Planning a funeral


When the time comes, how do you decide between a burial or a cremation?

When thinking about ones own mortality it can be incredibly overwhelming. The thought of dying and leaving loved ones behind is incredibly hard. However, it is a normal part of life that needs to be openly discussed with family and close friends. When the time comes, deciding between burial and a cremation can be an incredibly personal and often a complex decision that can be influenced by a variety of factors.

Whilst it can be very hard to think about, there are several considerations that can inform your choice. These include, religious beliefs, cost, environmental impacts, family wishes, memorialisation, and practical considerations.


Religious beliefs

It is important when deciding between a burial and a cremation that you consider your own religious or spiritual beliefs; as well as those of the deceased if you’re making the decision on behalf of someone else. Some religions have specific traditions or guidelines regarding burial or cremation.

For example, christian religions or other christian denominations, including catholicism, eastern orthodoxy, and some protestant denominations, traditionally prefer a burial.1 This preference is based on the belief in the resurrection of the body and the importance of the physical remains as part of the deceased’s identity after their passing.2 regardless of your religion, its important you consider how you wish to be remembered and the legacy you are leaving behind.


Costs and environmental impacts

When choosing between a burial or cremation it is important to also consider the cost. Generally speaking a cremation tends to be cheaper than burial due to factors such as cemetery plot costs, casket expenses, and embalming fees.3 Therefore when planning your funeral, or a funeral on behalf of a loved one, it is important you consider your budget and financial situation. No one wants to create additional financial stress on friends and family left behind.

Additionally, for many the potential environmental impact of a burial versus a cremation is also a very important consideration. Cremations are associated increasingly with high levels of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions whereas a burial requires only land space. This said, there are more modern technologies emerging that are able to reduce the environmental impact of cremations; better satisfying the many people who are looking for more sustainable alternatives.

Whilst burials may conventionally have less of an impact on emissions, the embalming process also uses chemicals which can seep into soils negatively effecting ecosystems and biodiversity by killing localised bacteria and fungi. When making this decision it is important you choose which ever option aligns best with your values, and the values of your family and friends.


Family wishes and memorialisation

When planning a funeral either on behalf of yourself or a loved one you must take into account the preferences of the family; some families may have strong traditions or preferences for one option over the other. Saying goodbye is never easy, and its important that people feel included in the decision making processes surrounding this day in order to avoid any conflict when emotions may be running high.

Be sure to consider how you would like to be remembered or memorialised. For example, a burial site provides a physical gravesite where loved ones can gather and pay their respects which can help with the grieving process. Whilst a cremation allows for various other options such as scattering ashes, keeping them in an urn, or interring them in a columbarium which can also offer a special moment for families to say goodbye to their loved ones.


Other practical considerations

Lastly, understanding the practical considerations of both a burial and cremation are also important. For example, factors such as the availability of cemetery plots, local regulations regarding burial or cremation, and any logistical challenges involved in either option is vital, in order to avoid disappointment or potential conflict.

In the United Kingdom, according to a recent report local councils are running out of places to bury the dead.4 This can make sourcing plots at local cemeteries more challenging than ever before, with research published in 2021 suggesting “a quarter of council-owned cemeteries will be full to capacity in 10 years and one-in-six will be full within five”.5

If a particular cemetery is important to you, its vital you reach out to local service providers ahead of time.


How to decide between an attended and unattended funeral

When choosing between an attended or unattended funeral there are various factors to consider, including personal preferences, cultural or religious beliefs, logistical considerations, and the wishes of yourself or the deceased if you are planning a funeral on behalf of somebody else.

Regardless, it’s vital to take the time to carefully consider all the factors and choose the option that feels most appropriate and meaningful for honoring your memory or the memory of the deceased whilst supporting those who are grieving. Consulting with a funeral director or religious leader can also provide guidance and support when making this decision.


Give yourself piece of mind with a funeral plan

In the whirlwind of life, planning for the inevitable often takes a backseat. However, funeral plans offer a proactive approach to end-of-life preparations, providing not just peace of mind but also relieving the burden on loved ones during a difficult time.

Pre-paid funerals enable people to make decisions relating to their final arrangements ahead of time; giving people the freedom to choose anything from the type of service to the choice of a casket or urn. This makes sure that your own or your loved ones final wishes are honored whilst relieving stress on the family left behind.

Logistically there are also several other benefits to pre-paying for your funeral. By securing today’s prices for future services, individuals are better able to protect themselves against inflation and other external pressures, saving their families from unexpected financial strain in the long term. Additionally, it ensures that you are able to secure your wishes, for things like cemetery plots which may have huge sentimental meaning for you and your loved ones.

Beyond practical considerations, pre-paid funerals also ignite open conversations about dying and death; providing an opportunity for you or your loved ones to express their desires regarding your final farewell. It is also a chance to celebrate life, ensuring you are able to leave behind a legacy that reflects your values and personality.

Ultimately, pre-paid funerals help reduce stress during what can be extremely emotional times, allowing loved ones to focus on grieving and healing rather than logistics and financial strain. By taking charge of one’s final arrangements, you are better able to find solace in knowing that you have provided comfort and support to your family even after you’re gone.


Someone you loved dies unexpectedly but hasn’t got a funeral plan in place

Arranging funerals at the time of need can create huge challenges, at what is often a very emotionally challenging time for families. Despite the suddenness, at-need funerals still require thoughtful consideration which can present lots of difficulties and conflicts for those left behind.

Financial and logistical concerns often accompany at-need funerals and funeral planning, prompting families to assess available resources and make pragmatic choices. These times can be incredibly challenging particularly when emotions are running high. In some instances funeral directors may be able to offer flexible payment options, which can reduce some of the financial burden and potential conflicts, which can allow families to focus on honoring their loved one’s memory; although, this is not always the case.

Additionally, it is often overwhelming for loved ones when organising other personal and finite details surrounding the funeral. Looking back through your loved one’s life can spark immense feelings of loss. Whilst hard, incorporating meaningful elements such as cherished memories or their favorite music is an important part of processing the grief journey. It can also add a poignant touch to the proceedings, honoring the unique life of the departed.

Furthermore, when arranging an at-need funeral, funeral directors typically serve as a key pillar of support and guidance. These professionals help navigate the difficult decisions, from selecting caskets to arranging services, with sensitivity and expertise. Their role often extends beyond logistical support, offering a steady hand and empathetic ear during a time when families are grieving. In navigating at-need funerals, the emphasis lies on honoring your loved one and supporting those left behind. Whilst the circumstances may be challenging, these moments foster the shared celebration of a life cherished, remembered, and missed.


Choosing your funeral extras

When embarking on the funeral planning process, it is important that the day memorialises you, and that you are able to choose all the little details that reflect who you are, how you want to be remembered, and what brings meaning to the funeral experience. Things like, orders of service, floral arrangements, photographs, memorabilia displays, music selections, eulogies, personal tributes, and poems all work together to create a day that reflects you or your loved one.

Not sure where to go for arranging your orders of service? Speak to With Grace about how we can assist with funeral stationery.


Orders of service and floral arrangements

Customised orders of services can be created to provide your loved ones with information about the day, readings, hymns, and other details. This can ensure people have guidance about the day minimising any unnecessary questions which could cause additional stress. These programs can also serve as beautiful keepsakes for your loved ones to take home and cherish forever.

Additionally, flowers are also a beautiful and often symbolic addition to a funeral. When selecting floral arrangements it is important that they hold special meaning and reflect your personality or the personality of the deceased. In the United Kingdom the most popular funeral flower is Lillies.6 Lillies typically symbolise “radiance and purity” meaning the soul of the deceased is returning to peace.7

However, if you fancy something a little more bright and colorful – Roses, Gerbera Daisies, Sunflowers, or Carnations are nice options. Roses are versatile flowers that come in a wide range of colors including red, yellow, pink, and orange. Red roses symbolise love and respect, while yellow roses represent friendship and joy. Pink roses convey admiration and gratitude, while orange roses symbolise enthusiasm and energy. Gerbera Daisies are cheerful and colorful flowers that come in a variety of bold and vibrant hues, including red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple. They symbolise innocence, purity, and happiness, making them a fitting choice for celebrating life.

Similarly, sunflowers are also a bright and cheerful flower that symbolises adoration, loyalty, and longevity. Their vibrant yellow petals and large, sunny blooms can bring a sense of warmth and positivity to funeral arrangements. Lastly, Carnations are also a nice choice with their long-lasting flowers that come in a variety of colors, including bright shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, and purple. They symbolise love, admiration, and remembrance, making them a meaningful choice for honoring yours or a loved one’s memory.


Gorgeous photographs and memorabilia displays

Another nice touch to create meaning and perhaps a few giggles at a funeral is adding photographs, personal items, or memorabilia that can help create and tell the story of the of yours or a loved one’s life. This creates a better sense of connection and remembrance for your friends and family in attendance. Whilst it can be hard to connect with grief, sourcing memorable photographs of happy times can encourage people to talk about the happier more joyful memories.


Music selections

Now, music selections can be a topic of much controversy. Whilst some people may opt for rock and roll classics by iconic artists such as Elvis Presley, Queen, or AC/DC to reflect their love of music and to add a lively atmosphere to the service. Others may choose to opt for more traditional and meaningful music that resonates with the emotions of the occasion. This can include favorite songs, hymns, or instrumental pieces played during the service.

In the United Kingdom the most popular music choice was as follows – Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli’s Time to Say Goodbye, Frank Sinatra’s My Way, Ed Sheeran’s Supermarket Flowers, Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, Vera Lynn’s  We’ll Meet Again, Eva Cassidy’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Gerry and the Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone, Cecil Frances Alexander and William Henry Monk’s All Things Bright and Beautiful, Henry Francis Lyte and William Henry Monk’s Abide With Me, and Danni and Lizzy’s Dancing in the Sky.8

Regardless of your typical or perhaps a-typical music preference it is important that you choose music that you feel best reflects either yourself or your loved one. Music has the ability to evoke memories and trigger associations with specific people, places, and experiences. Listening to songs that hold personal significance or that were meaningful to the deceased can provide comfort and solace, allowing individuals to reminisce about happier times and celebrate the life of their loved one.

Music also has the ability to evoke a wide range of emotions, including sadness, nostalgia, comfort, and hope. Listening to music can provide an outlet for expressing and processing complex feelings associated with grief, allowing individuals to connect with and validate their emotions. Engaging with music can provide a sense of catharsis and release, allowing your loved ones to channel their grief and find solace in the rhythms, melodies, and lyrics of the music; serving as a form of emotional release, helping individuals to cope with overwhelming feelings and find moments of peace and comfort at what can be such a difficult time.


Eulogies, personal tributes, and poems

Another personal touch to consider when organising your funeral, or a funeral on behalf of a loved one is personal tributes in the form of eulogies and poems. Inviting family members and close friends to share memories in during the service allow people to process their grief, whilst allowing attendees to reminisce during the service.

These heartfelt speeches can provide comfort, laughter, and reflection as attendees celebrate the life of the deceased; helping to create a personalised and meaningful tribute that might remove some of the formalities of the day. Thus creating a more human experience can make the day as joyful as it can be given the circumstances.


So what can we take away from this guide?

Planning a funeral for yourself or a loved one is never going to be an easy process and talking about death or dying feels like a taboo for many. A problem shared is always a problem halved, and by opening up to close family and friends about the day, it can bring comfort and solace to all. Pre-paying for and arranging your funeral lessens the burden on families and friends who will be experiencing feelings of grief whilst ensuring that you are able to go out in style, leaving a legacy you want to be remembered by.

Taking control of the of the inevitable can also help you come to terms with dying which is an important part of life.

Looking for a prepaid funeral plan?

Our friendly team can help you navigate the challenges associated with planning a funeral, with flexible payments across terms of up to 5 years. Get in touch for a free quote.

1 Religion Media Centre, 2024. Factsheet: Death and funerals in world religions. Available at: . Last accessed March, 2024.

2 Religion Media Centre, 2024. Factsheet: Death and funerals in world religions. Available at: . Last accessed March, 2024.

3 The Funeral Guide, 2023. UK cremation and burial costs. Available at: . Last accessed March, 2024.

4 Howard, J., 2021. Here’s what will happen when we run out of space to bury the dead. Available at: Last accessed, March 2024.

5 Howard, J., 2021. Here’s what will happen when we run out of space to bury the dead. Available at: Last accessed, March 2024.

6 Funerals UK, 2022. What are the Most Popular Funeral Flowers – and What Do They Mean?. Available at: . Last accessed, March 2024.

7 Funerals UK, 2022. What are the Most Popular Funeral Flowers – and What Do They Mean?. Available at: . Last accessed, March 2024.

8 Mata, W., 2023. The top 10 most-requested songs at UK funerals: Monty Python drops off Co-Operative list. Available at: . Last accessed, March 2024.