Take your time

After a death people can feel pressure to make decisions quickly but organising a funeral is not an emergency. Give yourself time to think: do you want the funeral to be open to everyone or do you want something more private? Do you want the funeral to feel solemn and formal, or would you prefer something lighter and more relaxed? 

You have choices

We are lucky to live in a country where there are few laws governing what a funeral could be. We have supported our clients to hold funerals in their garden, in boat clubs and pubs. We have organised very small gatherings, where a group stand holding hands around the coffin, and huge ceremonies over a number of days.

Choose the right funeral director for you

Choosing the right funeral director can feel exhausting; see if you can task someone else with doing this, asking about options and getting quotes. The funeral director will have a huge impact on how the funeral feels so it's important you feel you've employed someone you like; someone who understands and respects what you're trying to achieve. 

Not everyone knows this, but you don’t need to use a funeral director. You can collect the person who has died from the hospital in your estate car, keep them at home, order the coffin online, complete the paperwork yourself, carry the coffin into the funeral with friends and family, and lead the ceremony yourself. You may prefer to hand everything over to the funeral director to arrange. You can also keep certain personal jobs for yourself, such as arranging the flowers or organising the orders of service. 

Don’t wait until after death

Very few people know about the choices available after death. If possible find out about these ahead of time. This will help you create the funeral you want, for yourself or for others. It is very common for people to call us after a death and to say, 'I am completely at sea. I have no idea what I'm doing. I've never organised a funeral before.' 

Traditionally coffins are carried on shoulders which looks impressive and formal but a coffin can also be carried by hand at waist height. This allows more people to be involved, including children and older people. It can be a hugely significant experience to be involved in this final act of love. 

Share personal stories

Sharing personal stories can be a wonderful part of a loving eulogy: sometimes members of the congregation can be encouraged to share their memories – often revealing stories that others knew nothing about. 

Help people say goodbye

There are many ways for people at the ceremony to say a personal goodbye. They can step forward and place a flower on the coffin or cards can be distributed so that personal messages can be written. Singing, lighting candles, or raising a toast can all bond you together with your memories, as can time added to the service for reflection. 

Poppy Mardall is founder and director of Poppy’s Funerals  www.poppysfunerals.co.uk