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Do you have to have a funeral when someone dies?

No, in the UK you're not required to have a funeral by law.

Whilst there is no law that states you have to have a funeral, the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 does states that you must ‘dispose of the body of the person who has died by burial, cremation or any other means’, although there doesn’t have to be a funeral service before this.

This means that the person arranging the cremation or burial is completely free to do whatever they wish 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.

If you’re thinking ‘I don’t want a funeral when I die’, or you are honouring the wishes of a loved one who didn’t want a funeral, there are many alternative options for commemorating a life without a traditional funeral service.


Funeral alternatives

In the UK, funerals have traditionally been faith-based services led by a religious leader followed by a burial or cremation, however attitudes towards what happens after death are beginning to change, with many alternatives now available.

If you’re thinking that a traditional funeral service followed by a burial or cremation isn’t for you, or want to arrange something that’s a little bit different for a loved one, here are some options to consider.


Direct cremation

If you don’t want any fuss once you’re gone, or if the person who has passed away didn’t want a funeral ceremony or service at all, then a direct cremation could be the best option. Direct cremation is the simplest and most affordable funeral option available in the UK.

A direct cremation is a cremation with no funeral service beforehand, and no mourners in attendance at the crematorium. As a direct cremation does not include a funeral service, it allows you to choose your own way to remember your loved one at a place and time that suits you. It is common for a direct cremation to be followed by a celebration of life or memorial service.

At Simplicity, we offer direct cremation, referred to as our Unattended Funeral, from just £995, throughout the whole of mainland Great Britain.

If you have made the decision that you would like your loved one to be buried, this does not mean that a funeral service needs to take place. Many cemeteries offer a direct burial option, whereby a person’s body can be interred without any religious ceremony or service beforehand.


Celebration of life

Celebrations of life are becoming a popular alternative way of saying goodbye to a loved one after their passing, in lieu of a traditional funeral service. This will often take place after a direct cremation.

Unlike a funeral service, a celebration of life is also not usually held at a crematorium or in a church. A celebration of life can be held at any time, in the days, weeks or even months after your loved one dies.

Separating a celebration of life from a funeral provides many possibilities for a more personal goodbye. Unlike a funeral service, which is often a more sombre occasion, a celebration of life is an event that will often focus on the positive moments of a person’s life and the happiness they brought to others.


Eco-friendly funerals

The rise in environmental awareness over the past few decades has led to a rise in environmentally friendly funerals, known as eco funerals or green funerals.

The most common option is a green or natural burial, usually at a natural or woodland burial site. The body is buried in a biodegradable coffin (or shroud) no deeper than two feet from the top of the coffin to reduce methane emissions.

Not only does a natural burial have less impact on the environment but it also offers a more natural outdoor setting for a memorial service. You can arrange a small service or mourners could simply say a few words, as places offering this kind of funeral are often a lot more flexible than some locations that have strict rules about the process around the service and burial itself. If you are considering this option, you should be aware that some eco-friendly funeral locations do not allow a memorial or headstone of any kind, in order to leave no trace on the land.

It is also possible to bury or scatter cremation ashes within some natural burial grounds.


DIY funerals

Although most funerals in the UK are arranged by a Funeral Director, there isn’t a legal requirement to do so. A DIY funeral allows you to arrange a funeral for your loved one without the assistance of a Funeral Director. You will typically have to organise care of the deceased, funeral transportation, book a cremation or burial date, purchase a coffin, complete the legal paperwork and arrange a funeral service.

Choosing a DIY funeral allows you the freedom to organise a highly personalised ceremony for your loved one. Some people even say they feel a sense of closure, as they have done one final thing for the person who has passed away. Although it is likely a DIY funeral will provide cost savings against a traditional funeral, this will depend on the specific arrangements you choose to make.

Arranging a DIY funeral should be given considerable thought. Some families find it stressful and overwhelming to organise everything themselves, especially at an already difficult time.


A cremation with a family led service

If you would like to arrange a personalised funeral service, but without the responsibility of managing the practicalities of a funeral, a Family Led Funeral could be suitable for your needs.

Unlike a typical ‘DIY funeral’ where you would take care of all of the arrangements yourself, we will take care of all of the essential and practical elements of the cremation such as the care of your loved one until the day of the cremation and their transportation to the crematorium, leaving you to focus on arranging the day as you wish.

This type of funeral provides a full-length slot in the chapel at a CMG crematorium local to the place of rest, where you can arrange a funeral ceremony led by the family. You’ll be able to arrange a service with music, readings, eulogies or whatever else you may see fit, as you would with a traditional funeral.

Your loved one will be resting in the chapel prior to your arrival at the crematorium. Many of the costs associated with a traditional funeral can be avoided; there is no procession with limousines or hearses beforehand, and the funeral begins as you enter the chapel.

At Simplicity, our Family Led Funeral costs from £1,895.


Make your own funeral wishes clear

If you’ve decided that you personally don’t want funeral when you die, it’s important to have a conversation with your family and friends about it. You should explain the reasons you do not want a traditional funeral and what that means to you, as this will help them to understand your choice. It is also a good idea to document your funeral wishes somewhere your family will be able to find them after you’ve gone, by sharing your funeral wishes or taking out a funeral plan.

At Simplicity, we offer a range of simple funeral plans from a direct cremation, a small, basic funeral for just a few friends and family or a larger funeral with a family-led service. For more information request a free guide.


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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