Arranging a Funeral
When someone dies, family and close friends often face dozens of decisions about the funeral. Should it be a burial or cremation? What are the legal requirements? Who should conduct the ceremony? Where should it be held? All these questions are obviously important but, at a time when emotional stress is high, it's easy to forget perhaps the most important question of all what kind of funeral do you really want?
Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. Your choice may be influenced by religious and cultural traditions, by cost and personal preferences or by the express wishes of the deceased. Ceremonies may be conducted by religious ministers, civil celebrants or by friends or family members. Your Funeral Director can give advice and help you contact a minister or a civil celebrant if you wish.
The Council Bereavement Team, based at Crownhill Crematorium, can also offer advice and information for those not wishing to employ a funeral director.
Poetry often expresses emotions in a very clear and simple way. You may like to use some of the suggestions contained in the following page from our website, or you may have your own favourite readings:
If you have a belief, you should consider whether to contact your minister, priest, elder, etc as soon as a death occurs. As part of their pastoral care, they gain much experience in funerals and can offer valuable advice. This might range from choosing hymns for the service to whether or not to view the body of the deceased. This advice is needed before you commit yourself to a Funeral and not afterwards.
For more information you could contact local faith groups details can be found on the InterFaith MK website.
Arranging a funeral is obviously different from buying other types of services, but it is still important to remember useful advice, such as finding what different funeral directors can offer, and getting quotes in writing.
Citizens Advice has issued advice on Funerals. This advice includes:
- Your rights and choices
- Choosing a Funeral Director
- Funeral costs
- Pre-paid funerals
Also look at our own information pages:
Additional resources, help and advice:
A Civil Funeral Ceremony is a ceremony that reflects the wishes of the family and is focused on celebrating the life of the deceased. It is created by a professional Celebrant in consultation with the family or executor. A Civil Funeral can be held almost anywhere you wish, except in churches or religious buildings. The ceremonies are appropriate for either a cremation or a burial at any non-religious burial ground.
Your Funeral Director can help you to contact a Civil Funeral celebrant, or you can visit the Institute of Civil Funerals website
It is often assumed that funerals can only be arranged using the services of a funeral director. However, some people, find great comfort from being involved, partly or wholly, in arranging the funeral of a loved one.
The following information is intended to assist you by outlining what is involved in arranging a funeral and tending to the deceased. Milton Keynes Council does not wish to promote any particular type of arrangement, and the information we provide is intended simply to widen your choice when making funeral arrangements.
Additionally, the following includes some technical or sensitive information to help provide a better understanding of what is involved. The information is written in a matter of fact way to keep it clear and straightforward. Our intention is not to cause distress. Please keep this in mind if you decide to read further.
When Death Occurs
If the death occurs at home, contact the General Practitioner who attended the deceased during their last illness. The GP will confirm the death and issue a certificate stating the cause of death. The GP may give you the certificate straight away, or ask you to collect it later from the surgery. If it is known then that a cremation will be carried out, advise the GP so that the relevant forms can be prepared. There are very strict rules about certification before a cremation can take place, and three statutory forms have to be completed, one by next of kin, the others by two different doctors. One will be the doctor who has attended the person in their last illness.
When someone dies in hospital and a post mortem has been carried out, only the doctor who attended for the last illness is required to certify. Normally the doctor attending will issue the certificate to you or via the hospital’s administration office.
When a death occurs and the doctor attending is unable to state the cause of death, or where a medical practitioner has not recently attended to the deceased, the Coroner will be informed. When a coroner has issued a certificate for cremation, no other doctors are required to certify.
A final document is signed by another doctor, who is the medical referee to the crematorium. S/he must receive the certificates the day before the cremation is due to take place.
If in any doubt, please contact us to discuss exactly what forms are required by law to be submitted to the burial or cremation authority.
Registering The Death
The next of kin or the person arranging the funeral must take the certificate issued by the doctor to the Registrar of Births and Deaths within five days from death. Most Registrars' operate an appointment system, so contact your local office first.
Where the body has to be removed from a hospital, remember to contact the mortuary first and check what documentation is required. If you intend to use an estate car or van, ensure that the coffin or container you mean to use will fit into it. You’ll need help whenever you have to carry the coffin, so make sure you have at least three people available to assist you.
The body must be suitably transported to the cemetery or crematorium in a container, clearly identifying the name and age of the deceased. The container most commonly used is a standard coffin, made from chipboard with a good quality veneer. The metal effect handles, nameplate etc. are actually plastic which, when cremated, will melt. Coffins and caskets are available, at a cost, in solid wood which, when used for burial, will last longer in the ground than chipboard. Recently, more environmentally friendly containers are becoming popular. A cardboard coffin or casket can now be obtained and decorated in water-based colours, if required, or covered with a pall, quilt or similar, which can then be removed at the committal. Cremation or, with biodegradable benefits, burial is possible as the coffins are rigid, carry well and retain any potential leakage that may arise. Further alternatives for burial would be to use a shroud of natural material or a woven wicker basket.
As a rule, if you plan to make your own container, use the smallest size possible to accommodate the deceased but strong enough to hold the weight. If cremation is decided, do not varnish or paint the container in oil paints. The materials used must be such that it minimises the use of fossil fuels. Clothing of man-made fibres, shoes or rubberised items will cause smoke if cremated, and should not be placed in the container. If you are in doubt please contact the Crematorium staff first.
Some funeral directors will assist in do-it-yourself funerals by supplying a simple coffin and dealing with the documentation.
The Ceremony Or Service
Everyone has a right to be buried in the churchyard of the parish in which they die - assuming that one exists, and that there is space left. If the deceased has paid for a grave space in the churchyard, there will be a document called a ‘faculty’ in existence, and you will need to produce this.
Everyone also has the right to a church funeral, but it is not necessary to have a service at a funeral, whether it is a burial or a cremation. A few words can be said by a relative or friend, or, if there is no wish for a religious ceremony, a non-religious one can be planned. Societies such as the may be able to arrange for someone to conduct a non-religious ceremony, or send a form of words which could be used.
For a service in the Milton Keynes Crematorium Chapel, you can contact your local minister to conduct the service, or you may prefer a non-religious service with all religious emblems removed from the chapel. The content of the service can be to your choice.
A full service may be conducted at the crematorium within the time allowed for each funeral. Alternatively, a service may take place at any separate place of worship followed by a brief committal ceremony at the crematorium.
If you would like some help and advice on writing a eulogy for someone there is a guide that may help, this guides those who wish to read a tribute to a person, it maybe the tribute or eulogy is printed in the service sheet or handed to the people attending the service for them to have as a keepsake. A eulogy is a commendation of a person that can be shared with many.
The Natural Death Centre is a charitable project which aims to support those dying at home and their carers and to help people to arrange inexpensive, Do-It-Yourself and environmentally-friendly funerals.
For many, death is a taboo subject and planning a funeral is not generally at the forefront of someone’s mind. However, creating your own funeral, thereby ensuring that it is personal and appropriate, is something more people are opting to do.
Many people leave instructions for their funeral in their Will. Strictly speaking, these instructions do not have legal force because the prime responsibility for arranging a funeral lies with the Will’s executor(s) (i.e. the person/people named in a Will to deal with a person's affairs). Additionally, Wills are sometimes not found until after a funeral, so it may be advisable for a person to indicate their funeral wishes in a separate document, or tell friends and relatives what they would like to happen. A letter or form can be left in a safe place, specifying the arrangements for the next of kin to follow. Ensure that friends and relatives are aware of the existence of this document and know its whereabouts.
Donating you body for medical research
If you wish to donate your body for medical education training or research, you should make your wishes known in writing (and witnessed) before you die, and inform your next of kin.
The Human Tissue Act 2004, which came into force on 1 September 2006, repeals and replaces the Anatomy Act 1984 and also establishes the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) as the regulatory body for all matters concerning the removal, storage, use and disposal of human tissue. As a result, the post of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Anatomy ceased on 31 August 2006.
You can look at a selection of frequently asked questions about donating a body to medical research.
The HTA has issued a Code of Practice on Anatomical Examination which is available on the HTA website.
Organ Donor Register
Putting your name on the NHS Organ Donor Register makes everyone aware of your wishes and makes it easier for them to agree to your donation.
Millions of people carry donor cards or are on the register. The easiest way is to join on-line at the UK Transplant site.
Instructions to give to your next of kin
As mentioned above, you may like to complete a form containing instructions to be given to your next of kin and executors upon your death, primarily concerning funeral arrangements and your financial affairs.
Please note: the form is not a Will, and is not intended to deal with the dispersal of property or savings. The form enables you to record information such as:
- The location of your Will
- Your Doctor’s name and address
- Your bank details
- Any instructions about leaving your body for medical research or for transplants
- Your choice of Funeral Director
- Whether you prefer cremation or burial
- Your choice of hymns, readings etc
- Whether you would like flowers at the service, or would prefer donations
- If you’d like donations to be made, a list of your preferred charities
- Contact details for services, (eg your water company, newsagent, milkman etc)
- Where to find things such as birth and marriage certificates, house deeds etc.
Last Updated: 24 September 2021