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The GreenAcres guide to organising a funeral
Whether it’s expected or not, nothing can prepare you for the death of a loved one. Organising a funeral is one of the hardest things you’ll have to face. There’s so much to do and think about that it can be difficult to know where to start. We’re here to help, so we’ve pulled together this simple step-by-step guide on what to do when a loved one dies and where to go for more help and advice.
1/ Notify friends and family
After a death, one of the first tasks you’ll need to face is letting loved ones of the deceased know. You may choose to inform less immediate friends and family once funeral arrangements are in place, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from those closest to you if you need additional support with breaking the news.
2/ Register the death
When a loved one dies, their death needs to be registered with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths for the district where the death occurred. Only relatives or specific individuals are qualified by law to register a death. You must register the death within five days in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland and within eight days in Scotland.
Who can register the death?
- A relative of the deceased
- The person who is arranging the funeral
- A person present at the death
What the Registrar will ask you about the person who has died:
- The person’s full name at the time of death
- Any names previously used, e.g., maiden name
- The person’s date and place of birth
- Their last address
- Their occupation
- The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner
- Whether they were getting a State Pension or any other benefits
What to take with you:
- Medical Cause of Death Certificate
- Birth/Marriage/Civil Partnership Certificates
If you need support with notifying companies of a death or don’t know where to begin, you may find the Life Ledger and Tell Us Once services useful. Completely free to use, they allow you to notify most government organisations and businesses connected to the deceased in one go. Visit Life Ledger or Tell Us Once to find out more and get help.
3/ Start planning the funeral
You don’t need the death certificate to start thinking about and planning the final goodbye. Take your time to think about what you want – you certainly don’t need to feel pressured into making decisions. It’s worth noting that the funeral can wait weeks if you’d rather. This decision may be guided by your beliefs but there’s no legal requirement to rush it.
Before you start planning the funeral, it’s always a good idea to find out what funds you have access to and how much a funeral costs. You’ll also need to think about how the funeral will be paid for. The deceased may have a funeral plan which may cover a proportion of the costs, but if not, you can deduct them from their estate.
If you get certain benefits and need help to pay for a funeral you’re arranging, you could get a Funeral Expenses Payment (also called a Funeral Payment) to cover:
- Burial fees
- Cremation fees, including the cost of the doctor’s certificate
- Travel to arrange or go to the funeral
- The cost of moving the body within the UK (over 50 miles)
- Death certificates or other documents
You can also get up to £1,000 for any other funeral expenses. This can include your funeral director’s fees, flowers, or the coffin. Find out more here.
4/ Burial or cremation?
Choosing between a burial or cremation is a personal preference – and it’s one the deceased may have specified before their death. If not, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of both so that you can honour your loved one in the way they would have wanted.
Some families prefer a cremation because it offers many more options to memorialise their loved ones. Others prefer to have a more traditional burial, particularly if they have religious or cultural beliefs.
Before making a decision, check with the family lawyer to see if there’s a lair certificate or deeds for a pre-paid burial plot for a burial ground. Wherever your loved one dies, and you would like a cremation, a medical practioner or GP will issue the cremation paperwork required and forward to your chosen Funeral Director. There is a fee for this. The medical practioner or GP will also issue a medical certificate of Cause of Death which is forwarded on to the registrar, enabling you as a family to register the death. All legally required paperwork needs to be with the crematorium at least 24 hours before the funeral service can take place.
5/ Choose a Funeral Director
You can choose to organise the funeral yourself or use a Funeral Director to help you make arrangements. We can work with any Funeral Director to help plan the service.
When choosing a Funeral Director:
- Take all the time you need and think about your decision. There’s no need to rush to find the right one
- Ask friends and family for recommendations. Looking at impartial reviews on Google and Facebook will also help you gauge whether they’re the right Funeral Director for you
- Check what’s included in the price and compare quotes to find one that suits your budget
- Look for a Funeral Director that you can easily travel to. Some even offer home visits to make life a little easier
- Make sure the Funeral Director covers everything you need, including the type of funeral you’re looking for
- Talk about payment options, such as whether you can spread the cost over a longer period
- Ask the Funeral Director whether they have any qualifications or formal training, such as from the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
Ultimately, which Funeral Director you choose is completely up to you. By following these steps, you can feel confident knowing your plans and ideas will be listened to.
6/ Write a eulogy
Writing a eulogy is a traditional and heartfelt way to say goodbye. There are no rules to what you can and can’t say in a funeral speech but writing one can leave those grieving feeling lost for words. To help make writing a eulogy less daunting, try incorporating some of these ideas into your speech:
- Decide on the tone
- Ask family and friends for their memories
- Think about what you want to include in the eulogy
- Introduce yourself
- Thank people for attending
- Share memories of the deceased
- Close the eulogy with comforting words
- Keep your speech short and sweet
Visit our blog for more in-depth tips and advice on how to give a good funeral speech.
7/ Make arrangements for the day
Whether you’ve decided on a burial or cremation, getting the structure of the day together will help you plan the service. It’s worth asking family, friends and loved ones for their contributions, such as memories, highlights, favourite songs, or music, to help you arrange the perfect send-off. Then, think about the following things:
- Pick a venue and date
- Arrange the funeral transport (typically a hearse with close friends and family following behind in limousines)
- Put together an order of service (printed booklet) to distribute to mourners when they arrive
- Pick the funeral songs and readings. Give family and friends the option to say a few words if they wish
- Make arrangements for the wake. Many people choose to host this in their home or local venue with catering included
Before the day, you’ll want to specify any special requests, like whether mourners should wear brightly coloured clothing or make donations to a charity instead of giving flowers.
8/ Decide on your memorial options
There are several options to choose from to create a fitting and personal tribute to the person you love. For example, you can choose to relive happy times and create a long-lasting memory of your loved one with an entry into our Book of Remembrance.
There are living memorials, too, such as planting a native tree, that offer a ‘greener’ way to commemorate a loved one’s life. Or you can plant a biodegradable urn that, along with the surrounding soil, nurtures a tree or wildflowers with ashes.
You may want your loved one’s grave to be marked with a simple oak or small granite plaque with a simple inscription. You can also choose to place a memorial bench, rose bush, leaf vault, or other memorial in some burial parklands, along with an engraved plaque.
All our prices for each memorial option are the same across our GreenAcres Parks. Speak to a member of our friendly team to explore your options and find the right memorial option for you.
We’re here to help
If you need advice about funeral planning or want a friendly ear to talk through your options, we’re here for you. Click here for more information.
- Download a brochure
- Book a visit to a Park
- Request a telephone call back
- Email us for more information
Grief is personal and everyone’s experience is unique. We are committed to supporting you in your bereavement journey and hold monthly pop-up cafés in all our Parks in partnership with The Good Grief Trust. For more information click here.
Here are some other resources too:
The Good Grief Trust – provide practical support, signposting to over 800 bereavement organisations under one umbrella
CRUSE Bereavement Care – provide a nationwide service of bereavement counselling, advice and information
The Compassionate Friends – supporting bereaved parents and their families after the death of a child
Grief Chat – this service is free-of-charge and allows you to talk instantly with a qualified and professional bereavement counsellor, Monday – Friday 09:00 – 21:00 (GMT)
The Samaritans – 24hrs a day, 365 a year call 116 123
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