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Are you saying RIP to your money or to your loved one?
Are you saying RIP to your money or to your loved one?

8 June 2020

The funeral industry took quite a bashing in Hannah Betts’ recent article in ‘The Telegraph Magazine’ (01.02.20) (with statistics provided by Sunlife).

It wasn’t all bad news, but much of it was probably quite eye-opening.

In England in the last couple of years pre-COVID, there were over 500,000 deaths/year, and this is expected to increase to 565,000 by 2032. There are increasing space issues regarding burial which need to be met. However, c. 78% of UK funerals are now cremations.

Expenses

The average cost of a basic UK funeral (not counting flowers and catering) was over £4,000 in 2019. That’s a huge increase since 2004, when it was less than £2,000.

For the whole works, including professional fees, the average amounted to nearly £9,500. Apart from burial or cremation fees, there are usually funeral director’s fees to consider and officiant’s fees. If you’re having a memorial, this can be a major expense (around £900) and catering costs an average of over £400. There may also be venue hire. Smaller expenses (but they all add up) are Order of Service booklets, doctor’s fees, limousine hire, flowers and the death notice.

However, there’s now a groundswell towards choice. Things don’t have to be done the way they ‘always’ have been. Whereas some people are fine with the Funeral Directors in traditional top hat and tails, some people prefer informality. Indeed, a direct cremation (no ceremony at all) is a cheap option (although not for everyone).

Green Ceremonies

Some Funeral Directors offer budget ceremonies, but, again, it depends on what you want on the day. There is a lot more awareness of ecology, and you can request green burials with biodegradable coffins. Crematoria have improved massively and emissions are cleaner, but carbon is still one of the by-products of the process. Green or liquid cremations are much less damaging.

Embalming (to preserve bodies to be viewed by relatives) requires use of formaldehyde for each body, and this is a carcinogen.

Choice

At a cost, you can choose unusual venues (such as golf courses) and use special hearses (like camper vans or fire engines). The service can be personalised, both content, tone and attire.

Many funerals these days offer live-streaming facilities.

Add-ons

Basic burial costs over £1,000 more than cremation on average, but this is region-dependent (it costs some £4,000 more to be buried in London compared with Northern Ireland).

Summary

As a funeral celebrant, I am one of the “expenses”. Of course. I don’t believe I have to justify my fee, as I normally work with the bereaved to compile, in a short time, a celebration of life that entirely fits the bill. Then I conduct the service – usually, to the family’s (and guests’) complete satisfaction. It takes skill and empathy.

It seems right that there are fees across the board, although some seem excessive. I suspect that certain suppliers are taking advantage of clients’ vulnerability and ignorance. However, I have worked with many who do a fantastic job and deserve to be rewarded.

The great thing is that now there is choice out there, and each person has the chance to get value for their money. Hopefully, the funeral comes down to more than money finally, but that’s certainly an issue that is rightly being addressed.

Michael can put together and conduct a personalised ceremony. Feel free to contact him directly.

Author:

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe. Telephone me now on +44 (0)7931 538487 or contact me directly by e-mail.

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