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Planning a Funeral. Advice from an expert in funeral planning

Michelle Hales, Everest Funeral Concierge, offers us insight into the key considerations when planning a funeral for yourself, or a loved one.

We might like to pretend it’s never going to happen, but we’ll all have a funeral one day. Spending some time thinking about how you’d like your funeral helps to ensure your wishes are fulfilled but it can also take a lot of pressure off your loved ones.

The sad fact is that, as a nation, we just do not  like talking about our funeral wishes. MetLife’s The Last Word research found that 51% of people weren’t aware of any wishes from their loved ones.

Sady, this left them to play a stressful guessing game around funeral arrangements, at exactly the time they’re dealing with the pain and upset of loss.


Planning a funeral. What you need to know

What are your funeral wishes? 

The good news is you don’t need to go into huge amounts of detail. Even if you only consider some of the key things, such as where you’d like the service to take place and the type of funeral, setting out some details will be really helpful to those arranging your funeral.

One of the key considerations is what you want to happen to your body after you die – burial or cremation.

Many people know instantly what they want. This might be down to their religion or beliefs or it could be a family tradition, with everyone buried in the same cemetery.

The environment could also influence your decision. As they’re more eco-friendly, woodland or natural burials are growing in popularity and there are now more than 270 sites across the UK.

You could even choose to be buried on your own private land. It’s perfectly legal, providing the land is mortgage-free and you add details and a map to the deeds, but do think how it might affect a future sale.

How would you like the funeral service?

You may also want to think about the type of funeral service you would like. As well as deciding whether you would like a religious service or a secular one, led by a celebrant or even a friend or family member, your decision about burial or cremation can also influence your options.

On the burial side, you could have a graveside service, or a service in a church or crematorium followed by the burial. For example, some families like to invite everyone to the service but keep the burial as a more private affair just for those close to the deceased.

Where you want to be buried could influence your options too.

For example, rather than a churchyard or a cemetery, you could choose to be buried in a woodland burial site. This can be more environmentally-friendly as well as providing your friends and family with a beautiful spot to visit when you’re gone.

There are also different options available if you would prefer a cremation. The more traditional is a service followed by the cremation but it is now possible to have a direct cremation, where there’s no service. This keeps the costs down and, although the majority are unattended, some crematoria offer small private services so loved ones can say their goodbyes.

Additionally, with both burials and cremations, you don’t have to follow the conventions of holding the service in a church or crematorium. It can be held in any venue, which can make it less formal or help to reflect the individual’s personality or interests.

How to plan a personalised funeral

As well as the type of service and the venue, there are lots of ways to personalise a funeral.

Selecting music or poems that are meaningful to you is one option but you could also stipulate the dress code. For example, this could be asking the congregation to wear bright colours or, if you have a huge passion for football or a band, getting them to turn up in team colours or gig t-shirts.

You might also want to ask friends or family members to contribute to the service, by talking about their memories of you or telling a favourite story or reading your favourite poem.

Tributes could be personal in other ways too, for example, playing The Last Post for an ex-service person, providing a motorcycle cavalcade for a keen biker, or having a final dance around the coffin for someone who always enjoyed a good knees-up.

Even the hearse can reflect your personality.

This could be through the floral tribute but it could also be by using a different vehicle. Coffins have been brought to services on JCBs, tractors and in campervans to mark the person’s interests.

How much will you spend on your funeral?

It’s good to think about costs too. A funeral can start from around £1,000 for an unattended direct cremation and increase to tens of thousands of pounds for an elaborate service with a burial in a mausoleum or vault.

Although prices vary around the country, the average funeral costs around £4,000, with burials generally costing more than cremations.

How much your funeral costs will also depend on the type of service you want. It’s easy to say yes to extras such as flowers, limousines and orders of service when you’re sitting in a funeral director’s office, but it’s important to consider whether it’s something you really want.

There’s no obligation to take everything they offer. Some families like to personalise the day by making their own orders of service or floral tributes. And even items such as the coffin and an urn can be sourced independently if you would prefer.

You don’t even need to use a funeral director if you don’t want to.

Everything from booking the crematorium to sorting transport can be arranged independently. But, even if you leave detailed plans, this can add a lot of work at a time when your family might need some space to grieve.

Whatever the costs, your family will be able to claim anything they spend on your funeral from your estate, although some people like to be certain all the expenses are taken care of by taking out a pre-paid funeral plan.

Talk to your loved ones about your funeral

Talking to your loved ones about your funeral wishes is the best way to ensure you get the funeral you want – and they don’t face the anguish of wondering whether they’re doing the right thing.

Again, you don’t need to have all the details decided in advance.  Just telling them you’d like it to be a celebration of your life rather than something more traditional will help them arrange a fitting service.

If you feel uncomfortable talking about what you want, or you just want to make doubly sure your final wishes are followed, make sure they’re written down somewhere.

Documenting the details will provide plenty of comfort to those left to make the arrangements. You could leave these with your solicitor or in a secure place such as an online funeral planning tool that your loved ones can access when needed.

A simple way of documenting your funeral wishes is to answer these 10 questions:

  1. What would you like to do with your body when you die?
  2. Do you have a funeral director in mind?
  3. If you’ve selected a cemetery plot, do you own it yet, or not?
  4. Where do you wish to hold your funeral or memorial service?
  5. Do you wish to have a visitation before the funeral or memorial service?
  6. Do you wish to have an open coffin or casket at your funeral or memorial service, or at the visitation?
  7. Do you wish to be embalmed?
  8. Do you wish to have your body placed in coffin, a casket, or placed elsewhere?
  9. Do with to have a gathering or reception after your service and where?
  10. Do you have any additional instructions for the family?

Securing your digital legacy for after you pass away

These preparations should also cover your digital legacy.

This is all the digital information you have created during your life, such as social media posts, photos, emails and online accounts, that will continue to be available after your death.  

As your digital legacy can include wonderful memories for your friends and family, as well as useful information such as your bank and financial details, you may want to ensure usernames and passwords are recorded to enable access.

Placing these in a secure, cloud-based data vault, like that provided by Everest Funeral Concierge, can ensure the information is protected and your loved ones will be able to access everything they need when the time comes.

Support and guidance on planning your funeral

Family and friends can be a great source of information about funerals or you may wish to speak to some local funeral directors to find out more about what they offer and the types of services that are available.

Another option is a death café. These are part of a global movement to help people talk about death-related issues, including their funeral plans. Meetings are usually held in an informal setting, often with tea and cake, or can be run online.   

Funeral concierge services, such as the Everest service available to all employees with a MetLife group life cover, can also help. These provide a range of pre-need and at-need services to help you get all the preparations in place.

It may feel strange to start planning an event that might not happen for many years but taking some time to think about what you want can provide considerable comfort to you and your loved ones.

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