How to Arrange a Funeral


How to Arrange A Funeral (UK)


If you’re arranging a funeral service for a loved one, it’s natural to have many different questions. How long does it take to organise a funeral? How can you choose the right provider to align with your loved one’s wishes? Do you need a death certificate to arrange a funeral? 

At The Farewell Guide, we know that organising a funeral can be an overwhelming and difficult process. With our bespoke funeral planning and funeral director comparison tools, we’re committed to supporting you and your family every step of the way. 


Start your plan today


Arranging a Funeral

From registering a death to choosing a funeral director, here’s our guide to how to arrange a funeral for a loved one.

Step by Step Guide to Planning a Funeral


1. Verify your loved one’s death

This is the first step in how to plan a funeral. You will need a trained medical professional to verify a loved one’s death. This is usually done as soon as possible by medical staff, and is referred to as the formal verification of death.

Secondly, a doctor or coroner will need to supply a medical certificate of the cause of death. If a loved one dies in hospital, their death will be verified by medical staff immediately, or they will be referred for an autopsy, if needed. Only at home will a doctor need to be called to verify the death.

We know that a loved one’s passing can be extremely distressing and upsetting - if a loved one dies at home and you’re unsure what to do, call 999 immediately for an ambulance service; the doctors will be able to support you.

2. Register their death with a registrar

With the medical certificate supplied by the doctor in step one, you will need to register a loved one’s death within five days (or eight days in Scotland) with a local registrar, which you can find on the government website. You will also need other documents to register the death, including: birth certificate; marriage or civil partnership certificate; passport; NHS medical card; driving licence and proof of address (a utility bill, for example). Not sure where to find these documents? Your registrar will be able to offer advice.
How can The Farewell Guide help with this step? Our funeral planning tool includes a secure document vault, where users can store important documents their loved ones will need - like a passport, will or NHS medical card details.

3. Obtain the burial certificate or complete the cremation application

This is one of the most important steps in how to arrange a funeral. After registering a loved one’s death in the step above, you will receive several things:

  • A unique reference number (which you will need for step four)
  • A certificate of registration of death (form BD8) - you may need to fill this in and return it if your loved one was receiving a state pension or benefits; the form will come with a pre-paid envelope so you know where to send it
  • Either a certificate for burial, or a cremation application which you will need to complete (depending on the type of funeral you are organising - it is helpful at this stage to consider your loved one’s wishes: did they express a preference for a burial or cremation?)

This is an important step: a funeral can only take place after this has been completed.

4. Inform the government

In step three, the registrar will have given you a unique reference number, which you will need to use for the government’s Tell Us Once service - a service which lets you report a death to several government organisations in one go. Your registrar may either complete this service with you, or will give you the reference number to complete it in your own time.

It’s also important to note here that this number needs to be used within 28 days of receipt. Not sure how it works? Your registrar is there to guide you through the process and answer any questions.

5. Check your loved one’s funeral plan

This is an important consideration in how to arrange a funeral. If your loved one had a funeral plan, they will have detailed their wishes for the day - which you can then use to organise their service. A funeral plan might include a range of preferences, including: whether they preferred cremation or burial; readings they would like at the service; their favourite flowers; their religious beliefs, and much more.

After a loved one’s death, take a look at this plan to help you understand their requirements for their funeral; this will help you choose a funeral director in the next step.

If you or your loved one have not completed a funeral plan you can use our free funeral planning service to ensure that all your wishes are documented in advance. 

Click here to visit the free funeral planner service

6. Choose a funeral director

When considering how to arrange a funeral, this a crucial step as the provider you choose will play a big part in helping you make your arrangements. Most funerals in the UK are conducted alongside a funeral director. There are many different funeral directors in the UK; you might decide to choose a local provider, or perhaps your loved one specified a specific funeral director. If they didn’t, our funeral director comparison tool is designed to make selecting a funeral director simple: you can compare pricing and services at the touch of a button. This will make it easy to choose a provider in line with your loved one’s wishes: for example, did they want a green funeral, and does the provider you’re looking at provide eco-friendly options? Did they specify they wanted a direct cremation, and is that an option offered? 

It’s also worth noting that funeral directors are not regulated in the UK, but you can also take a look at different independent associations such as the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), the National Association of Funeral Directors, and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors. 

When comparing different funeral providers, you can ask them for a written estimate of the price of the funeral, which should give a breakdown of costs to help you manage your budget. Once you decide to opt for a specific provider, they may also ask you to sign a contract; make sure to ask them if there are any unclear points. Once you decide on a funeral director, they will need the burial certificate or cremation application form obtained in step three in order to collect the body.

A study by Dignity found that individuals planning a funeral are becoming more likely to compare several funeral directors to help them make a final decision. Because of this, tools such as our funeral director comparison service are essential when choosing a director. 

7. Make the funeral arrangements

Once you have chosen a specific funeral director, you will be able to start the arrangements - the provider you choose will guide you through this step. This will take the form of a conversation about your requirements for the day, and can take place either in person at the funeral home (or your own home), or over the phone. 


They may ask you whether or not your loved one had a funeral plan in place, whether they preferred cremation or burial, and if there are any religious considerations for the service. They will also discuss other elements of the funeral arrangements, such as memorial brochures, flowers, readings, location and date availability (most funerals in the UK take place around one or two weeks after a death). 


A study by Dignity found that when making funeral arrangements, they prefer to declare their requirements before being offered a funeral package. Funeral director staff are skilled in guiding families through the steps of how to arrange a funeral, so they will be able to assist you with any questions you may have. Shortly after your appointment, you will be given the date, time and location of the funeral.  


How long does it take to arrange a funeral? 


It usually takes around one to two weeks to organise a funeral in the UK, however this is not always the case. Some religious beliefs require the deceased to be buried or cremated within a short period of time. If there is a need for the coroner to be involved in the death this can take between four and twelve weeks, which will delay a funeral. 


How to arrange a cremation?


There are many ways to arrange a cremation, the most common way of doing this is to is through a funeral director. In recent years there has been a rise in companies offering online cremation arrangements, these are mainly for direct cremations which are unattended. It is possible to organise a cremation yourself, you will need to contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local authority. Often it takes longer to organise a cremation than a burial, this due to there often being lengthy wait periods for a crematorium time slot.  

How to arranage a funeral checklist:


-Check if the deceased has a funeral plan. 

-Find out how the funeral will be funded. 

-Ask family and friends for support and input. 

-Appoint a funeral director (you can organise a funeral yourself). 

-Choose a burial, cremation, or direct cremation. 

-Pick a coffin. 

-Choose the type of funeral service. 

-Arrange a venue and date. 

-Organise funeral transport. 

-Create an order of service. 

-Decide whether you want to ask for donations or flowers. 

-Select the funeral music and readings. 

-Notify family and friends of the arrangements, consider advertising on social media and the local press. 


Want to know more about planning a funeral service? The Farewell Guide is here to help. From recording your own wishes using our funeral planning tool to comparing funeral director services with our comparison tool, we’re here to provide you and your family with the support you need.

Start your plan today