The colour of your socks, growing a moustache, where to go on your summer holidays – these are everyday life choices we must make. Choosing a funeral director is something you’ll not have to do too often in life, hopefully.
You might have been lucky and never had to be involved in making funeral arrangements, or maybe just been on the periphery of the process. Those who’ve planned a final send-off for a loved one will tell you how important using the right funeral director is to the process.
Planning your own funeral probably isn’t the most fun you will have in an afternoon. It is something you can take care of ahead of time to ease the burden from those around you, or even just to ensure you get the shindig you want.
To help you choose which funeral director to go with for your own or someone else’s funeral, we’ll cover:
- Where to start when looking for a funeral director
- Factors to consider when searching for a funeral director
- Questions you should be asking before going ahead with your choice
How do I find a funeral director?
It’s unlikely you’ll know when you’re going to die. Some already have a funeral planned and paid for; 6% of the people in the UK have a pre-paid plan. Plenty more people go off to their long sleep without a thought to what their funeral might look like or how it’ll be paid for.
Whether you're here looking to find a funeral director to arrange your pre-paid funeral plan with, or you've got the send-off of a friend or family member to organise, the principles will be the same.
Ask a friend
It might not be normal Saturday brunch chat, but “who was your dad’s funeral done by?” is a great way to start the hunt for a funeral director. As long as their dad’s funeral ran effectively, and they were happy with the experience!
Think about funerals you’ve been to and whether they seemed to go smoothly. It’s also ok to ask your close friends if they’ve got their funeral planned, who they’ve gone with, and whether they’d recommend their director.
Keep it local
Be sure to seek recommendations local to your area. Most pre-paid funeral plans will have restrictions on how far they’ll go to collect the deceased’s body, which is worth checking out.
Also, a local funeral director will know how things work in your area. Finding a spot in a graveyard or cemetery can vary between local authorities. Someone from your town or village will know who to speak to when you need to secure a burial or cremation spot.
Funerals are becoming more and more unconventional, with options for non-traditional venues and burials becoming popular. If you’ve got your heart set on a natural burial, the place of your final repose may have funeral directors they recommend to work with.
Similarly, you can ask your local vicar or priest for advice about who works well with arranging funerals at their church.
What makes a good funeral director?
The role of a funeral director is ultimately one of coordination. There are lots of pieces that need to slot together for a funeral to go smoothly.
Some of the tasks of a funeral director include:
- Collecting the body from the house or mortuary
- Organising embalming if requested
- Facilitating your loved ones viewing your body
- Putting notices in local newspapers
- Booking cars, hearses, and pallbearers
Among many others. You also need your funeral director to have experience planning the type of funeral you want.
Having a funeral director with empathy will be vital. Everyone handles death differently. Those arranging your funeral might need someone with humour and a light heart, whilst others will need a sombre mood. Choosing a funeral director that you feel personally comfortable with should help everyone involved in the process.
From my own experience, the woman who organised my mum’s funeral had my stepdad howling with laughter every time he went in to see the body. When I went in, jet-lagged and needing information, she sat with me for an hour explaining all the details of embalming in a thorough and practical way. Someone who can make those connections with people will make a funeral go well.
Questions to ask when choosing a funeral director
It’s worth shopping around for a funeral director. Getting the music wrong, taking a wrong turn to the crematorium, or giving the wrong name to the celebrant (my grandad Alec was called Alex at his funeral because the director thought my nan had a speech impediment), can make a tough time even harder to handle.
When you’re choosing a funeral director for your pre-paid plan, be sure to ask:
- Are they a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors, the British Institute of Funeral Directors, or the National Funeral Directors Association?
- What is their policy on refunding or transferring your policy if you have to move house out of the area?
- Will it be possible for your loved ones to amend your funeral plan, e.g. upgrade your coffin, when you’re dead?
General questions when choosing a funeral director should be:
- Exactly what services do they cover, e.g. how many cars are provided, how many visits, and at what times, are allowed?
- What fees do they not cover and will they still help you pay them out?
- Are they comfortable with the type of service you want, e.g. Humanist, Catholic?
- How flexible are they with plans if family members want to be pallbearers or changing a speaker?
Choosing a funeral director
Getting your last goodbye right is important. Having a successful funeral can very much depend on choosing the right funeral director. Taking recommendations from friends who have already gone through the process and institutions who will be part of your funeral will help you choose a good one.
There’s a lot to take in when planning a funeral – your own or someone else’s. Knowing what questions to ask before you start getting into the details is going to help get the service you need.