Funerals can be expensive, but with a humanist funeral service there are plenty of simple ways to make them more affordable, meaningful and personal. We share some tried-and-tested tips and suggestions here.
Low cost funerals: Burial or cremation?
The biggest funeral expense is likely to be the burial or cremation itself, and there are several choices here.
Some people opt for direct cremation, which is the lowest cost choice, but this will not suit everybody. A direct cremation does not have a ceremony attached, and usually takes place at a time of the funeral director’s choosing and at a location some distance away, with no family or friends present.
If a direct cremation is the right choice for you, you can hold a memorial ceremony, or a celebration of life, to honour and remember the person’s life at another time – whenever and however it best suits you. In this situation, a humanist funeral celebrant can help you devise a meaningful and personal ceremony.
In general, cremation costs are lower than burials, but prices vary between crematoria. If there are several crematoria in your area, it’s worth comparing how much each costs and checking how much time they allow for the ceremony. Choosing an early morning time can be less expensive than later in the day, if that works for your timing. You don’t have to choose the crematorium which is nearest to you.
On the other hand, burial costs may be lower if the person who has died is buried within the local authority where they lived. Natural burial sites can sometimes prove less expensive than the traditional burial sites. Again, costs can vary enormously, so it’s worth researching a few options before making a decision.
Whichever option you choose, you can have a humanist ceremony led by one of Humanists UK’s trained celebrants to honour your loved one.
Choosing the right funeral director for an affordable funeral
Most people go to their local, high street funeral director. However, shopping around for a funeral director can give better value, help you find someone who you trust, and who feels right for you and your loved one.
By law, all funeral directors have to display a standardised price list on their website and on their premises, so that you can compare what they offer. Some also offer online tools that you can use to compare options and generate personalised quotes.
The idea of comparing prices or researching options might feel overwhelming, or uncomfortable, at a time when you are grieving, tired and under pressure. It can help to ask a friend or family member to do some internet research or make calls on your behalf. It’s a really practical way to ask people to support you if they offer.
A good funeral director should be willing to discuss what you need and offer ideas to help you plan a meaningful funeral at a cost which suits you. If you don’t understand what you are being sold or why you need it, it’s absolutely fine to ask questions, say that you would like something different or even change funeral directors.
Some funeral directors will offer or encourage embalming. However this should always be presented as an option rather than as standard. Not only is embalming usually an unnecessary extra cost, but it also involves chemicals that are harmful for the environment. If your loved one died in hospital or a care home, you do not have to use the funeral director who collected them and in whose care they are. You can choose a different funeral director to take over the arrangements, and they will liaise with the original company.
Of course, you don’t have to use a funeral director at all. Organising a funeral yourself can be complicated, but it is perfectly possible. The Good Funeral Guide has an empowering step-by-step guide on their website. If you do decide to go for this option then you can still opt to have a humanist celebrant to lead your service. We have trained and accredited celebrants all over the country who will be able to help you with the process.
Low cost funerals: What a humanist celebrant can offer
A humanist celebrant will plan the funeral service with you, and share their experience to suggest creative ways to make the ceremony meaningful and respectful, without costing the earth.
They can make a non-religious ceremony truly personal by including opportunities for everyone to get involved during the ceremony, such as by attaching ribbons or messages to the coffin.
Listening to favourite music, readings or stories of the person who has died, or which express your feelings about the person, are often the most significant parts of a funeral ceremony.
For example, lifelong motor-racing fan Helen had the Formula One theme tune played during her funeral ceremony. Bernie’s friends recorded themselves singing ‘Close to You’ by the Carpenters, a song he loved, and played the video of them all singing at his funeral. These are the moments that spark memories, laughter and tears. And they come without a price tag.
Cars, flowers, and coffins: Affordable choices for a meaningful funeral
There are some things which traditionally we might think are essential for a funeral – cars, flowers, a fancy coffin, a ceremony in a crematorium. However, there are ways to lower costs on all of these elements and, in case of cars and flowers, you do not have to have them at all. In fact, lower cost funeral choices can often be more personal and more memorable than the traditional options.
Any vehicle with enough space for a coffin can act as a hearse, so you could use a friend’s van, or your own. There are also companies which offer eco-friendly bicycle hearses, and many other options.
Rather than expensive floral arrangements, you could ask people to bring flowers from their gardens, pot plants or seasonal wild flowers. It’s more environmentally friendly, and brings a truly personal touch, especially for someone who loved gardening or being outdoors.
Or you can think of other, more personal options. Instead of flowers, Joan’s family chose to decorate the coffin in a unique and inexpensive way – with the colourful scarves that Joan loved to wear during her life.
Cardboard coffins are less expensive than traditional wooden ones and provide more scope for personalisation. They come in a range of colours and you can decorate them with photos, messages, drawings or anything which was significant to the person who has died.
Affordable funerals: Humanist ceremonies offer choice
You can hold a humanist funeral anywhere, including your own home or garden. You could opt for a village hall or community centre, or a place with particular significance for you or for the person who died. This gives you the flexibility to make lower cost choices and to make the ceremony personal to your loved one.
A humanist funeral focuses on the person who has died – their story, their passions, what made them unique. This means that every humanist funeral is different. You can include only the elements that matter most to you.
With a humanist funeral there is no pressure to do anything simply because ‘that’s the way it’s done’.
The mark of how much you love someone is not how much you spend on their funeral. A lower cost funeral can be just as beautiful and personal as any other, if not more so.
Find out more
To learn more about humanist funerals, or find a celebrant, use the links below: