Most bereaved families choose to use a funeral director to make the practical arrangements on their behalf.

On this page we give you information about:

1. What does a funeral director do?
2. Choosing a funeral director
3. Arranging a funeral without a funeral director

What does a funeral director do?

A good funeral director ensures the whole process runs smoothly, helps a family think through the implications of their choices and is a source of expertise, which can be very comforting at such a difficult time. The key services a funeral director provides are to:

  • remove the body and look after it up to and on the day of the funeral
  • dress the body
  • help plan the ceremony
  • supply coffin bearers
  • deal with the documentation to legally allow the cremation or burial to go ahead
  • make sure everything happens at the right time, in the right place and with the right people present.

Many funeral directors also have funeral arrangers who meet everyone who comes into the premises, explain the choices available to families and deal with the behind-the-scenes paperwork and telephone calls.

Choosing a funeral director

Choose a member of either the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) because they have codes of practice for their members to conform to. In the unlikely event of wishing to make a complaint, the associations will also support you.

Some local authority trading standards have Buy with Confidence schemes, which funeral directors can join, showing their commitment to high standards.

A lot of people find funeral director recommendations from family, friends or local faith leaders to be very helpful. If your relative or friend was in a care home, they may well have a list of funeral directors that they've had good experiences of in the past.

However you arrive at the decision, you need to make a choice you are comfortable with. It is worth contacting at least two companies, and, given the circumstances, it is often easier to do this by phone.

Questions to ask a funeral director

  • What’s the simplest service you offer?
  • What other services do you offer?
  • What are the prices?
  • Can we select from your choice of services and just pay for those?
  • Can we buy a coffin from another source?
  • Can we provide our own transport?
  • Do we have to pay a deposit?
  • When do we pay the bill?

You may have something particular in mind that the funeral director has not done before. They should be willing to discuss what you want and how they can make it happen for you.

See Funeral costs for a breakdown of a funeral director’s fees.

Arranging a funeral without a funeral director

You can organise a funeral yourself without paying a funeral director. See other pages in this guide and the Cemeteries and Crematorium department of your local council can help you arrange a cremation or burial.

The Natural Death Centre also gives advice on all aspects of a funeral, including choosing a funeral director, the practicalities of making your own arrangements and green burials.

More information

  • Coping with bereavement: we explore what grieving is, how to cope with it and get support if necessary.
  • Planning a cremation: find out what happens at a cremation together with scattering of the ashes after the ceremony.
  • Planning a burial: read about making choices between churchyard, cemetery, green burial grounds and burial on private land.

Page first published: 31 December 2015
Next review due: 31 May 2017