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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 one or arrange one for a loved 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 service.

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.


What are the most common types of funeral in the UK?

In the UK, most funerals are still traditional, often faith-based services led by a religious official followed by a burial or cremation.

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), and you’ll have the option to scatter your loved one’s ashes in a special place (it’s legal to spread ashes anywhere in the UK, as long as you have permission if the place is on private land).


Funeral alternatives

The UK has been changing its attitudes to what happens after death, and there are now more alternatives to traditional funerals than ever.

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 a few funeral alternatives.


A direct funeral

You may know someone (or you could be like this yourself) who dislikes fuss and attention and would rather a more low-key funeral. If this rings true, then a direct cremation or burial could be a good alternative to a traditional funeral.

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 beforehand. Many registered cemeteries offer a direct burial option, whereby a person’s body can be interred without any religious ceremony or service to mark their passing.

Likewise, it is also possible to have a cremation without a service beforehand, referred to as a direct cremation. Instead of a structured ceremony or service that features readings, songs and other common funeral elements, a direct cremation takes place without a service beforehand and without any mourners present. At Simplicity, we offer direct cremation from just £995, throughout the whole of mainland Great Britain.

There are a few benefits to a direct funeral, one being that a fair amount of money can be saved in comparison to arranging a traditional funeral, but the most important benefit for many families is the flexibility a direct funeral offers.

We also offer simple funerals with the option for mourners to attend. Our Intimate Funeral allows a short time in the crematorium chapel for a small group of family and friends to say goodbye or reflect as they wish. Our Attended Funeral allows things to be a lot more personal, something which many feels gets lost if a funeral director or religious leader didn’t know the person when they were alive is arranging or leading the funeral. An Attended Funeral allows you to hold a funeral with a family-led service, but with the same level of support and guidance you’d get from a Funeral Director in making the practical arrangements for cremation.

Learn more about arranging a funeral with Simplicity.


A celebration of life

Celebrations of life are becoming more popular options in lieu of a traditional funeral service. Families that opt for a celebration of life (or memorial service) will often arrange a direct cremation or burial for their loved one prior to this.

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. 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.

Another alternative is to opt for a funeral party after the funeral instead of a wake. 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.


Eco-friendly (or green) funerals

The rise in environmental awareness over the past few decades has led to a rise in eco-friendly funerals. The most popular option is a green 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 the cremation ashes of a loved one within natural burial grounds.


Burial at sea

Another alternative to a traditional funeral, 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. There are also only three locations off the English coast and two areas in Scotland where sea burial is permitted, so this option is not as accessible as some of the others we have listed.


Charitable donation

Instead of spending money on a funeral service, many people would prefer you spent the money that would have been spent on a funeral with a service on a good cause instead.

As people become more aware of the high costs involved with having a full funeral ceremony, many are deciding that a much simple, low cost direct cremation or burial is a great and often selfless option. This way, you can make sure the money that would have been spent on a traditional funeral goes on to help others.


Make your own funeral wishes clear

If you have decided that you personally do not want a traditional funeral, it’s important to have a conversation with your family and friends about it. You should explain what you want 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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