The first thing for me to do is offer my condolences to you and my sympathy for your loss. While I'm glad you've found my page it is never with relish that I open my email enquiries. My heartfelt condolences are offered to you, whatever the circumstances of your loved one's death.
Happily, most of us go through life only attending a few funerals of elderly relatives who've lived long and happy lives. Of course, there are many sad exceptions. But most of the time, when we are faced with organising a funeral, it's the first one we've had to do. Luckily Funeral Directors can help you through the process from start to finish.
The first thing you should do in the unfortunate and sad circumstances of you having to organise a funeral, celebration of life ceremony or memorial service is think about the style of the end of life service you would prefer. If you have chosen to have a humanist celebrant for your ceremony, thank you. If you haven't been directed to me by a Funeral Director already, then please do engage a good Funeral Director to help you navigate the process. You could choose a family run business such as Townsend and Son or a nationally recognised franchise, such as the Co-op Funeral Care or Dignity.
Does the Funeral Have to be Sad?
Certainly not. People lead interesting lives and life should be celebrated whenever it's appropriate to do so. Even though funerals are sad by the very nature of saying goodbye to someone for the last time, they don't have to be boring. And often they can be very uplifting and celebratory, depending on the deceased's circumstances, their wishes and your wishes. Head over to my home page for a guide to what a humanist funeral usually includes but if you want a New Orleans style jazz band with dancing pall bearers to start the ceremony off, or your loved one wants to be buried in a Star Wars themed coffin, or if you want everyone to sing their hearts out to the most inappropriate song before scattering the ashes off the top of their favourite mountain, go ahead! You do you. I am here to help and deliver a Grand Goodbye, in whatever shape or form you prefer.
What Role Does a Funeral Director Play?
A Funeral Director will guide you through all the technicalities of registering a death, taking care of your loved one between the death and the funeral, and planning a funeral in line with your wishes. After you've decided on what suits you best, look at reviews online, and ask for recommendations from friends, family, colleagues or colleagues. Your relationship with your Funeral Director and your celebrant is crucial to your experience. Many people have not been to a funeral before, and don't know what to expect or ask about. Make sure communication and response is prompt and courteous from the outset.
The funeral organiser will go through all the options for taking care of the deceased, liaising with you and third parties concerning the documentation of the funeral, preparation of the body and viewing of the body in their Chapel of Rest (if you wish). They will also take care of transporting the body from the place of death to their funeral home, and from the funeral home to the crematorium or burial site. The Funeral Director will offer a selection of appropriate coffins depending on your choice of funeral, go through options for a simple, traditional, or bespoke funeral, direct cremation (where the family is not present at the crematorium and the coffin is not present in the ceremony), or a traditional or direct burial. The Funeral Director will determine the number of coffin bearers, go through options for your loved one's final resting place, they will take good care of your loved one's body, arrange transport of the chief mourners to the funeral, and will help you with the printed ceremony brochure if you would like one. For more information, please speak to your chosen Funeral Director or visit their website.
What Role Does the Celebrant Play?
Once you've decided on a humanist funeral celebrant to conduct your ceremony, it's the celebrant's role to work with you to plan the content and delivery of the service. I would hold a meeting with you and any other family or friends at a convenient time and location, and we would go through all the options - for example, if you would like to follow the coffin into the ceremony room or whether you would prefer to be seated first; whether you would like contributions from colleagues or family members, what music you would prefer for the entrance, committal and exit; if you would like poems, readings or live streaming of the ceremony; whether you would like the curtains to remain open or close around the coffin; and of course, from your memories, I write down copious notes about your loved one's life story in order to write and deliver a beautiful, meaningful and highly personalised script that totally reflects them, their life, their wishes, their achievements, their place in their loved ones hearts, their sense of humour and their creative tastes. There is no religious content in my scripts, but plenty of creative writing and input in terms of what you can include to make your loved one's final send off a particularly memorable, unique, uplifting and heartfelt Grand Goodbye.
FAQs - Organising a Funeral
What Can I Expect on the Day of The Funeral?
If the coffin is going to be present at the funeral service, the Funeral Director will arrive at the Chief Mourner's home with the coffin in a hearse so that immediate family and friends may follow the hearse to the crematorium or burial ground in a precession. Flowers from well wishers or those arranged by the family may be used to decorate the coffin in the hearse and will be taken to the final resting place of your loved one, unless you choose otherwise.
Chief mourners may choose to follow in one of the Funeral Director's limousines, or they may choose to travel in their own vehicles. Some Funeral Directors offer a range of transport options such as a horse drawn hearse, a Reliant Robin Hearse or a tractor-drawn hearse. You may even choose to have a musical send off or a guard of arms. There are no rules. Humanist funerals and celebrations of life are traditional, story-based, warm and moving, but if it suits the deceased and their family and friends, they can be quirky and lighthearted. It's your choice.
Once everyone has arrived, the ceremony will take place, and then afterwards, the coffin remains at the Crematorium for the body to be cremated or the coffin will be placed in the burial plot at the end of the ceremony. Once the ceremony is over, the mourners often arrange a gathering or wake either at a family home, pub or other venue, This affords everyone to swap memories and stories, and remember the deceased in an informal atmosphere. It is often an important part of the closure process and is a comforting way to end the day, surrounded by the family, friends and colleagues of the person who has died. There are circumstances when a gathering or wake is not appropriate. There is no obligation to hold a gathering after the funeral service. Again, this is your choice.
Cremation or Burial?
Whether to have a cremation or burial is your personal choice and may be influenced by religious or non-religious views, cultural ritual or family tradition. It may also be determined by environmental concerns or the wishes of the person who has died.
In England, 75% of bodies are now cremated. Burial plots and memorial stones are expensive and some people prefer the idea of a cremation, and scattering their loved one's ashes in a place that is meaningful to them. People wanting an eco-friendly final resting place can opt for a green burial or woodland burial site, where the body or cremated ashes are laid to rest without a traditional coffin or headstone. You can arrange for a burial at sea or you can keep ashes in an urn, or scatter them using a scatter tube.
Is The Coffin Always at the Funeral Ceremony?
At most services in crematoriums or burial grounds, the coffin is present to symbolise the finality of death. Your choice of coffin should reflect the personality of the deceased if possible. There are many different styles available now from solid wood and wood effect to cardboard, handwoven, wicker, white or grey wool, bamboo, banana leaf and cardboard. Some Funeral Directors offer an outer coffin for hire, if the body is going to be cremated after the ceremony. Coffins can also be decorated with motifs and images such as personal pictures, poppies, cherry blossom or musical notes. And mourners can attach flowers, handwritten notes or other personalised items to the coffin during the ceremony if time allows.
However, some families choose to have the body cremated first, and have the ashes present at the funeral ceremony, Other families choose not to have the body or its remains present at all, choosing to have a direct cremation or burial, and then holding a celebration of life ceremony or a memorial service soon after the death and cremation or burial, or on a day that is meaningful to them either at the crematorium's chapel or at a place that is meaningful or more suited to the gathering.
At the crematorium, either before or after the funeral ceremony, the body will be turned into ashes in the cremator. Once the cremation has taken place, the ashes are returned to the family or chief mourner to keep or scatter.
Do You Do Out-of-the-Ordinary End of Life Ceremonies?
Yes! I celebrate diversity and am non-judgemental. I work with people from all backgrounds, cultures, and life paths and am constantly learning. I'm not perfect. I'm human. But I am here to help you say goodbye to your loved ones in whichever way is appropriate and meaningful to you. I mainly write and deliver traditional humanist ceremonies, but am open to any suggestion and willing to make your ceremony fitting and personal to you and your family and friends.
The majority of funerals in the UK are following death from illness or old age - which often comes at the end of a very long period of being cared for. However sad it is to say goodbye to someone who's been in our lives for as long as we can remember, and however emotional a death is, having a celebration of life ceremony for an elderly relative, that is planned with a humanist celebrant and a good Funeral Director can be an uplifting experience.
But life is not always kind and there are many circumstances where loved ones are taken too early from our lives or under circumstances for which we are not prepared. Following the tragic death of a child or baby under any circumstance, the death of a loved one following a road or other accident, a sudden death or death following a terminal illness, or in the cases of a suicide, manslaughter or murder, planning a funeral can be even harder for those left behind. Although I'm not a counsellor, I am here to write and deliver a ceremony that will help and comfort you as much as possible, by reflecting the personality of the person who has died, and providing some degree of comfort in a Grand Goodbye ceremony with a keepsake, bespoke presentation script that documents their life.
What About Pre-Need Ceremonies?
Some people are very organised and want a say in how their Grand Goodbye should be. I can work with someone at the end of their life to plan their funeral - to get their words and stories direct. To perhaps deliver messages to family and friends that they may have been unable to see in their last weeks or months. And to help plan the ceremony the way they would want it. I can even professionally record their voice, telling some of their story. or create a video if they so wish.
I can even deliver a live funeral for those who wish to be present at a gathering of friends and family towards the end of their life. So that they can see the impact they have had on those closest to them, and so that they can be at peace knowing that they've said their final goodbyes, delivered their last words and recounted their life story to their loved ones.
I can provide a ceremony for any occasion - whether you want a green burial, a traditional funeral service, a memorial ceremony or a Life Story video documentary that could be used to send distant relatives and friends, played at a memorial gathering or posted online for posterity. I offer several packages, so please check out my Packages page.
What kind of collaboration can we include?
We can include poetry, readings, music or private reflections from friends and family and I have included some of my favourite readings and music here on my website if you need a little inspiration. You can include live music if you like or use a playlist. You could ask mourners to sign a photograph, or a decorate or write a message on a luggage tag to tie onto the coffin, or you could place flowers on springs of sage on top of the coffin.
You could light or extinguish a remembrance candle, present a slide show of photographs or show a life story video documentary, that includes memoirs from friends and family.
If you would like to include readings, poetry, lyrics from favourite songs or quotes from your loved one's favourite film, and don't think you or your family can read it yourself on the day, I am happy to read anything on your behalf.
In the event of friends and family not being able to attend the Grand Goodbye funeral service, your Funeral Director can arrange a webcast direct with the crematorium, or I can arrange a live web cast or professional recording of the ceremony if it held elsewhere.
Life Story Documentary Videos
This year has been awful for friends and families of people who have died because they have been unable to hold traditional funerals and wakes with people to share memories and comfort each other. My heart goes out to you. In an attempt to fill the gap,
I have combined my professional video production experience and my celebrant skills to offer a life story video documentary service. This option can be bolted onto any funeral ceremony. It integrates the tribute or life story I have written for the ceremony, together with video footage and old photographs of the deceased and their families and friends throughout their lives, as well as memories and stories provided by family members and friends via Zoom recordings, video files or email.
The video is a warm and wonderful way to commemorate someone's life. It can be sent to family members and friends who were unable to attend the funeral, the video file can be uploaded onto YouTube or streamed from my server, it can be played on a screen at a memorial service or gathering on the anniversary of the death of your loved one or another meaningful date, and it can be kept for prosperity to show children or other family and friends in years to come.
Please click through to my Life Story documentary video page for more details.