Funeral plans are an ever more popular way to cut costs and ensure peace of mind. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose – and your choices are the most important part of any plan. Here, then, are the top 10 funeral plan decisions that millions of people have already made and will continue to make in the years ahead.
Our Clients Top Ten Funeral Plan Choices
1. Burial or cremation?
A hundred years ago, most people would have automatically opted for burial, but today we recognize that it’s good to have a choice. Burial is the traditional route, allowing you to have a permanent grave that your family and friends can visit whenever they wish with flowers and other tokens of remembrance. You can choose a headstone and other forms of decoration, and if your family has lived in an area for a long time, your grave may be surrounded by those of relatives stretching back for many generations. Cremation, on the other hand, can seem a quicker and more convenient option, allowing you to have your ashes to be scattered at a location that was important to you during life or placed in an urn and stored permanently in a special location at a church or other religious site. Or would you prefer your ashes to be kept by your loved ones? Our modern willingness to travel and re-locate means that a grave may become difficult to visit, but an urn can move with your loved ones wherever they may decide to live in future.
2. Who do you want to attend the funeral?
After a long life, many people will have different circles of friends, some of whom may not know each other or even be aware of each other’s existence. And of course we sometimes become estranged from people who were formerly close to us or have friends who don’t get along with each other. By drawing up a list of those you want to attend your funeral, with full contact details, you can ensure that there will be no difficulties when the time comes. You can talk over your choices with your nearest and dearest, making sure that there will be no surprises and that your funeral is conducted in a harmonious and friendly spirit. You can also decide whether you want to inform people in advance that you would like them to attend, or whether you want to reach out after passing, perhaps allowing those who have slipped from your life to say a final farewell.
3. Do you want a religious or non-religious service?
This again is something that, a hundred years ago, would once have been an automatic decision. People would have chosen a religious service within their particular faith, knowing that they were following in a long tradition and that they might have upset or puzzled family and friends by making any other choice. Today there isn’t an automatic expectation of a religious service and there is much more room for individual preferences to be exercised. Where once there was a firm belief in an afterlife, nowadays many people think that nothing survives death. Our feelings on these matters will obviously affect our decisions about our funeral. Will our service celebrate the life that has ended without any mention of religion and spiritual survival? Or will it place the departed person in the care of God and look forward to a time when those attending the funeral will be re-united with that departed person?
4. What music do you want played at the service?
Music and singing have always been an important part of funerals, but while in the past these things would have been religious in form and sentiment, today it’s increasingly common for secular alternatives. But of course there’s no reason why you can’t mix hymns and popular music, allowing your family and friends to unite in the singing of a hymn like “Abide With Me” before they fall silent to listen to your favourite piece of popular music. Because music is so varied in styles, genres, and the emotions it expresses, it’s an ideal way to make individual choices and ensure that your funeral is a unique and memorable occasion. Or perhaps you’d prefer something traditional, with music that resonates with history and that your ancestors would have recognized and appreciated.
5. What poems and other texts do you want to be read at the service?
One of the most memorable parts of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral was the reading of “Stop All the Clocks”, a beautiful and moving poem by the poet W.H. Auden. It was a perfect example of how the right choice of reading can both express and channel the emotions of those who are attending the funeral. And it undoubtedly influenced the way funerals are conducted in real life. Just like music, the choices that people feel able to make today are much wider than they were in the past. Once all readings would have been religious in character, drawn from traditional texts like the Bible and books of prayer. Now we can replace those entirely with secular readings, or choose a careful mix of the two, depending on how we want to shape and pace the funeral service. Poetry will always be a popular choice, but many people have favourite passages in novels or short stories that they may wish to have read. And there is, of course, nothing to stop us or our loved ones from composing words of our own.
6. What flowers and other symbols do you want at the service?
Someone who has been a keen gardener during life may think that this is the most important choice to be made about a funeral. Flowers are certainly central to most people’s ideas about how a funeral should look. Do you want bright and cheerful blooms, or something darker and more dignified? Do we want flowers on our coffin or dropped into the grave before it is filled in? There are many other symbols to consider too. Like music and readings, our choices might once have been automatically religious, but today we can choose to celebrate other aspects of our lives. A passionate football fan might want to go to rest surrounded by reminders of their favourite team; a life-long devotee of Star Wars or of super-heroes like Batman might want pictures to celebrate their fandom. They might even want those attending to wear suitable costumes. Themed funerals are becoming ever more popular, allowing your family and friends to participate even more directly and memorably in the occasion.
7. Funeral service before or afterwards?
The timing of the service can have an important influence on the form of the service. Do you want it to take place before burial or cremation? Or would you prefer it to take place afterwards? If it takes place before, it’s preparing your family and friends for the emotions and heart-ache of finally saying goodbye. If it takes place afterwards, it’s helping them to cope with those emotions and giving them a space to recover. In the two cases, your choice of music and readings may be different. Of course, you can choose to have services of varying length both before and after – as always, the choices are yours and you can re-visit them at any time you choose.
8. What kind of food and drink do you want to be served?
Choices about food and drink are another way for someone drawing up a funeral plan to express their individuality and to create a memorable occasion for those will be attending the funeral. Perhaps you’ll want your favourite wine or beer to be served; perhaps you’ll have a favourite recipe for the food. You might even decide to prepare some of the food yourself in advance, if it can be stored or frozen until the time comes. Food can be both a delicious reality and a powerful symbol, reminding us in the midst of grief that the world has not become wholly bleak and that life will continue, slowly returning us to acceptance and peace.
9. What do you want on your gravestone? Where do you want your ashes to be scattered or a memorial plaque to be fixed? What kind of online memorial would you like?
It’s always fascinating to read the inscriptions on gravestones in an old church, seeing what messages people chose to send down the decades. At one time, the messages were usually religious, taken from the Bible and other sacred texts and speaking of final rest and peace in the afterlife. More recently, messages of other kinds have become more common. If you choose to be buried, you may have strong feelings about the kind of message you want placed on your gravestone. Or you may choose something very simple, like a name and date of passing. It’s entirely up to you. If you choose to be cremated instead, you may have strong feelings about where you want your ashes to be scattered or stored. A fisherman might want their ashes poured into the water at a favourite fishing spot; a sports fan might request that their ashes are scattered at the ground of their favourite team. Or would you prefer permanent storage in an urn placed in a niche at your local church or other site of worship? Whether you choose burial or cremation, you can also be remembered on-line at a specialist memorial site or at the private pages you maintained at your favourite social media site. You can design something yourself, making it as elaborate or simple as you please. On-line interactivity means that family and friends based anywhere in the world can continue to visit and commemorate you at any time they choose in the future.
10. Do you want donations in your name to charity?
A funeral is inevitably a time when the departed person becomes central to the thoughts and feelings of those who are in attendance. It’s therefore also an excellent time to honour that person’s memory by making a donation to a charity that was important to them during life. When you’re drawing up your funeral plan, you can choose what charities you would like people to donate to. When the funeral is conducted, the names and details of charities can be included on an order of service, which sets out how the service will be conducted. After the funeral, the same names and details can be permanently displayed at your on-line memorial, with links for quick and convenient donating in the name of the departed person.