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How to organise a church funeral

Find out what you need to know to help you plan a church funeral.

A church funeral is the traditional option.

According to a poll conducted by YouGov in 2014, 50% of the UK population does not ‘regard themselves as belonging to any particular religion’. However, around a million people each week attend a Church of England service, and about the same number, some eight per cent of the UK’s Catholics, attend a Catholic service each week. For many people, the church is the ‘first call’ when a funeral has to be arranged.

Dignity and tradition

With around 16,000 churches and a C of E minister for every 3,000 people, a C of E church funeral is resonant of dignity and tradition. For the deceased in their seventies and beyond, it could be seen as a fitting ceremony for many of that generation.

It is everyone’s right to have their funeral at their parish church, whether you attended that church or not. Interment is another matter, as many churches do not have their own graveyard attached or the graveyard is full, which is an accelerating problem in itself for many churches.

In that situation, the ceremony can be held in the church with the coffin then taken to another burial site or graveyard, or to a crematorium, whichever has been chosen for the final resting place of the remains.If you decide on the C of E option, in the first instance, you should approach the vicar of the church. If you are unsure which is your parish church visit www.achurchnearyou.com.

Natural burial 

While the image of a C of E funeral is perhaps one of rigid formality, the church is now quite flexible in its approach for the event. A minister will officiate at the church itself, at a crematorium chapel cremation now accounts for some 70% of dealing with the remains) and at a local authority cemetery if the church itself is unable to provide facilities.

In addition, the rise in popularity of natural burials now means that ministers will attend ceremonies away from the church/crematorium/cemetery altogether if a natural burial is requested.

While it may seem obvious, there will be a religious element to the funeral. The service will not only be about the deceased but also the deceased’s spirit in the context of life’s journey and beyond.


If you feel that you or the deceased would be uncomfortable with this, then a humanist or civic ceremony might be a better option. As a matter of organisation and the funeral being an opportunity to meet, greet and thank mourners who have travelled to the funeral, you may prefer to have the cremation before the service. By holding the cremation after the service, you may return to find many of the mourners have had to leave for one reason or another. 

Again, talk this through with the minister. If you are organising a burial, this is a good time to talk about monuments (tombstones) with the minister. This can be a contentious area, with guidelines (if not rules themselves) regarding size, design and what is deemed ‘appropriate’.

Ensure that you have a full understanding of what is allowed in the churchyard. It would be a good idea to show your intended design, type of stone etc to the minister before ordering any type of monument. This applies equally to a municipal cemetery and/or crematorium. Many are run by corporations and have strict rules on what you can and cannot use. Often you are only allowed to buy from them direct.

You could find yourself out of pocket, and just as important, if not more so, distressed by the graveyard authority’s refusing to accept the monument.