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Planning a funeral - checklist

Things to remember when planning a funeral or celebration of life.

Funeral or Celebration of Life Planning Guidance

When a friend or loved one has died, feelings of loss and emotion can be overwhelming and exhausting. Additionally, there are certain tasks that you will be mindful of which will need to be put in place, one such task is arranging the funeral.

From choosing burial to cremation to the finer details such as music and flowers, the following funeral information may help you keep track of your arrangements. Planning a funeral will be different for everyone, but hopefully this guide will help you to consider and organise any proceedings decided on.

A paper checklist to download

If you prefer a paper checklist, our help sheet, ‘What to do in the first few days’ is available to download.

There is also plenty of helpful information on the government website.

The main legal requirements in England and Wales are:

  • The death has to be certified by a Doctor or Coroner
  • The death is registered with the local Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Civil Partnerships within 5 days of the death occurring
  • The body should either be cremated or buried
  • There is no legal requirement to have any kind of funeral ceremony at all
  • There is no legal requirement to appoint a Funeral Director as long as appropriate arrangements can be put in place for the resting and encoffin of the body in the lead-up to the funeral

Documents you will need before you can arrange a funeral:


  • Green Certificate for Burial (Form 9) from the Register Office, or Order for Burial (Form 10) if the death was referred to the Coroner.


  • Application for Cremation (Form 1) signed by the next of kin or Executor as applicant for cremation
  • Green Certificate for Cremation (Form 9) from the Register Officer, or Order for Cremation (Form 6) if the death was referred to the Coroner
  • Medical Form 4 was completed by the Doctor who attended the deceased.

1.  Appoint a Funeral Director

If you choose to appoint a Funeral Director it is important that you do not rush into this decision.  Find help searching for a local funeral director.

2.  Choose the type of funeral

There are lots of decisions to make when it comes to the type of funeral from the choice of coffin, burial or cremation, choice of crematorium or cemetery, memorial ceremony options, religious or non-religious.

Environmentally friendly options of cremation or burial may be important to you and should be considered such as opting for a woodland or natural burial option. It is important that you keep track of costs.

Low cost funerals are possible so look into whether it may be cheaper to choose extras such as flowers and catering elsewhere or a direct/unattended cremation with a celebration of life service held elsewhere beforehand or afterwards.

3.  Consider whether there will be a wake

This is a good time to decide if you will be hosting a wake. Once the date of the funeral has been confirmed you will need to book your venue. If choosing to hold a wake in your home, you can work out the details later.

4.  Send out invitations

With the help of a chosen few, you make calls, send out written invitations or invite using social media channels such as Facebook. Newspaper or online obituaries can also be used to notify people of the details of the service.

5.  Decide on the order of service

You may wish to choose someone to officiate or conduct the service. From speakers paying tribute to reading a poem, hymns and songs to how the coffin is conveyed into the ceremony hall – before mourners enter or afterwards, beared by family and friends or beared by funeral operatives.

An Order of Service sheet, booklet or funeral card may be considered and can be given to mourners at the service as a memento to take away after the service.

This is something that can be done by family members collectively or given to your Funeral Director to do for you.

6.  Personalise the service

Think about music and what the deceased’s wishes are. There are generally 5 pieces of music catered for at most crematoria or ceremony halls during a service. Entrance, introduction, reflection, committal and exit.

Most crematoria now provide streaming of music choices and are able to display photographic tributes to the deceased on large screens within the ceremony hall.

You may choose to have floral tributes presented by the mourners attending or choose to have a donation made to a charity that may have been supported by the deceased as an alternative.

7.  Duration of Service

It is important to decide if a 30-minute, 45-minute or 60-minute service will be needed. Most crematoria offer this choice of duration based on the number of mourners attending and the amount of content that may be included in the service.

If there is more than one speaker, or more than one tribute being made, the number of readings and the number of mourners entering and exiting the ceremony hall will increase the time needed for the service.

This is a unique moment of celebration and reflection and quite often there are services immediately before or following your own service. It is important to not feel rushed during the service and not to cause delays for other services taking place on the same day. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the time needed for your service.

8.  Transportation

If chosen, your Funeral Director can organise and manage the transport or you can choose to handle this yourself. A typical funeral procession includes a hearse in which to convey the coffin and a limousine or two for the immediate family members.

If a low-cost funeral is at the forefront of your mind, you can book the hearse and ask mourners to organise their own transport to the ceremony hall and to the wake afterwards. 

Further Support and Assistance

Should you require any further support or have further questions please contact your funeral director if appointed, or our Bereavement Technical Support Team.