Our step-by-step guide to personalising a funeral

Written by Director, Gareth Coles:

Last week, there were lots of news headlines about the lack of transparency and ‘confusion’ in the funeral industry, particularly around pricing.  We couldn’t agree more with Senior Director of Markets at Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Daniel Gordon, when he said to BBC News:

“People can understandably be very emotionally vulnerable when planning a funeral…We therefore think it is important that – at what can be a particularly challenging time – the process is made as easy as possible.”

It’s the real reason that I write this blog every week – to break down the myths that surround the funeral industry, to encourage people to think about their end of life and death care (and provision for it), and to explain the choices available to each and every one of us.


The Practical Advice section on our site explains the first steps you’ll need to take when a loved one dies, and Our Pricing page will help you with setting a budget. So for this week’s funeral blog I’d like focus on the things you’ll need to consider next.


Here’s my Six-Step Guide to Personalising a Funeral:


  1. Firstly, consider whether you want the support of a funeral director, and if so, which one you wish to appoint:


  • In the vast majority of cases, the answer to both these questions is yes – but it is legally and organisationally possible to arrange for the disposal of your loved ones body and/or funeral service yourself – for some helpful advice on ‘home funerals’ or ‘do-it-yourself funerals’, check out this article from The Good Funeral Guide >


  • You are also perfectly entitled to speak to a number of different funeral directors to ensure they can meet your specific needs and that you’re going to get the best possible service for your budget.


  1. Choose the desired form of disposal – it’s important to decide this early on in the process to secure the appropriate services in the timeframes you’re looking for:


  • Burial – would you like burial to take place in consecrated, traditional, green or woodland ground?



  • Preservation – you don’t have to bury or cremate someone who has died, you can choose to preserve the body.


  1. Decide whether you require a coffin and/or need transport – there is no legal requirement to house a dead body in a coffin or casket, nor to use an undertaker to transport a body from the place of death to disposal site:


  • Coffins, caskets, baskets and shrouds come in many materials, shapes and sizes and you can source them directly or your funeral director can do so on your behalf and advise on the best option depending on your choice of disposal.


  • If you would like transport – there are all sorts of vehicles to choose from and here at Coles we will do our upmost to support your every transport request. Here are some of our most popular modes of funeral transport >


  1. Agree whether there will be a funeral service and where it will be held, and who you want to attend – ultimately a service is for the family and friends of the deceased and can be an important part of saying goodbye:


  • Will the service be held at your house, a religious house, crematorium, woodland/eco site, or at another location?


  • Do you want a ‘traditional’ service or are you looking for alternative ways to celebrate life?


  • Who would you like to attend? Family, close friends, anyone who knows the deceased? How will you notify them of the service? Are you going to live-stream or record it?


  1. Arrange the day by reflecting the life of your loved one (or yourself) into the order of service and by thinking of all the little details that are important to you:


  • Donations and tributes – are you keen to raise money for a chosen charity that means a great deal to your family? Or do you simply want to encourage others to share messages?


  • Music, prayers and readings – whether you have firm favourites or you’re looking for advice on the most fitting tributes, there is a wealth of inspiration online or you can browse our libraries when you visit our funeral home.


  • Flowers, Decoration and Stationery – some people like to keep it simple, others would like a decorative theme to the service/celebration.


  • Refreshments and Cake – for many, the wake/ after-service event is now a vital part of the day and requires catering for the get together.


  • Tokens and memorials – other than the order of service, would you like the funeral guests to leave with any token of or from the deceased/the funeral? Such as a posy from a floral tribute? Or a copy of a photograph etc?


  1. Remember your loved one with a physical memorial – a place to visit, or item to hold when you wish to focus on the memories you hold dear:


  • Memorial stone, sculpture, bench or tree – from traditional to contemporary, there are many memorial tribute options available these days, although there might be some restrictions on installing them at your favourite spot so it’s worth checking before commissioning a piece.


  • Decorative urn or casket – if you choose not to inter ashes, you can display them in your home, garden or place of significance, or simply keep them close in a pocket size container.


  • Jewellery or personal items – an increasingly popular option is turning cremains into fine jewellery or creating plush toys for younger members of the family.


I hope you find this guide useful… and as ever, if you have any questions or you’d like me to add some further detail to this guide or you’d like help with planning or personalising your funeral, please do not hesitate to get in touch >