Choosing a coffin is an important part of organising a funeral. It is often the focal point of the service, and can set the tone for the ceremony. For example, wooden coffins will suit a more traditional service, metal coffins are a more modern choice and wicker and willow coffins suit an alternative woodland ceremony. Coffins tend to vary greatly in price, also, and so it’s worthwhile to consider all of the options.

If you’ve arranged your funeral through Beyond, you will need to choose a coffin from the start, but you can always change it after discussing with your chosen funeral director. If you’re considering taking out a funeral plan, remember that you can specify your choice of coffin within the plan.

 

Here’s how to choose a coffin:

  1. Search online to view the range of coffins available to buy.
  2. Decide on your budget and size of coffin you will need.
  3. Speak to your funeral director about their coffin range.
  4. Buy the coffin through your funeral director or independently.

You will need to know the approximate weight and height of the individual to make sure you get the right size. Usually, there will be a note to specify the dimensions of the coffin. If the deceased exceeds these dimensions, you may need to order a custom coffin. A local supplier may be able to build the coffin, tailoring it to the precise size of your loved one.

When making your final decision, consider what will best reflect the person whose funeral it is, and what will look most natural at the funeral service, but don’t lose sight of the budget. Costs can quickly stack up and the coffin is just one element. You may also want to consider choosing an eco-friendly coffin that will biodegrade naturally and won’t pollute the soil. You can find more information on eco friendly funerals by reading our dedicated article.

What are coffins made of?

  • Solid wood. This is a traditional choice, and often comes with ornate metal handles and a white cushioned lining. Price will vary depending on choice of wood and intricacy of carving.
  • Metal. The metal coffin or casket is typically very expensive and is guaranteed to stand the test of time much better than its wooden counterpart. The metal used tends to be either stainless steel, bronze, copper and standard steel. Metal coffins are criticised by some because they do not let the body naturally decompose.
  • Veneer and chipboard. These coffins usually have metal or metal effect handles, and usually have the same look as a traditional style wooden coffin. This is a popular low-cost alternative to the solid wood coffin.
  • Cardboard. This biodegradable coffin is lightweight and reasonably low cost. Cardboard coffins can be printed with personalised designs, reflecting the personality of the person when they were alive, or their accomplishments. Examples of images often used include the Union Jack, a floral field, religious symbols and photos of pets. You can also design your own.
  • Other biodegradable materials including wicker, banana leaf, seagrass, willow, rattan, wool and bamboo. They are usually around the same price as a cheap veneer or chipboard coffin, and are suitable for woodland burial.

What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?

Traditional coffins are the most typical choice in the UK. Caskets, which are more popular in the US, are larger and more rectangular than the traditional coffin. They are similar in style to the traditional wooden coffin but are rectangular and the upper half of the lid can be opened. This is most frequently used for open-casket ceremonies. These can be purchased in metal or wood.

Can I use a shroud instead of a coffin or casket?

There is no legal requirement to use a coffin at a funeral, but many crematoria will expect you to use either a coffin or shroud. However, the only requirement by law is that the body must be covered in a public area.

If a coffin or casket is not for you, a shroud can be used in its place. This is simply a piece of fabric over the body, but people often decorate the body with posies of flowers and other mementoes.

Do I need to buy the coffin from the funeral home?

You don’t need to buy the coffin from the funeral home. You can buy your own coffin or casket online, at a cheaper price, and get the exact style you want, or you could find a local funeral coffin supplier. The funeral home may charge you a storage or preparation fee.

Sourcing your own coffin may save you hundreds of pounds, so certainly worth considering. At the funeral the coffin is likely to be on display for a very brief period of time, 30 minutes to an hour or so, and will then be cremated or buried, and so it’s not unreasonable to want to mitigate the cost.

The funeral director should have several brochures on hand for you to look through and decide which coffin to buy, and may even have a couple of coffins to see in person, so you can get a better idea of the quality. For greater choice, take a look online. If you have your heart set on a coffin you found through an internet search, simply speak to your funeral director and express your wishes.

The cheapest coffins to be found online are usually stocked on Ebay, however this is to say nothing of their quality. Read through the reviews to see what other customers have to say. You might also find that a local independent supplier in your area is cheaper, so it’s worth shopping around.

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