Traditional funerals have a rhythm and shape that we recognise and at a time of upset, that can be comforting. Traditions emerge because they work. (Well, for a time anyway. At the moment, it feels like traditional funerals are shifting.)
A traditional funeral service structure
1. entry: music for arrival
2. celebrant: life story highlights
3. speaker 1: share memories or short reading
4. celebrant: early years
5. speaker 2/song: share memories, short reading or music/song
6. celebrant: later years
7. speaker 3: share memories or short reading
8. reflection: all invited to reflect on memories over music
9. committal: music while curtains close on coffin
10. exit: celebrant closes ceremony and invites departure over music.
Organising a funeral like the one above, a 10-part ceremony over 30 minutes, means an average of 3 minutes for each stage. You can clip of a long piece of music, or drop a stage to create more space and time for any section. An advantage of a ceremony of many parts like this is that it allows for a range of ideas from friends and family and there can be different tones and colour in the ceremony created by the music and readings. A humanist or celebrant will help design the ceremony.
See more on this topic in organising a funeral.
Getting professional help
Most people turn to the professionals when organising a funeral. See who does what at a funeral to understand how funeral directors and celebrants can help. See our Marketplace to find someone near you to help with arrangements. There are very few rules and regulations so feel free to design something unique.
Get our funeral planning checklist to think through the questions a funeral director will ask before you go.
See these helpful funeral planning guides.
Changing attitudes to funerals
See how attitudes are changing. One woman in California planned a ‘housewarming’ with friends for her burial plot.
Talking about organising a funeral
If you need help broaching the subject of end of life planning, see our films on how to talk about death.
See this interesting article from poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch on whether or not a body should be on view at a funeral.