Our complete guide to the options
Forget the rules you thought you knew. Death is a part of our lives. If we embrace it, we can face our fears together. Taking an alternative, empowered-approach to funerals allows us to question convention and find answers that make sense to us.
If you’re considering an alternative funeral, then the form it takes is totally up to you. In this way you can create an amazing event that is deeply personal for many people.
Equally you don’t have to surprise people with the arrangements you choose. It’s about managing the expectations of people who attend. Sometimes a funeral that ticks all the usual boxes is just what we need.
We can help you achieve this in a positive, cost-effective way. If a flamboyant detailed affair is in order then we will employ the same approach.
You are not legally required to have a funeral at all, but a body must be dealt with in a legal manner – the usual options are cremation or burial.
The necessaries to think about.
There are various ways of disposing of a body (a legal requirement that falls on the person arranging the funeral). The usual options are either to be cremation or burial.
Burial can happen in any cemetery, natural burial ground, or on your own land (your garden counts). Cremation usually takes place in a local crematorium, but could also happen further afield.
It is possible to have a direct cremation and then get the ashes back to keep, or to use them as a focus for a scattering or memorial ceremony in your own time. This is often a far less expensive option, but this doesn’t mean it has to be less significant.
Sometimes people consider what they would like to happen ahead of time, and might decide to donate their body to medical science and to make arrangements for a memorial ceremony instead of a funeral.
For many people, home is the safest, most comfortable place to be. We can give you help with the facts you need to know and consider if you either want to facilitate a death at home, care for the body at home, or both.
Natural burial, though mentioned above, deserves it’s own special explanation.
Natural burial grounds are often spots of outstanding natural beauty. You can have a cost-effective burial in an unmarked grave. The entire burial site can be like a monument to the people who lie there. It is a process where our bodies can quickly find their way back to nature.
From simple homemade coffins to traditional wooden caskets, you can have more or less any style of coffin by agreement of the crematorium or cemetery. A funeral arranger will be able to advise on the best options for your budget and intention.
Coffins come in all shapes and sizes and materials. Some companies will sell directly to you or we can give you options and accept delivery for you. Cardboard, painted, wicker, willow, bamboo. You can build your own – it’s just important to get the dimensions and strength right. You might want to have something which you can decorate meaningfully yourselves or attach tokens to.
You can make a shroud from any material. We know of a good supplier whose shrouds are accepted for cremation at various crematoria. Some crematoria are concerned about how certain materials will combust. There are many tried, tested and approved options out there.
You don’t need to use a coffin at all – normal clothes, a shroud or simple sheet will suffice. A body must be covered in public but there is no need to hide the shape of it.
There are no rules and we can help you find a space to decorate the coffin or shroud. This can be a great opportunity for gathering people and giving them a creative outlet. Children can be involved in a very positive way – and are frequently surprising with their resilient attitude to death. Painting pictures and messages on a coffin can help everyone enjoy creative catharsis together.
We can put you in touch with skilled local furniture makers who could help you build the coffin yourself. We know friendly local designers and carpenters who recognise the importance of involving you in the their production process, because this is one of the last things you can do for somebody you love.
The funeral arranger will lead on ensuring that transport is in place for the deceased helping you source find the right vehicles for the job. We can use inconspicuous vehicles that don’t have to look like a hearse. You might like to show a little flair in your vehicle choice – employing the services of a motorcycle with a sidecar for the coffin or a push-bike hearse. Maybe a VW Campervan is more fitting?
If you are keen to Direct-It-Yourself, you can also plan to provide your own funeral transport. We can give you tips and guidance about things to consider. You can use any type of vehicle on the day.
Our role is to make sure everybody is in the right place at the right time, and can gather trusty pallbearers if you need them.
The funeral arranger can also help to organise vehicles for transporting the family and congregation.
A funeral director will usually be responsible for preparing, dressing and moving the body for the coffin, but you can be involved as much or as little as you wish.
If you and some friends are physically able there may be no need to pay someone else to do this special last job for the person who has died.
We can provide people as back up for the day and tend to carry coffins at waist height so all shapes and sizes can share the load.
Sometimes known as a Self-Help or Direct-It-Yourself funeral. Choosing this option really puts you in the driving seat – sometimes literally.
If you simply want a few elements taken care of on your behalf, you can hire us to carry out specific tasks. You might just want an experienced person around to help for a while.
If there is to be a funeral then you will need to decide upon a location and date, and make sure that everyone knows what is happening.
Then choose a structure for the day. Consider your budget: a simple funeral where there is room to accept help from your immediate community may be the order of the day.
You can use the chapel space at the cemetery or crematorium for a funeral. If there is a lot to do and say, then it might be a good idea to book a double slot so you don’t feel rushed. For burials, we can help you find the right plot and compare the prices.
Sometimes people want to get the legal pressures associated with the death dealt with before holding a memorial in their own way.
Perhaps the deceased played an important role in many lives, so a large memorial could follow a funeral for the family and immediate friends.
A memorial could also be a small and deeply personal event that you create and structure yourselves. You could hold the memorial in a local art centre, cinema, pub or your home or garden. When it comes to ceremonies with meaning and purpose, we are limited only by our imaginations.
The ceremony is an opportunity to say goodbye in your own way and gather people together to help each other through this challenging time.
We are passionate about finding ways for people to participate. You may not want a funeral at all, but might prefer help with alternative arrangements – for example, a memorial celebration in a country house, a special screening in an art house cinema, a meaningful scattering of ashes ceremony, a picnic in the woods, a journey of some sort, or a musical event.
Rituals can be transformative processes that creates space of opportunity and allow us the time to confront the sadness of what has happened, say goodbye in our own way, and ultimately bring everyone together so they can continue to support each other in the coming days and months. They help us feel grounded and safe. We also associate rituals with rites of passage and they can operate as markers of human life events.
You can draw upon the funeral practices of a religion, culture or tradition or you can can make up your own unique ritual for the community to participate in.
We can support you to do this yourselves. We explore religious, spiritual, symbolic elements to bring into the proceedings. We are passionate about finding ways for people to participate.
How you organise the structure of the ceremony is entirely up to you. Consider what might be the right level of formality. You can include memories, meaningful poems and music.
It is not necessary to have anyone in a position of authority during the ceremony of a funeral. You might like to put together an unstructured event where everyone simply sits around the coffin taking turns to read or say something when they feel like it.
If you would like to have a structured ceremony, it’s a good idea for someone to lead the proceedings. You can do it yourself, individually or as a community, or you can hire a professional to take the lead. A good funeral arranger will help you find the right balance.
We are quite prepared to fade out of the picture entirely on the day, just making sure that things are running smoothly, or we can lead the whole event formally, or anything in between. We can also help find the correct person for you relative to reflect your personalised wishes, beliefs, spiritual or religious faith.
You can employ bucket loads of imagination here. You can create your own Orders of Service, or perhaps a selection of postcards instead. It can be nice for people to have photos to look at during the ceremony and to take home with them to keep.
Perhaps you have things you’d like to say to the person who has died – messages can be placed in the coffin, tied to the handles or written on the coffin itself as a form of decoration. This act might form part of the ceremony.
It can work well to ask people to bring along a wild flower or two to place on the coffin, and perhaps you’d like to give them the gift of some seeds to take away and cultivate as a living memorial.
Ahead of the day you might like to think about items to place into the coffin.
You could record the proceedings either to stream to relatives in far away lands or as a record of the day.
You can find a local florist of your choice. You can buy flowers and make your own arrangements. Meaningful flowers could come from a garden or wild location.
Use the funeral as an opportunity to do good by inviting donations to the person’s favourite charity in their memory.
Newspapers will accept announcements of funeral arrangements before the big day which help to let people know the details. They also print longer obituaries if you’d like to share a little more about the deceased with the world.
We have inspirational Spotify playlists to share, and always welcome other ideas for interesting funeral music. Perhaps someone in your network could perform or record something special.
There are many groups of performing musicians from all genres who hire out their services for funeral events. We love the idea of a New Orleans style funeral procession.
If the person has been cremated, you will receive the ashes and you may wish to create a meaningful ceremony. You might like to keep them safe, grow a tree from them, store them in jewellery, scatter them at sea, make them into a firework, or one of many other options. You can create a ceremony to scatter ashes more or less anywhere you can imagine.
Things you can do with ashes:
- You could hire a boat and scatter them out at sea.
- Mix them into some paint and make a picture.
- You could grow a tree from them.
- Picture of bio-degradable urn and tree.
- You could store them in a locket.
- They can be turned into a firework and be exploded over a favourite place.
Hopefully you’ll feel a sense of uplift and togetherness after the funeral itself. Now is the time to gather together to share more tears and laughter in a setting that suits you.
Commonly known as the wake or funeral tea. It is worth considering what type of gathering you’d like to invite the congregation to after the main ceremony. Phone ahead to book an event at a favourite pub, home, or any other venue. It’s good to consider sharing maps and transport methods so that everybody has a good idea what their options are.
The afterparty could create the perfect space for sharing more stories in a more informal setting. Hopefully the funeral has gone some way to unifying the crowd and the raw humanity of these events can astound.