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Do you have to have a funeral?

When someone passes away, or if you’re planning ahead for the future, it’s natural to turn straight to a Funeral Director or speak to a religious leader to start organising an event to mark the end of a person’s life. Funerals have been practiced for thousands of years, but just because they’re the norm, it doesn’t mean you have to have or arrange one.


Do you have to have a funeral when someone dies?

So, do you have to have a funeral by law? In the UK, there is no law against not having a funeral. The only law that concerns dealing with the deceased body is the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 that states that you must ‘dispose of the body of the person who has died by burial, cremation or any other means’, but this doesn’t need to be done after a funeral.

This means the person or decision maker is completely free to do whatever they please in lieu of a ‘traditional’ funeral ceremony, so there is actually a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing the best way to say goodbye.


The most common funeral options

In the UK, there are two main options when it comes to remaining within the law, although you do not have to have a funeral service beforehand. The most common funeral options are:



Just because the decision has been made to go for a burial doesn’t mean that a funeral service needs to take place beforehand. Many registered cemeteries offer a direct burial option, whereby a person’s body can be interred without any religious ceremony or other event to mark a passing.

One fast-growing and popular option is a natural burial, usually in a dedicated woodland area or other nature setting. Mourners can of course say a few words or spend some time at the grave even if there isn’t a funeral as such, as places offering this kind of service are often a lot more flexible than some locations that have strict rules about the process around the burial itself.



Cremation is the most popular option for many families and future planners, with over 75% of funerals in the UK resulting in a cremation. Cremation can often be cheaper than a burial (although not always), plus you’ll still be able to have a special place or site where the ashes can be spread (it’s legal to spread ashes anywhere in the UK, as long as you have permission if the place is on private land). You’re welcome to simply arrange a cremation at a crematorium, without the need to have a funeral service beforehand.


Funeral alternatives

If you’re thinking that a funeral service isn’t for you, or want to arrange something that’s a little bit different, here are a few funeral alternatives to get you started.


A direct funeral

You may know someone (or you could be like this yourself) who hates any sort of fuss and attention. If this rings true, then a direct cremation or burial could be a good alternative to a funeral.

Instead of a structured ceremony or event that features readings, songs and other common funeral elements, direct cremations and burials take place without a service beforehand and without any mourners present. There are a few benefits to a direct funeral, one being that a fair amount of money can be saved, but the most important is flexibility.

At Simplicity, we also offer direct cremation with the option to attend. With our attended funeral options, organisers can choose to have as much or as little as they please in terms of speeches, words, songs or religious readings, so it isn’t simply a quick goodbye. An attended funeral also allows things to be a lot more personal, something which many feel gets lost if a funeral director or religious leader didn’t know the person when they were alive. Instead of someone else running and arranging the funeral you can create a personalised family-led funeral, but with the same level of support and guidance you’d get from a Funeral Director. Learn more about our Attended funeral.


A country walk

Instead of a funeral ceremony at the crematorium or cemetery, you could opt to invite mourners to join in a country walk, or a route around locations that meant something to the person who has died. By bringing physical locations into the route, this could provide talking points or an opportunity to stop and remember happier times.


Charitable donation

Instead of spending money on a funeral service, why not give a portion of what would have been spent to a good cause? As people become more aware of the high costs involved with having a full funeral ceremony, many are deciding that a much simpler direct cremation or burial is a great and often selfless option. This way, you can make sure the money goes on to help others, rather than going towards something that they won’t see!


A funeral party

Although death can be difficult to deal with and often a time where happiness is difficult to find, sometimes taking a positive outlook can create memories that last longer – after all, humans are pretty good at remembering the happy times and forgetting the sad times.

A new funeral alternative is to opt for a funeral party. Many people are now choosing a happier ending to their lives, with funerals traded out for an event that pushes positivity and fun over respectful mourning. Although wakes are common after many funerals, a funeral party skips the ceremony altogether and gets straight to happier times. Whether it’s a great selection of food and drinks or some of the person’s favourite music, an atmosphere that is more of a family get together is becoming a popular option when people make choices about how they want their funeral to look.


Sea burial

Another funeral alternative, although uncommon, is sea burial. Sea burials are often reserved for people who spent their lives at sea, or who like the idea of being returned to the earth in an alternative way to land burial or cremation. You’ll need to obtain a license for a sea burial, and the associated costs can be considerably higher, so more planning and discussion may be needed if this is what has been chosen.


If you’re still unsure whether a funeral is the best option for you or a loved one, then don’t forget you can always get further help and advice from us – whether it’s choosing a funeral plan or asking the all important questions, we’re on hand to provide answers and support. Contact us for more information.

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