Funerals aren’t for everyone. You might hate the idea and not want one for yourself, or you might be struggling to decide what to do for someone you love. So, do you have to have a funeral? The UK has been changing its attitudes to what happens after a death, and there are now more options than ever. We’re here to take you through them.


Do you have to have a funeral by law?

There are no laws in the UK that state everyone must have a funeral. However, your body will need to be buried or cremated when you die. And someone – usually a close family member, or the executor of your will – has to organise that.

There are all kinds of reasons for not wanting a funeral. We have a few of them outlined below, along with some suggestions of what you could do instead.


“I don’t want a traditional service” – choose an alternative celebration

We get it – the idea of a hearse trundling out towards a crowd of mourners dressed in black isn’t appealing to everyone. Do you have to have a funeral like that? Not at all. These days, you have hundreds of options, from donating your body to medical science to throwing a coffin decorating party.  You can even have your ashes fired into space.

If you want your funeral to be more of a celebration, think about what that might look like. Then, you can look for funeral directors and celebrants open to doing things differently. Try using Beyond’s online tool to compare the different funeral directors in your area.


“I don’t want a big fuss” – choose direct cremation

You might have typed “can you not have a funeral” into Google because you’re worried about how your loved ones will cope with the stress of arranging one. Perhaps you want to give them your blessing to not arrange a funeral at all, or the opportunity to hold one later on, in their own time. Cost could be a concern.

If that’s the case, you might consider a direct cremation. This is a simple, inexpensive cremation without a funeral service. The funeral director takes the person who has died into their care, arranges the cremation, and returns their ashes to the family afterwards. A few close family members can attend the cremation, which is usually early in the morning on a weekday.

After the ashes are returned, what happens next is entirely open. You (or your family, rather) can leave it at that or hold a memorial service later on with the ashes. In David Bowie’s case, his ashes were taken to Bali to be scattered.

Beyond can help you organise a direct cremation in England or Wales for as little as £1,195. We’ll give you or your loved one a simple, dignified send-off, leaving plenty of time to plan a memorial service later on. Call us today on 0800 054 9935 to find out more.


“Why spend so much money on something I won’t get to see?” – consider a living funeral

Do you have to have a funeral when you die? You could have one while you’re still alive, so that you get to celebrate your life alongside the people you love and show your appreciation for them.

Living funerals became popular in Japan in the 1990s, and in Europe and the USA after the publication of Mitch Albom’s memoir Tuesdays with Morrie. More recently, artist Grayson Perry’s Rites of Passage series on Channel 4 followed Roch Maher as he arranged a living funeral for himself after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

You can organise a living funeral by yourself or with the help of a funeral director, celebrant or even a death doula. Planned well, it can be a surprisingly uplifting experience.


“We aren’t able to have the body there” – host a memorial service

You don’t have to have a funeral with the body of the person who died there. You could have a memorial service instead. For example, many families choose to have a direct cremation, and hold a memorial service a few months or even a year later. This gives them more time to regroup and prepare. Many others choose to hold a memorial service after a loved one dies and is buried overseas. You can find out more about how to hold a memorial service here.


Whatever you decide, make your wishes clear

If you’ve decided that you personally don’t want a funeral, it’s important to have a conversation with your family and friends about it. Explain what you want and what that means to you. You can also record your wishes in your will or funeral plan, so that they have something to refer to.

However, be aware that funeral wishes – whether they’re in a will or not – are not legally binding. Your family and friends have the right to make their own minds up when the time comes.

Psychologically, funerals can be very important for those left behind. Laying someone to rest with a ceremony is a way for loved ones to let go and express their love and grief for the person who’s died. Do you have to have a funeral? By law, no, but in practice it might happen anyway.


Do you want a funeral, or do you have something different planned? We’d love to hear from you – tell us your thoughts in an email!

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