From bespoke to simple. Bereaved families can now benefit from a wide range of funeral options, and planning our own funeral is also something we are encouraged to do to make life easier for our loved ones when we die.

In recent years, funerals have undergone notable change. This has been driven by a combination of shifting consumer preferences, global events, and market conditions. The result is an ever-increasing range of options for bereaved families. And it can be difficult to know where to start, particularly if you are struggling with grief.  

Let’s look at some of the main funeral choices available today.  

Firstly, there is the traditional funeral, which many might consider to include faith-based service in a place of worship followed by a burial or cremation. Typically, mourners wear items of formal black clothing, and the coffin is transported to the service in a funeral director’s hearse.  

The service itself will include religious texts spoken by a minister and hymns or religious songs sung by a congregation of mourners, who might gather afterwards at a venue such as a community hall or a pub for a wake. Members of the deceased’s family usually arrange for flowers to be laid atop the coffin and provide input for an order of service document to be shared with mourners. 

Next is the bespoke funeral. This has become more prevalent in recent years as families have sought to ‘celebrate the life of the deceased.’ This funeral type could be seen as a variation of the traditional funeral. The main difference is the level of personalisation involved.  

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For example, instead of a black hearse, the coffin might be transported to the funeral service in a ‘themed’ vehicle that reflects the interest of the deceased. For example, this could range from a tractor and trailer to a motorbike and sidecar, or even a VW Campervan if the beach lifestyle was a big part of a person’s identity. Additionally, bespoke funerals often combine the religious with the secular to include elements such as pop songs and poems. 


We now come to the simple funeral. This is a simpler version of a traditional or bespoke funeral and offers the main elements such as hearse-borne coffin transport to a service at a crematorium or a place of worship. However, any customisation is more likely to be lowkey. Personal touches could involve mourners wearing the deceased’s favourite colour rather than elaborate vehicle choices. 

Finally, we come to direct funerals, which have increased in number in recent years, thanks to pandemic restrictions and multi-million-pound marketing campaigns by national providers. Also known as unattended funerals, these can involve burial or cremation. However, it is important to note that there is no option for bereaved families to gather around a coffin to say goodbye or celebrate the life of their loved one, which is an important part of the grieving process for bereaved families 

However, an increasing number of independent funeral directors are working with crematorium operators to help families tailor direct funerals to their needs. This could involve allowing a small number of friends and relatives to gather to witness the committal of the coffin or view a loved one in a chapel of rest.  

As you can see, there are now a wide range of choices facing bereaved families today. To understand which option works best for your family, it is always advisable to discuss final wishes with loved ones before we die. These conversations can help bereaved families to know they are carrying out their loved one’s wishes which is helpful at a time when they are dealing with the emotion and immediate overwhelm of a death. 

Talking to a local independent funeral director in advance, with a family member present, will also help provide some ideas as to what is possible from both a personalisation and budget perspective.   

Author: Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors