Arranging a Funeral without a Funeral Director

Arranging and conducting a funeral without employing a funeral director is something that only a few families undertake, but those who have done so are invariably surprised by how easy and straightforward it was.

Why do it yourself?

DIY funerals can be less expensive (by up to £800, according to a Which report) and can also help you come to terms with your loss. Some people feel this is one final thing they can do for their loved one; others value the chance to create a highly personal ceremony.

Doing it yourself can involve smaller elements, such as using relatives as pall-bearers - or doing everything from laying out the body to delivering it to the cemetery/crematorium and backfilling the grave.

Although most people are happy to hand funeral arrangements over to a professional, as there are so many other tasks to be performed after a death, there is no legal reason to do so - and while those who do it themselves generally start out with little or no knowledge of what has to be done, it can turn out to be a very rewarding experience.

If you are however thinking of doing it all yourself, you should start with a thorough understanding of how complex a funeral can be. Although you'll probably attend several funerals during your lifetime, actually putting one together is quite a responsibility.

The Natural Death Handbook (available from The Natural Death Centre, 20 Heber Road, London. NW2 6AA . Tel: 020 8208 2853 or email: is invaluable if you are considering this option. They can provide guidance on all of the practicalities, as well as details of how to order a coffin or shroud and how to find a suitable celebrant should you want one to help you. They have years of experience helping and supporting families who want to look after their dead themselves, and will also advise you on the advantages and disadvantages of home burial.

Legal Issues

You'll find all your legal obligations online:

There are very few regulations covering the disposal of a body within the UK. For now you must undertake either to bury or cremate it, and you must have a death certificate signed by a doctor and a Certificate for Burial or Cremation from the Registrar of Deaths. This last document is very important, and most hospitals and mortuaries will not release the body until they've seen it.

The Essentials

If you're doing it yourself, you'll have to hunt for information that's obvious to professionals. Some undertakers offer advice, for which they charge - but if the burial or cremation is at a local authority cemetery or crematorium, their management can advise you on how to proceed as well.

Either way, there are certain things you'll need to sort out for yourself, such as deciding whether the service is to be at a cemetery, crematorium chapel or other building (not necessarily religious); booking the slot and appointing and briefing an officiant if desired to deliver the service; arranging music and transport for the coffin, mourners and floral tributes; and grave-digging, if necessary. The logistics can be daunting, but the rewards for producing a totally personalised funeral for your loved one can be immense.