Frequently Asked Questions
Finding yourself in the position of arranging someone’s funeral can be daunting, as well as emotionally draining. Our advice: don’t be rushed into making any decisions, do your research and think about what you want.
Below are some of the questions we get asked frequently, we hope they are of some help. Please feel free to contact us also if you need more advice.
Start with the Government website which will explain that you need to register the death and how to do this. They will then suggest contacting a funeral director to arrange a funeral. This is where you can leave their website and look at some broader and more enlightened advice. Don’t panic! There is no rush.
If you do want to use a funeral director, they will be able to refer you to good, independent advice in your area.
If you want to go it alone, they will tell you how you can – impartially, legally and practically.
If you aren’t sure, contact us and we can talk you through your options – whether you end up using our services or not. It’s important to get this right.
There is a law that says a body must be disposed of. But there is no law that requires you to have a funeral ceremony.
(‘Disposal means disposal by burial, cremation or any other means’ – source Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1953.)
The Good Funeral Guide has the best information on what’s legally required and what’s optional.
There are very few rules. You don’t even have to have a funeral. You will need to make a decision about burial or cremation to dispose of the body. But the rest is up to you.
If you want, we can organise the burial or the cremation leaving you to concentrate on the funeral itself. You could have a memorial service at a church, or a party in a pub, a picnic.
Choose a place that has meaning for you and your family. Celebrate the life of the person you have lost. Do this before the cremation or burial with the coffin present. Or afterwards with the ashes. Do it with music, poems and stories, films and pictures, food and friends. It’s even possible these days to share the event via webcast with friends or relatives who can’t travel but wish they could be present.
If the person who’s died has not made their wishes clear, then it’s worth remembering that a funeral is, in truth, for the people who are left behind.
Our advice would be to think about who will want to be involved, talk to them about their memories of the person and ask for their thoughts on what would sort of ceremony and location would best reflect their life.
Our approach is to help families and friends to draw together these thoughts, and to put forward options which help them create something unique and meaningful. It may also be useful to contact a celebrant at this point who can help you think through some ideas on how to bring the memories of the person to life on the day. We know some lovely celebrants who could help.
No, there is no legal requirement for embalming to be carried out. Embalming involves replacing the liquids in the body with chemicals in order to delay the decomposition process and improve the appearance of the deceased. If a body needs to be transported over long distances, or is being viewed over a long period of time it may be desirable. Having a body embalmed is an invasive procedure. We believe it’s important to explain what it involves to families before they make a choice.
Some natural burial grounds will not accept embalmed bodies for burial because of the chemicals used. You should reasonably expect to be informed about the embalming process. If you are opposed to embalming, it may be advisable to expressly forbid it. At A Natural Undertaking we will only embalm if it is expressly requested, or the situation, such as repatriation, requires it.
In most cases, this will be possible. It will depend on how the person has died, the condition they were in at the moment of death, and how long it will be before the funeral.
With the right advice and support it is usually possible to bring the deceased home at least for a short time. This can be incredibly helpful in coming to terms with the loss, and is a tradition carried out by families that we have somewhat lost. We can talk you through the possibilities honestly and will help where we can.
In the meantime: The Good Funeral Guide which is listed by the National Home Funeral Alliance has lots of information, photos and points to consider. And our friend Claire Turnham has some excellent advice on her website as does the Natural Death Centre.
There is no law insisting that a coffin be used, just that the body be covered when transported in public. Some crematoria will however require that a coffin be used for a cremation, and obviously it’s a pretty good way to transport a body and has been considered as such for thousands of years.
But you can choose exactly the kind of coffin you want, or even make it yourself. We don’t mind if you find your own. Here’s a list of suppliers here who will deal with the public – some still only deal with funeral directors.
And if you want, we can help you find what you’re looking for. The options are immense and sometimes pretty awesome!
Shrouds also are worth considering and are becoming more popular. They are a simple but beautiful alternative, and Gordon Tulley at Respect EveryBody shrouds make some beautiful ones.
Again, not many rules here. But some places are really not keen on people just scattering ashes willy-nilly. The lovely people at Scattering Ashes have a good guide.
You may want to keep the ashes at home, turn a treasured (or even humorous) ornament or item of crockery into a vessel or have the ashes turned into jewellery or art.
There are some beautiful and creative memorial options available which we can share with you – you may even have some ideas of your own.
Natural Burial is becoming a really popular choice as Local Authority cemeteries are filling up and as more people begin to feel that cremation ceremonies are rushed and much like a conveyer belt.
Natural burial sites can vary tremendously, but all offer a beautiful and peaceful alternative which many families prefer. The Natural Death Centre charity keep a list and can help you choose.
There are two astonishingly lovely sites within fairly easy reach of Birmingham- so just because you live in the City don’t think this isn’t an option!
Let us know if you would like us to take you to see them.
We don’t have expensive premises or a fleet of hearses to maintain. This means we can operate at lower cost and essentially pass those savings onto you. We also believe that people should only pay for what they need. A big challenge today is that people think they are expected to do certain things, such as hire a hearse, pay for pallbearers and such like. For us, there are no expectations. People should do what they feel is necessary to mark the life of the person who has died in a way which is appropriate and meaningful for them.
Sadly some of the costs are unavoidable. The cost of a local authority burial or cremation can depend on whether you are resident or not. A grave or ashes plot in a natural burial ground will still need paying for.
But there are ways you can save money AND at the same time create genuine and meaningful ceremonies. Our Spend Less page contains ideas on how to keep the costs down.
No – we are completely independent: two friends keen to take our knowledge and creativity to make a big difference to the families and friends we meet.