Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years, we have been asked a lot of questions about our work. We have gathered together the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions, which we hope you will find informative and helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask your funeral arranger, who will be pleased to explain anything that we have not covered here.

Caring for the deceased

Yes, unless the coroner is involved or there is a specific reason otherwise.

Yes, you can. We will help and assist in any way we are able.

Whatever they wore in life, they can wear in death. That includes their favourite clothes, football kits, undergarments, pyjamas, or anything else. However, in cases where there is to be a natural burial there are limitations.

The death of a baby or child can be among the most difficult things a person can face, but the process of cremation or burial is the same for a child as it is for an adult. In many cases, to help those who are already facing the unthinkable, we provide a simple service free of charge. However, many families choose to mark the funeral of a baby or child with additional items for which they are willing to pay, such as a horse hearse or a specialist coffin. Every family is different, and our primary concern is to serve those who are grieving as well as we possibly can. Our funeral arrangers and conductors are specially trained to support families during those times and are more than willing to spend as much time as is needed; listening, answering questions, and going the extra mile to help.

In the case of a cremation or burial, almost any personal items can be placed with the body. The only exception might be items which are toxic, indestructible, or damaging to the environment. At most green burial grounds, no plastic, or items which will not organically decompose, can be placed in, or be part of, the coffin.

Embalming is the scientific process to preserve, sanitise, and make a body presentable for viewing.

There are three compelling reasons to embalm a body.

  • Preservation – Embalming dramatically slows the natural breakdown and deterioration which takes place after death.
  • Sanitation – As a result of embalming, the body is rendered sanitary and safe, which helps ensure the safety of those who must, by necessity, handle and look after the body prior to the funeral.
  • Presentation – Often, when a person dies, the effects of disease, medication, and the way in which they died alters their appearance. Embalming helps to restore their appearance and preserve dignity. It is especially helpful when family members and friends wish to view their loved one a number of days after their death.

No, it is a choice. For some, for reasons of faith or conscience, it is simply something they will not consider. However, we strongly recommend embalming, especially in cases where there is a significant time between death and burial or cremation, if families and loved ones wish to view their loved one, or for a number of other reasons. Our knowledgeable staff will always be happy to talk about it with you.

The choice of whether to view a loved one is entirely at the discretion of the next of kin/client. If they insist, we will always allow them or those they give permission to, to see the body. However, at times when death has been particularly unkind to their appearance, we will very strongly recommend against viewing. But it remains a person’s individual choice.

Coffins are not reused. They are either burned, as a part of the cremation process, or buried. The only exception is in the case of some religions, such as Islam, where a body is buried in just a shroud. In these cases, a special coffin is used to transport the body to the place of burial, after which the body will be removed.

About the funeral

A funeral service is entirely optional, and some people choose to have what is called a “direct cremation”. In those cases, the coffin is taken directly to the crematorium where it is taken without a ceremony to be cremated. The cremated remains are then returned to the family or scattered with simple dignity at a designated site. Some sort of ceremony can still take place at another time, but not at the point of cremation. It would also be possible to have a “direct burial”.

Funerals can appear to be costly, and there are many additional options which can add to the price, but when one takes into account the man-hours and resources required to undertake a funeral, it’s not as expensive as it seems. We estimate that a standard funeral will take about 60 hours to organise and action, on top of which there is the cost of the coffin, embalming, storage, transport, cremation, a burial plot, and more. A basic funeral can cost as little as £2000, but there are a number of professional fees to take into account too (charged by other parties than the funeral director). Most people will then consider a more expensive coffin, limousines, orders of service, officiants, flowers, special music, and more. The cost of a funeral is variable, depending on what you want, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. If it is genuinely beyond the means of a family to pay for a funeral there are funds which can help, accessed through official channels, which our team are very happy to signpost.

A family can carry a coffin. In most cases it will be under the guidance of professional funeral operatives at the venue. They will talk the family members and friends through the process with simple clarity and help them do their best for their loved one.

There are burial sites in various locations where natural burials take place. These are burials where everything must be biodegradable, with no plastic, and where no environmentally damaging processes have been used in the preparation for burial. Often these sites cost more than an ordinary crematorium, but they can be very beautiful, peaceful places and it is increasingly important to people that they minimise their impact on the environment.

Yes, it is legally possible to be buried in one’s own garden, but there are a number of rules to follow and permissions necessary. For example; you must own the property in its entirety, the plot must be at a set distance from water sources and ditches, and the upper side of the coffin must be at least a certain depth below the surface from the upper side of the coffin. We would suggest that it is best investigated with the help of legal advice which will almost certainly incur additional cost.

After the funeral

The coffin is taken through to a room behind the chapel, where the cremators are kept. These are large, kiln-like machines where the coffin, together with its contents (including the body), is placed and, over a period of about 90 minutes, burned to ash. The cremators run at about 900ºC and reduce all organic matter to ash, which is then very carefully collected in an individual container to be returned to the funeral director, family, or scattered at the crematorium. The only things that survive the process of cremation are metal implants (e.g. hip or joint replacements), which are returned for recycling.

Cremated remains are very carefully kept separate after the cremation process, to be returned to the funeral director, family, designated person, or for scattering at the crematorium. Cremated remains are most certainly NOT mixed together.

It depends on the materials with which the coffin is made as to whether it is biodegradable. Traditionally, coffins in the UK are made of wood, which is biodegradable, but the coffin furniture (handles, name plates, and internals) might be made of plastic or composite materials which are not biodegradable. Increasingly, burial grounds require that coffins have no plastic in them or their furniture, and many green burial grounds demand that coffins are made entirely of natural materials.

Working as a funeral director

There are usually employment opportunities available with funeral directors, so it can be as easy to get into as any other profession. Some begin in a temporary or casual role, while others know it is what they want to do. It’s not work that suits everyone, and there are those who leave after a short time, but we would always suggest people give it a try if they feel it might be for them. We and our colleagues love our work very much and it’s both a privilege and tremendously rewarding to help people at some of the most challenging times of their lives.

Our vacancies can be found on our careers page.

At the moment, the answer is no. However, we believe that the public deserve an acceptable, minimum level of service from the funeral industry and so, together with many of our colleagues, competitors, the NAFD and other professional bodies, we are lobbying government to change the rules so that funeral directors are required to be qualified before they can go into business.

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) offer excellent training for those working in all areas of the funeral industry. Our Training and Development Centre in Grange Way, Colchester, is accredited, so all of our staff are expected to undergo training there. We are also involved in the training of other funeral directors who work for other companies.

As with every occupation and industry, a healthy work/life balance is vital to a happy life. During the recent Covid pandemic, with the resulting rise in demand for funeral and post-mortem services, it was often very difficult to find time to switch off and do things for relaxation and refreshment. But on the whole, we cope in the same way as everyone else, with hobbies, families, faith, and other things which bring us joy and help us relax. Many of us in the industry love our jobs and get a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure from doing what we do well. Death is a part of life and, in supporting the living, even at times of grief, we see a great deal of joy and thanksgiving. It also helps to have a good sense of humour!

General questions

We are very familiar with arranging and conducting non-religious funerals and are always respectful of our clients wishes. We can recommend a non-religious funeral celebrant, or you can conduct your own format of remembrance service if you prefer. You can choose music and readings to suit your and the deceased’s preferences, and you can celebrate and remember your friend or family member however you feel most comfortable. We are very happy to support you in formulating the perfect non-religious send off for your loved one.

We are well used to working with families, priests and ministers of many different religions and always welcome learning about new ones. We have a great deal of experience of Christian funerals of many different denominations, and are well versed in conducting Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Pagan funerals. We understand entirely if your faith or culture requires an all-male team. Of course, if you would prefer a female arranger or conductor, we are very happy to provide those. We are equally comfortable providing non-religious funerals. We promise that we will do all we can to ensure that your faith, beliefs, principles and cultural traditions are respected at all times.

We do have our own memorial garden, the Lexden Garden of Rest, which is situated in the grounds of St Leonard’s Church in Lexden, near Colchester in Essex. The Lexden Garden of Rest is a facility for the burial of cremated remains. Many of our clients whose relatives do not have a special or favourite place for their ashes to be interred or scattered, choose our garden of remembrance as a peaceful place that they can visit to reflect and remember in the years to come.