DIY Funerals

A guide to arranging a DIY funeral

Last updated: 2 August 2019

funeral flowers

Photo by Dylan Nolte on Unsplash

After the death of a loved one, some families choose to make arrangements themselves, and plan a DIY funeral.

There are several reasons why they may choose to opt for a DIY funeral service. Some prefer to have a less formal celebration instead of a traditional affair. Others may want greater involvement in planning every aspect of their loved one’s funeral, as an expression of how much they loved them.

They may choose to organise all or part of the funeral themselves. They may call on a funeral director for certain services – such as looking after the person’s body in between their death and the funeral – or for help with funeral transport, or buying a coffin.

Whatever your reason may be for arranging a DIY funeral, it should be given considerable thought. Some find it stressful and overwhelming to organise everything themselves, especially during an already difficult time. It helps to have plenty of support from family and friends – being able to call on someone for advice may be invaluable.

Before you choose to have a DIY funeral, be sure that you can handle the arrangements, both practically and emotionally.

How do I arrange a DIY funeral?

A DIY funeral allows you to put together a personal and unique funeral for your loved one, and gives you greater control over arranging the type of service or celebration, committal and and the other aspects such as transport, music, flowers, coffins or caskets, that feels right.

The key to a successful DIY funeral lies in preparation, planning and getting plenty of help when you need it.

If you want to organise a DIY burial or cremation, there are many things to consider.

You will need to organise each element of the service, transport and committal. This will require speaking directly with providers, such as crematoria, religious organisations and coffin manufacturers.

You’ll also need to ensure you have the right documents and paperwork for a cremation or burial to go ahead.

This guide to arranging a DIY funeral will take you through some of those practical steps.

Can a funeral be held at home?

You can technically hold all or part of someone’s funeral at home, from the service itself, to scattering their ashes in the garden after their cremation at a crematoria.

It is also possible to bury someone in their back garden or private property owned by them, provided that it satisfies certain environmental criteria if you choose to have a DIY or home burial.

If someone has died at home, or you are bringing them home from the place where they died, you’ll need to be aware of the steps to take when someone has died. These steps include registering the death and ensuring you have all the other legal paperwork you need for a cremation or burial to go ahead.

DIY funerals and mortuaries

If you are arranging a DIY funeral, one important thing to be considered is where you will keep your loved one’s body until their funeral. While funeral directors have specialist refrigeration facilities available, undertaking a DIY funeral yourself means you’ll need to find a suitably cool place, to help delay the natural processes that begin to change our bodies when we die.

It might be a good idea to compare and find a local funeral director that’s happy to provide a particular service or facility you need, as you plan a DIY funeral.

If the person has died in hospital, you will need to arrange to collect their body from the mortuary, or find a funeral director who can do this for you. You’ll need to make arrangements with a private mortuary, funeral home with facilities, crematorium, or have suitable transport to them home, or to the funeral venue.

How do I begin planning a DIY funeral?

Now is the time to consider if your loved one had any personal wishes regarding the type of funeral or service they’d have wanted for themselves.

You might have talked about this together, or they may have left instructions in their will – or written details of their funeral wishes

If they have not left any instructions or there are no clear wishes, then it is up to you to decide how you want to mourn or celebrate their life.

What kind of DIY funeral is right?

The following are options to consider if you are planning a DIY funeral:

– A woodland burial. For more information, check out our guide to woodland burials
– A traditional burial. For more information, check out our guide to burials
– A cremation. For more information, check out our guide to cremations
– A burial at sea. For more information, check out our guide to burials at sea
– You may also consider a memorial service after a cremation, that includes an ashes scattering with some form of special ceremony. There are lots of creative ideas for scattering ashes.
– Would your loved one have wanted a religious funeral, even if it's DIY ?

If you have decided to go ahead with a DIY cremation, you will need to book a crematorium.

If they were a nature lover or would have loved the idea of being laid to rest amongst the trees, then a green funeral may be the best choice. If you are considering a green burial or cremation, you can search for an eco friendly burial site.

Coffin, casket or shroud?

You’ll have to choose and buy a coffin, casket, shroud or urn and arrange to collect or have this or have it delivered to you.

For more information, we have a full guide to choosing an urn.

If you’ve chosen a natural burial ground for the funeral, you’ll need to be mindful of eco-friendly and biodegradable green choices. If you are planning ahead for your own funeral, you can even attend a DIY coffin-making club.

A big trend these days are bespoke coffins that can be fashioned in the shape of your loved one’s interest or hobbies.

How do I choose flowers for a DIY funeral?

If you decide on floral tributes for your loved one, a local florist can advise on the right type and style of funeral flower arrangement. Or buy your own cut flowers, pick garden blooms and make your own coffin display or wreath.

Read our helpful guide to funeral flowers to help you make the perfect floral tribute.

How do I organise transport for a DIY funeral?

You will also have to consider how to transport your loved one if they are having a burial or cremation at a cemetery, crematorium or woodland burial ground.

The coffin could travel by traditional or alternative hearse, but even a regular van or estate car can be used as long as the coffin is carefully secured within.

Who can celebrate a DIY funeral?

If you wish to have a service for your loved one, you might consider looking for a funeral celebrant to lead and officiate the service. You, a family member or friend could even lead the funeral yourselves.

Arranging a venue for a wake or reception as part of the DIY funeral

If you decide to have one, we have a full guide to wakes. You’ll need to find and book a venue near the burial ground or crematorium, with the facilities and space to accommodate the funeral party. This could be held at home, a church hall, an outdoor gathering at a natural burial ground, or even at a nearby pub or inn. Letting people know about the DIY funeral

Once the time and date of the funeral or celebration of life has been decided – let people know.

Funeral directors traditionally post an online obituary with details or a newspaper notice. But many people also let others know about a funeral via social media. If you’re doing it this way, you may want to ask a friend or relative to coordinate this for you.

Can you get help with funeral costs for a DIY funeral?

If you are responsible for making funeral arrangements for your loved one, you will have to cover the full amount, although you may be eligible for help with funeral costs, unless they planned for their own DIY funeral by taking out a funeral plan, or pre-paid funeral with a local funeral director.

Funeral plans generally exclude the cremation fee or cost of burial, so this is another cost to consider.

If someone planned their own funeral, they may also have left details of what they wanted– and costs to cover this in their will. If they didn’t have a plan, but left a will – the funeral costs may be recovered from their estate.

If you are on benefits, you may be eligible to apply for the Funeral Expenses Payment, a means-tested state benefit that covers certain funeral costs.

Find out more information on the different types of funerals and funeral planning in our Funeral Guides