not for everyone. Should you feel uncomfortable, always let the funeral director know - this is another area we’ll always support you with.

12. What do you do after the funeral?

What happens after the close of a funeral service often depends on the type of funeral you’ve arranged or attended. With cremation services, the family typically exit the crematorium first, followed by the rest of the attendees of the service. However, sometimes they may stay behind to spend final moments with their loved one.

Once the family and attendees have left the crematorium, they often pay respects to the family through short conversations, hugs, and words of condolence outside the crematorium. Arranged transport, such as a limousine, would then take the immediate family to a social gathering such as a wake, or to their respective homes. If there is a planned gathering or wake, it’s appropriate to make your way there after the family has left the crematorium.

At a burial service, once the main service has ended, families may similarly line up outside the venue to greet attendees of the funeral. At this time, the hearse and cortege will make their way to the cemetery or burial ground, where the coffin is carried and lowered down by pallbearers. At this time, an officiant may say some closing words and invite final goodbyes from family members.

Again, should there be a wake planned by the family, attendees will make their way there to pay further respects to the deceased and commemorate their life.

In the days after a cremation or burial service, families may be dealing with intense grief. Some may need emotional and mental health support, or practical help. We provide a range of bereavement support and services which you may find useful, including mental health support, bereavement group and support for children.

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