There is a wider variety and freedom of funeral and burial choice than ever. From high church to secular and humanist, with a traditional interment through to cremation or a ‘natural’ burial – or even having the deceased’s ashes set in jewellery or blasted off in a firework display.
There are now many different types of funeral to consider.
However, the variety of options means that careful thought should be given to the deceased and, if they’ve expressed any specific wishes, about the ceremony and/or their final resting place.
Types of funeral: Traditional funeral
A Church of England funeral service conjures images of a church, suitably attired mourners, hymns, eulogy and committal before interment in the churchyard or the family driven with the coffin to a crematorium. It’s a reassuring ritual that has changed little over the centuries.Much the same can be said for the Catholic ceremony, too.
The Church, however, has moved with the times and a traditional C of E service is no longer a church-based option.The ceremony can take place at a green or natural burial site or at a crematorium. The location is secondary to the religious content of the service.
Types of funeral: Cremation
Cremation, the incineration of the deceased, accounts for more funerals than burial, some 70% of all ceremonies. More often than not, the ceremony takes place in a chapel or room in the crematorium building, though sometimes the body is taken from a church after the funeral for a family-only or family and friends.
However, the massive increase in the number of cremations over the past 50 years (it became more common than burial in the late 1960s) means that there is now great time pressure on crematoria. A regrettable result of this can be an impersonal ‘assembly line’ aspect to crematorium services, with strict time limits to the proceedings.
There are environmental concerns, too, regarding the energy consumed in a cremation and the damage the chemicals in the ashes can do to the environment when they are finally spread. Many crematoria have been upgraded to address concerns regarding carbon emissions but at a cost, which makes some of them no longer significantly cheaper than burial.
Types of funeral: Green and woodland funerals
The dramatic rise of environmental awareness over the past few decades has led to the rise in interest in eco-friendly funerals. With emission and phosphate concerns over cremation and the fact that cemeteries are fast running out of space, consideration is being given to woodland and meadow burials.
Natural burial sites are increasingly common across the UK, many accredited by the charity Natural Death Centre. A body, in a biodegradable coffin or even a burial shroud, is buried no deeper than two feet from the top of the coffin/shroud to reduce methane emissions. A natural burial doesn’t preclude a religious aspect to the ceremony. The mourners’ (or your) choice of funeral service, religious or secular, is one thing; the selection of burial site another.
Even if you or your family choose the more traditional method of cremation or cemetery burial, there are simple steps you can take to make a green contribution to the ceremony.
Types of funeral: Humanist and civic funerals
A humanist ceremony is strictly non-religious, celebrating the life that has past rather than acknowledging an afterlife. It might be held in a hall, at your home, at a cremation or at the graveside or burial site.
Led by a celebrant, a funeral’s MC, the deceased’s life is the focal point of the ceremony. A celebrant, male or female, will talk to the deceased’s family about that person’s life and draw up a unique profile of them.
Family members and friends will be invited to contribute memories of the deceased and music, readings are often included in the ceremony.
A civic celebrant, usually a member of the Institute of Civil Funerals, can also perform a similar role to that of a humanist celebrant.
Types of funeral: Burial at sea
There are around 50 burials at sea each year, and it’s not something that the authorities encourage. However, you have a right to have your remains buried at sea. There are three points off the English coast; the East Sussex coast, west of the Isle of Wight and Tynemouth in the north-east. Scotland has two areas off the west coast.
So, if you’re prepared to adhere to some stringent government rules concerning burial at sea, then loved ones who had seafaring connections during their lives and wish for a watery grave can have that wish fulfilled.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.