#TackleTheTaboo Funeral Planning FAQ

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Funeral Planning FAQ

A new study into the attitudes surrounding death and funerals, commissioned by CPJ Field earlier this year, highlights that, although people are apprehensive about discussing death, 61% are willing to talk about funerals. What’s more, 41% of people have spent time thinking about the kind of funeral they would want, with 42% actually wanting to plan their own send off.

But where exactly do you start when planning your own funeral?

There are so many ways in which to make your send off a true reflection of your identity that making your own arrangements can seem daunting. Often, it is only after you have actively planned the funeral of a loved one, that you will understand the variety of options available to you.

To help you understand these options, we asked Jack Stanisstreet, Senior Funeral Director at Deric-Scott, to answer some of the more unusual questions that you may have regarding funeral planning.

I’m a farmer, can my tractor be used to take me to my funeral?

Yes. There are no specific requirements as to what vehicle must be used and in the past CPJ Field have assisted their clients with all sorts of different transport options. Traditional motorised and horse pulled hearses are still commonplace but other options are out there such as tractors, London buses, motorcycles, bicycles, land rovers and even a tank!

If the vehicle is road worthy and the coffin can be secured safely then it can be used for your funeral. In some instances, we may need to think practically (if your local crematorium is 20 miles away, for example, you may decide not to drive your tractor the whole way) but we will always find a way to allow your last journey to be a fitting tribute to your life.

Can I be buried with my dog’s ashes?

Yes. If you choose to be buried it is the cemetery’s discretion as to what is or isn’t allowed to be buried in your coffin. Often ‘green’ or ‘woodland’ burial grounds have strict rulings to ensure everything within the coffin is biodegradable but most cemeteries will be comfortable with pet’s ashes being buried within your coffin.

Crematoria are a little stricter with their rulings as they can be fined if their emissions are found to be high. Glass, batteries (such as those found within watches) and some medical fixtures can damage the cremator itself. Ashes would not cause an issue but you may need to consider the container they are placed in.

You must also remember that anything that is still in the coffin at the time of the funeral will not be returned to the family so you may want to consider jewellery, especially heirlooms.

Can I be buried at home?

To be buried in any location you will need the permission of the land owner – if you own the land then yes you can be buried at home. There will need to be an investigation into the water table to ensure that no contamination could get into any local rivers and the burial information will need to be placed on the deeds to the house so any new owner of the property is informed. If the house is to be sold after your death and not passed on to the family, you may wish to consider an alternative burial such as a woodland burial or even a burial at sea.

I’d like to be dressed in my wedding dress for my funeral. Is this possible?

Yes, if that is what you would like to wear then we will do our very best to accommodate that. We would ask that the clothing still fits or is altered accordingly as we would not be comfortable cutting the dress.

We always ask our clients if there is a preferred choice of clothing for their loved ones to be dressed in (we will request all clothing, including undergarments). Some burial grounds (usually woodland burial grounds or when organising a burial at sea) have rulings around what material the clothing may be made out of and ask for natural fibres only so they are biodegradable.

We are happy to dress the person in question but if family want to come in to help us then we are more than happy to accommodate that. A deceased person will always be dressed in something to keep their dignity, if no clothes are provided then we will use one of our gowns (made in the colour of the clients choosing). The deceased person will always be dressed even if you decide not to visit them.

I don’t like flowers at a funeral, what else can be used to brighten up a service?

There are plenty of alternative options if you don’t want flowers at your funeral. Requesting mourners wear colourful clothes, opting for a bright or decorated coffin, including photographs, paintings or video montages in the service, and draping the coffin in a blanket, a sports team shirt or flag are all bright alternatives to flowers.

The tone of the service can also be set by its content. Positive readings and tributes, and upbeat musical choices will have the effect of brightening the funeral service.

I’m not particularly religious, but have always wanted to have my funeral held in a church, and be buried in a church graveyard. Is this still possible?

If you live within the parish of the church in question, then you would be able to have your funeral service in the church. Whether you are able to be buried in the churchyard will depend on the space available. If there are family plots within the churchyard or you have a personal connection with the church, then your request is more likely to be accepted.

If you are not particularly religious it is worth considering whether a church service is the most appropriate option for you. There are plenty of other venues in which your funeral can be held, such as hotels, cemetery chapels and private venues for hire. These could still offer you the capacity and practicality of a church but without the religious aspects.

There are also a number of alternatives to a burial plot in a churchyard. Why not consider a woodland or green burial site, or your local council cemetery?

You can find out more about religious funerals here.

I’d like my coffin to be as unique as possible, what can I do to make it my own?

There is a vast array of ‘alternative’ coffins available to you, offering something different to the traditional wooden coffin. If you are looking for something more sustainable there are coffins made out of willow, seagrass, bamboo or wool available. If you’re after something more colourful, CPJ Field can provide either wooden or cardboard coffins in any colour you choose.

Do remember that even the most traditional coffin can be personalised with pictures, flowers or personal effects placed on it. If you wanted to take a really hands on approach why not have a cardboard coffin and draw, write or paint designs and messages on it?

You can view a selection of the coffins we have available here.

I’m aware that there are a number of environmental implications relating to funerals. How can I make my funeral greener?

There are a number of different ways to make your funeral more environmentally friendly. In terms of large gestures, we have a whole range of sustainable coffins ranging from cardboard and recycled wood to wool and wicker. There are environmentally friendly vehicles such as electrically powered hearses, bicycle hearses or horse and carriage to choose from.

You may also want to consider how your remains are laid to rest. Crematorium do pay environmental charges to off-set the emissions they give off but you may decide being buried is a more environmentally friendly option. There are now plenty of woodland burial grounds where they will plant trees and wild flowers on your grave rather than a more formal headstone.

If you wanted to make smaller changes then consider swapping traditional cut flowers, shipped over in a refrigerated lorry from Holland, for potted plants that will continue growing after the funeral, or use flowers from your garden. Consider using TV screens to project the order of service instead of printing them and email or use social media to inform people of a funeral instead of print newspapers.

Learn more about environmentally friendly funerals with our Guide to Green Funerals.

If I decide to be cremated, what can my loved ones do with my ashes aside from storing them in an urn?

There are many options available to you ranging from the more traditional choices such as interring the ashes in a cemetery or churchyard or scattering the ashes somewhere meaningful to you and the family (with the landowners permission).

Other more alternative options include turning ashes into jewellery, placing them in fireworks, pressing them into vinyl records or having them added into the ink for a tattoo. With many of these more alternative options there will still be ashes left over so you may need to think of a final resting place for them.

I don’t want to have a funeral. Are there any legal requirements related to a person’s death?

There is no legal requirement to hold a funeral service. The death of a person does need to be registered with the local authority and the body needs to be either buried or cremated but that is all.

That being said, the funeral service can be a help in the grieving process but it is now becoming more common to separate the cremation or burial of a deceased person and the memorial service of their life. The memorial service can be as formal or as relaxed as you need and could be something as simple as a cup of tea and a biscuit with the extended friends and family to remember the deceased person.

Have you got a question about funeral planning? Why not pop into your local CPJ Field branch and meet our friendly team, or contact us directly with your question by emailing info@cpjfield.co.uk.

Isn’t it time to have the conversation of your life? Join the conversation using #TackletheTaboo