Afterthoughts

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A Breakdown of Funeral Costs

Like everything else in life, death has a price tag – and the amount on it has never been higher than today. Costs associated with death depend on where you happen to live but also on what choices you make regarding what type of funeral you want, the coffin, how elaborate the service should be and extras like flowers, a special hearse, limousines for the family and guests, an obituary or the venue and catering at the wake.

In this blog post, we break down the costs of a funeral to help you plan ahead, understand where and how you can save money and what options you have. When it comes to giving a dear loved one the final send-off they wished for and deserve, it might feel wrong to think too much about the costs. However, please keep in mind that it’s not the amount of money you spend that determines how meaningful and dignified the funeral is. Actions, words and music can be much more important than a high-end coffin or a sea of perishable flower arrangements surrounding it. It is no disrespect to the person who died if you plan a funeral that is affordable for yourself.

What is the Average Funeral Cost in the UK?

According to the SunLife Cost of Dying report 2021, the costs for a basic funeral in the UK have doubled since 2006. £5,033 was the average price tag for a basic funeral with burial in 2020. A basic funeral with cremation cost £3,885. And that doesn’t even include the professional fees and send-off costs yet. The final bill will depend on what type of arrangements you choose (more on that below). If you are looking for the cheapest option, then you should go for a direct cremation which is available for £1895 with a Safe Hands Funeral Plan.

Whereas more than 50% of people are paying for the funeral with money from savings and investments, the costs put 1 in 7 families into considerable financial trouble. 25% of them put the outstanding amount on a credit card and a further 25% borrowed money from a relative or friend to pay for their loved ones’ final send-off. It is always worth shopping around and comparing prices – but very few people actually do that. According to the SunLife report, less than 1 in 5 people get more than one quote when organising a funeral. And 1 in 4 people said they were surprised by certain funeral costs.

Funeral/Burial Cost vs Cremation

The most popular type of funeral nowadays is cremation – almost 60% opted for one (and this does not include direct cremations) in 2020. Funerals with burials, on the other hand, are becoming fewer every year. Only 26.5 % chose to get interred.

When you want a funeral with burial, you need to purchase a burial plot. Prices for them vary from cemetery to cemetery – even if they’re just a few miles apart – and can depend on whether you are local or have your main residence outside the area. You will also need to pay the people who are digging and filling your grave as well as the right to erect a memorial like a gravestone. Furthermore, there are fees for the minister or officiant conducting the service. When considering a burial you should also check with the cemetery how much they charge annually for maintenance. Altogether, you are looking at £5,033 on average – for a basic funeral with burial. Additionally, you should calculate roughly £2,532 for optional extras like flowers, transport and costs related to the wake.

You might be able to save some money if you opt for a natural burial ground rather than a grave in a cemetery. However, you probably won’t get the option to put up a gravestone or other permanent memorial marker.

When you opt for cremation, you can choose between a direct cremation – without any ceremony or service – or a cremation with a funeral. The former is the most affordable option, the latter still costs ~£3,885, plus the optional send-off costs of roughly £2,532 to make it more personal.

Heart shaped sympathy flower arrangements, made of purple and white roses

Funeral Costs – a detailed overview

Essentially, the funeral costs are determined by

  • Funeral director fees
  • Third-party costs
  • Optional extras like flowers, limousine(s), funeral notice, obituary, catering and venue for the wake, etc…

In the following sections, we explain what options you have for each funeral related good or service and how much money you should expect to pay.

How much does a funeral director cost?

Funeral director fees make up between 50%-66% of the overall funeral expenses. They usually cover:

  • Discussing and taking note of funeral wishes and requirements and making the necessary arrangements
  • Transportation of the deceased to the funeral home
  • Caring for and preparing the body for the funeral service and storing the deceased in a climate-controlled mortuary
  • Organising the paperwork for the funeral to be legally permitted
  • A casket or coffin if you don’t choose to buy it from somewhere else (see below)
  • If the family or loved ones wish to say their final goodbyes in a more private setting prior to the funeral, you can visit the person who died at the funeral director’s chapel of rest
  • Co-ordination of the arrangements you chose (e.g. music, flowers, order of service, etc.) before, during and after the service as well as supervising the funeral and guiding and supporting those who are attending it
  • A hearse and – depending on if that’s included or not – one or several limousines with driver(s)
  • Pallbearers if there’s not a sufficient number of family members or friends who want to take on this honour

How much does a minister or officiant charge for a funeral service?

A funeral service with celebrant costs between £150 – £350, depending on if you are hiring a minister or civil/humanist celebrant. The Church of England charges from £199 upwards for a burial service.

How much does a coffin cost?

Prices for coffins range from £200 to £750 for a cardboard coffin, depending on the design, over £400 to £1,200 for a wooden coffin, depending on the material used and workmanship that went into building it, up to £10.000 for a high-end, American-style casket. Most people try to save funeral costs by choosing a cheaper coffin. What many don’t know is that they don’t have to buy one from their funeral director. In fact, you can shop around for the best quote and even buy a coffin online.

How much do funeral flowers cost?

In 2020, people spent an average of £193 on funeral flowers. This is 5% more than the previous year. It always depends on the arrangement you choose as well as the flowers you select for it, the supplier and where you live – with London being the most expensive city for anything funeral related. According to the SunLife report, the costs for funeral flowers were also among the expenses that surprised people the most. One person said: “I knew they would cost a lot but seems pointless when you only see them for 30 minutes.” And both, funeral directors as well as people who had organised a funeral agreed that spending less on flowers is one of the best ways to save money.

How much does a procession with a hearse and pallbearers cost?

A procession with a hearse and pallbearers is one of the optional extras that can cost quite a bit of money. More often than not pallbearers are loved ones, friends or colleagues who consider it an honour to be asked to provide this service and therefore don’t expect payment. Depending on what type of hearse and how many limousines you hire to transport immediate family members or a bigger number of guests, you’ll pay between £300 and £1,800. The latter price tag is for a carriage hearse drawn by four horses. The costs of a standard hearse are usually included in the funeral director’s fees. You should calculate roughly £336 for additional limousines.

Prepaid Funeral Plans

If you are thinking ahead and wondering how your family will be able to pay for your funeral when the time comes – especially considering the ever-rising prices, a prepaid funeral plan might be ideal for you. It covers the two basic costs of a funeral – the fees for the cremation or burial and the services of a funeral director. It also freezes the costs for the funeral you want at today’s prices. They allow you to take control over the final send-off you envision for yourself while, at the same time, taking the stress and burden of having to make a myriad of decisions and arrangements off your loved ones.
We, at Safe Hands Funeral Plans, handle end of life planning sensitively. We are also practical and understand that money can be a major concern when it comes to planning a funeral. That’s why we offer five different prepaid funeral plans (you can compare them here) and maximum flexibility in our payment options. To learn more about us, have a look at our “Why choose Safe Hands?” page or contact us directly for more information or if you have any questions.