What are you paying for when you pay for a funeral?
The funeral director: professional costs
The principal and his/her staff are likely to have gained qualifications from the National Association of Funeral Directors and/or The National Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors.
They will also have extensive local knowledge and experience of funeral arrangements of the various communities and faiths in their area.
This will include advice on religious, secular and eco-friendly funerals.
Funeral directors charge less for the time than many other professions.
Their charges will be worked out by the hour. When ‘shopping around’ our advice is that the cheapest professional services are unlikely to be the best.
Expect to pay about £80 an hour. The more staff required, the higher the cost.
There is a growing range of coffins, the materials they are made from and the price you pay. Most, but not all, coffin manufacturers only supply the funeral trade. Coffins are sometimes known as caskets.
Embalming is not really necessary, unless there will be an 'open cofffin' funeral and if the body is to be taken home for a period of time before the funeral.
Embalming will be carried out by the funeral director.
Expect to pay between £65 and £100.
This is transporting the deceased from the place of death, or from the location to which the deceased has been taken, to the funeral home (normally the funeral director's premises) or the family home if requested.
It also includes viewing of the deceased prior to the funeral.
Expect to pay £50, depending on the distance travelled.
Hearse and other vehicles
As well as the hearse – the vehicle specially designed and built to transport the coffin and supplied by the funeral director – you can choose any number of limousines for family members and mourners.
Expect to pay £150 per vehicle, depending on the distance to be travelled.
There are companies supplying unusual hearses, ranging from the Victorian horse drawn carriages to motorcycle side cars.
The family can deal with these direct or ask the funeral director to organise the hearse from a third party.
The interment arrangements carried out by the funeral director include the purchase of the grave, hiring the chapel at the cemetery or crematorium, the time at the cemetery or crematorium which includes the necessary staff employed by the cemetery or crematorium, the burial and the interment of the ashes.
Unless you are carrying out the funeral (a DIY funeral), these are necessary costs, apart from interring the ashes.
You can ask for the urn and make the necessary arrangements yourself, or ask the funeral director to assist you.
The interment arrangments is a disbursement that the family will be asked to pay once the contract with the funeral director has been signed, rather than after the funeral.
Costs vary from region to region, and on the time for the funeral requested by the family.
If the funeral service takes place at a church or other place of worship, the family usually pays an agreed fee to the vicar or faith celebrant. The funeral director will advise on this.
Order of service/ceremony
The funeral director can organise with the officiant and the family, the design, production and delivery of the Order of service sheets at the funeral service.
However, this is something the family can do themselves to reduce costs.
Costs depend on the design, number of pages and quantity.
Obituary/thank you cards
The funeral director can, if required, organise the production of an obituary thank you card to be sent to those who attended, were unable to attend and others you wish to receive them.
The funeral director will also record attendance thus making the sending of these cards easier to administer.
However, this can be done by the family.
Reception venue and catering
The funeral director can arrange for the venue and catering at the reception gathering following the funeral.
If this is handled by the family, it will reduce the disbursement costs.
The funeral director can arrange the music played at the funeral. This can be live music, or pre-recorded music.
In many crematoriums, pre-recorded music is supplied by Wesley Music to the instructions of the funeral director.
An alternative is to organise the music yourself, again reducing the disbursement.
The funeral director can order floral tributes, and care for floral tributes delivered to their premises before the funeral.
Many families take on this role. There is a growing trend to ask for donations to a nominated charity rather than money spent on flowers.
The funeral director can administer the donations and organise the payment to the chosen charity, supplying the family with a final reconciliation.
However, most charities now accept online donations which will allow mourners and others to donate directly.
Give the link to the selected charity's website on the funeral invite and Order of service/ceremony sheet.
Don't expect the funeral director to handle the cash payments donated at the cemetery or crematorium. This should be the responsibility of the family.
The funeral director can place notices in local newspapers following the funeral. This is less popular than it used to be, with memorial websites serving the same functions.
Travel and accommodation
Mourners and other guests will need transport to and from the home and the various locations such as the cemetery/crematorium, the reception venue, their homes or the most convenient bus/train station.
Those from further afield are likely to require accommodation either the night before or after the funeral.
The funeral director can advise on local taxi services and suitable accommodation, though this is normally organised by the family and friends.
Travel and accommodation are costs to add to funeral costs. They can be reduced by having fewer mourners and guests attending the funeral.
Pre-paid funeral plans
There are many advantages in taking out a pre-paid funeral plan, the most obvious being that it takes the financial responsibility away from the family and enable you to have the funeral you want at a cost you can afford.
Costs can also be reduced by planning many of the funeral arrangements while you are alive, thus saving time and effort by the funeral director – and the family – following your death.