What happens at a funeral service
A funeral is the event at which we make a formal parting from the person who has died, 'seeing' the body enclosed within the coffin for the last time.
In most societies it is a complex social and religious event - the last 'Rite of Passage' for the individual.
In the UK, a Church of England funeral is the most common. If regular churchgoers, the family are likely to have the service in the church in which they worship.
It is unlikely that the vicar will refuse...after all, it encourages new people to the church and increases the church’s income.
The vicar will not, though, agree for the person to be buried in the churchyard. There is now hardly any space available in churchyards, and if there was it would not be for those who rarely, if ever, attended the church.
Family and friends will be invited to the service. People who knew the deceased may often attend the funeral, uninvited, to say a personal farewell from the back of the church.
If the family want a religious funeral but the deceased (or close members of his or her family) was not a church goer, the family may decide to have the funeral service at the chapel at the local crematorium or cemetery.
The family must decide if they want flowers to adorn the church or chapel, and inform the funeral director who will often organise their purchase.
There is a growing trend for donations rather than flowers as a way of contributing to the funeral event.
This decision should be made early so that information about the charity to benefit can be put on invites and Order of service leaflets. Do not bring flowers to a funeral when donations have been requested.
Order of service
It is customary for the family and friends to enter the church/chapel first, with the immediate family in the front row, seated on the side closest to the lectern/pulpit.
The organist will play a specific piece chosen for the entry of the coffin. Often in a crematorium chapel, recorded music is selected, played on cue by a member of the crem's staff.
The mourners stand as the vicar, reading from the scriptures, precedes the pall bearers carrying the coffin down the aisle.
In church, the coffin is placed on wooden trestles, or sometimes on the floor, in front of the altar.
In the crematorium it rests on a plinth called the catafalque.
The entrance music concludes and the vicar invites the mourners to sit.
He or she will lead prayers in appreciation for the life that God gave.
The grief of the mourners will be acknowledged and God’s blessing will be given to them, with the expectation that the spirit of the dead person has now moved to be with God.
One or two hymns will be sung, though increasingly secular pieces can be chosen if appropriate.
The vicar will give the tribute of the deceased’s life, sometimes as part of a wider sermon.
As the mourners leave, a fitting piece of music is played.
When the close family members arrive with the coffin at the burial location, prayers are said at the graveside ending with the prayer of Committal, as the coffin is lowered. Committal is also known as interment.
At the crematorium chapel, there will be a similar short summary of the life and prayers before the Committal prayer and the coffin is taken from view, usually by the closing of curtains.
Some families organise for the ashes to be put in an urn and the urn buried in a shallow hole in the family graveyard. A short Committal service is conducted as the urn is interred.
It is customary for a reception to follow the funeral. This is sometimes referred to as a gathering or a wake.
More people are normally invited to the reception and it is often the occasion for friends, family, colleagues and neighbours to recall in a less constrained way their memories of the departed.
Plan your own service
This can only be accessed by the second keyholder when your death is confirmed or when you give permission.