The Funeral Service
Does a funeral service have to be held?
Most families want to hold a funeral service, even though it’s not a legal requirement. This is because a service is the chance to celebrate the individual’s life, pay final respects and acknowledge their beliefs, religion or wishes. Funeral services are a great comfort to the bereaved too as it’s a chance to begin to come to terms with the loss of their loved one and share grief and good memories too.
A funeral service can be held even if the body is not physically present, such as in the cases where the body is being sent overseas for burial or cremation.
Legally, in the UK there is only the requirement for the death to be properly certified and registered, and for the body to be taken care of in an appropriate manner, such as cremation or burial.
What’s the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service?
In some cases, the two terms can be used interchangeably to mean the same thing, such as when the body isn’t present but a service is being held.
A memorial service can also refer to a ceremony which is held to commemorate and honour the deceased and can take place in hospitals, hospices, crematoria or places of worship.
On some occasions, a funeral service and a memorial service may be held separately. This usually happens when more than one death occurred together, the individual was a public or famous figure or when there is a lot of interest in attending the service which can’t be accommodated. A memorial service can be a public occasion while a funeral service may be kept private, with invitations only to family members and close friends.
How should the music for a funeral service be chosen?
If you want to include music during the service, you will have a range of options in most places:
live music - either instrumental or vocals
an organist - usually available at most places but will need advance notice for booking
a CD - but beware of home-burned CDS or downloads. Many venues will refuse to play either of these, or they may jump during the service
music sung by the congregation (accompanied by any of the above other options). Printed sheets with words are a good idea and familiar tunes that everyone knows will work the best.
Music is usually played as the coffin is being brought in, as a period of quiet reflection in the middle and then again at the end as everyone is leaving.
The music that you choose is entirely up to you but you may want to pick different types of music for each section. The period of quiet reflection in the middle usually suits either an instrumental piece, or something which is subdued and gentle so it doesn’t overwhelm the thoughts of the mourners.
As everyone is leaving, a more upbeat or rousing piece of music is a good choice. Some people even choose this moment to include a funny or comical piece of music that is particularly connected to the deceased, or something that they would have approved of to get the mourners smiling as they remember their loved one.
Does a minister of religion have to conduct the service?
If the deceased was religious, the choice of person to conduct the service may be fairly straight-forward. But for those who were agnostic, atheist or without strong religious views, it can be a more difficult decision.
But there is an option other than just skipping the service, and that’s to choose a Humanist.
A humanist ceremony doesn’t have any religious element, or any reference to a supreme being, but instead focuses on the life, loves and achievements of the deceased. Each service is tailored to fit the individual requirements and there’s an emphasis on their personality, what they did during their lifetime and the difference they made to friends and family. This type of ceremony can be used in combination with either a burial or a cremation, and is also compatible with green funerals too.