Do you have to have a funeral?

There are many people out there who don't want a lot of fuss when they die and don't even want a funeral at all. So that begs the question, by law, in the UK, do you have to have a funeral? We'll explore more in this article.

By law, do you have to have a funeral in the UK?

The short answer is: no. By law in the UK, there is no legal obligation to have a funeral. However, when somebody dies, the body must be disposed of either by being buried, cremated or donated to medical science.

By definition a funeral is "a ceremony or service held shortly after a person's death, usually including the person's burial or cremation." Therefore this means if you or a loved one don't want to have a funeral, you can have something called a direct cremation instead.

A direct cremation by many is still considered a type of simple funeral, but ultimately it is a cremation without a service. With a direct cremation, the deceased is collected, taken to a crematorium and the ashes are then personally delivered to the family or scattered at the crematorium. Though it's a pared-back service compared to a traditional funeral, the deceased is still treated with the same compassion and care you would expect any funeral provider to supply.

A direct cremation is the cheapest way to be cremated or buried and prices start with Distinct Cremations from just £1,099. A celebration of life or a memorial service can still take place, but this takes place separately away from the cremation at a time and date of the family's choosing.

Reasons why you would have a funeral and reasons why you wouldn't

The decision to have a funeral may depend on a number of factors. This could be a cultural or religious consideration, personal preference, practical reasons or financial reasons.

Here are some reasons why you might have a funeral and reasons why you might choose not to

Reasons for

Common reasons to have a funeral:

  • Cultural and religious traditions: Many cultures and religions have specific rituals and traditions associated with death and funerals. These traditions may require a funeral service to honour the deceased.
  • Closure and processing grief: Funerals can help the grieving process by allowing family and friends to come together to mourn, share memories, and find emotional support from each another.
  • Honouring the deceased: A funeral provides an opportunity to celebrate the life, achievements, and contributions of the person who has passed away. It allows for the sharing of stories and memories that highlight their impact on others.
  • Preservation of family traditions: Funerals can preserve cultural and familial traditions related to death and burial, ensuring that these customs are passed down through generations.

Reasons against

Common reasons not to have a funeral:

  • Personal preference: Some individuals may have expressed a desire for no formal funeral or memorial service in their will or in conversations with loved ones for no reason other than personal preference.
  • Financial considerations: Funerals can be expensive, and some families may not have the financial means to organise a funeral service when there is an alternative to go without.
  • Environmental concerns: Some people opt for a green funeral, a water cremation or a natural burial to minimise their environmental impact. These alternatives may not involve traditional funeral services.
  • Geographic constraints: In cases where the deceased's family and friends are scattered across the globe, it may be challenging to organise a traditional funeral that accommodates everyone's needs and schedules.

Alternative options to a traditional funeral

These days, there are many alternatives to a traditional funeral. This can be something like an unattended, direct cremation which is a cremation without a funeral. A private cremation, which has a small funeral service. Or a natural burial which is an environmentally friendly alternative.

Here are a few alternatives you may like to consider if you or your loved one aren't interested in having a traditional funeral.

Unattended cremation

Cremation without a funeral

An unattended cremation or direct cremation, now favoured by 20% of the UK population*, has quickly become the most popular alternative. They take place without mourners or a funeral service. After the cremation the family has the option to host a memorial service.

Many like the idea of an unattended cremation because it allows the family to have a memorial service which is separate from the cremation itself.

* SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs

More about unattended cremation

Attended cremations

Family Of Three Embracing

A small or private attended cremation, sometimes referred to as a family-led funeral, is a funeral with a small attended service designed and guided by the family of the deceased, without a celebrant or religious minister. The choice of how the service looks is entirely with the family.

A small, attended cremation or family-led funeral is an intimate affair usually favoured by those looking to say farewell in a straightforward way. There is no procession and the service can be as traditional or non-traditional as the family want.

More about attended cremations

Natural burial

Tree pod burial

Natural burials are a type of green funeral which are fast becoming a popular choice to an alternative funeral as people become more environmentally aware. A natural burial, occasionally referred to as a woodland burial or green burial, is where the deceased is buried at a green burial site in a natural coffin or shroud.

A green burial site is often in a forest, meadow or wooded area. Currently in the UK, these aren’t especially common, however they are increasing in availability as demand increases.

More about green funerals

How is a funeral with Distinct Cremations different?

Choosing a simple, no fuss funeral instead of a traditional cremation lets you celebrate a loved one’s life however you wish, with less stress and no fuss.

You can see the key differences between a simple, no fuss funeral and a traditional funeral in more detail below.

Cremation with Distinct
A simple funeral with Distinct Cremations

The contemporary, simple, fuss-free farewell, free of tradition

  • A choice of two options: an unattended cremation with no mourners present or an attended cremation
  • A compassionate, attentive team there 24/7 for your questions and support with paperwork
  • A service free of pomp and ceremony
  • You can organise a separate memorial service that's personal and unique to your loved one
  • On average 73% cheaper** than a traditional funeral, with prices starting from just £1,099


** 73% saving is based on the cost of a basic funeral at £4,141 (SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs) vs the cost of a Distinct Cremations direct cremation at £1,099

Traditional Funeral
Traditional funeral

A fixed format funeral, with a set service

  • A set format 20-50 minute service held in a traditional setting like a church or chapel with mourners present
  • Traditionally less personal and flexible
  • Option to have a procession with a hearse and limousines
  • Funeral and service coordination from a funeral director
  • Costs on average £4,141# for a basic funeral





    # The average cost of a basic funeral in 2023 (SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2024, sunlife.co.uk/funeral-costs)

Get in touch with us today

Whether you're wanting to arrange a funeral today, interested in funeral plans, or looking for something else, our customer service specialists are here for you 24/7 to answer any questions you may have.

Call on 01543 211997

Other helpful articles

Below are a few more resources that you may be interested in.

Do you have to use a funeral director?

funeral director

It is possible to organise a funeral yourself without a funeral director. If you choose to arrange a funeral without a funeral director, there are a number of key elements that you’ll need to take into consideration.

Do you have to use a funeral director?

Arrange a funeral with Distinct Cremations

Sue arrange

At Distinct Cremations, we provide no fuss funerals which are simple to arrange, affordable and delivered with care, dignity and respect. Prices start from just £1,099 if you need to arrange a funeral today.

Arrange a funeral

How to choose a funeral provider

compare funeral plans

Choosing a funeral provider is never easy, so we've created a table comparing the best funeral providers' key features and inclusions to help you compare, contrast and choose the right funeral provider for you.

Compare funeral providers

We offer the highest level of support, but don't take our word for it

Below are a selection of reviews from those who have arranged a funeral or purchased a funeral plan through Distinct Cremations.

"Smooth and straightforward purchase with plenty of contact and feedback."

“Easy to use and very helpful. Very easy to use their services and always called with updates. Sorry to say I've had to use their services twice now and I've already booked my own service. On both times I've used this service I've been kept informed by calls to everything going on. All my requests were made to feel like no trouble whatsoever, happy to help attitude made what was a very emotional time pass with no problems. Ty to all the teams involved"

"Quick and easy to arrange. Very good value. The information pack arrived days after I made my enquiry. It was so easy to arrange the plan that I wanted. The follow up call was very reassuring. I am very happy with the service provided."

"Already recommended to other family members. Easy to access and apply for a plan at a good price, and even better, in 20 years time there will be no additional cost. It's not a subject that anyone wants to think about but now I have it sorted it has given me peace of mind knowing my family won't have the worry or cost when that time comes, now I can forget it and enjoy many more years, highly recommended. Hassle free application that was completed in minutes but I'm not planning on using this plan anytime soon!!"

"I was very pleased with the prompt efficient service that I got, everything was explained to me, and the paperwork was easy to understand, and there was no pressure put on me for a decision. I would most certainly recommended this company for price and efficiency."

“Happy with everything. We were well pleased with the consultant Sarah Mills she was very helpful and made us feel very confident that we were doing the right thing about our funeral plan."

"Positive without being pushy. Easy to understand the scheme, helpful brochure and a realistic price. The staff I contacted were polite and professional. Great value. An ideal alternative for those of us who don't want a lot of fuss."

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