What happens on the day of the funeral?

We often get asked “what actually happens on the day of the funeral?” and we appreciate that it can be quite a daunting prospect for some people who have never attended a funeral, especially when it is someone close to them.

From our perspective, there is a huge amount of preparation and planning that goes on behind the scenes, and as in all event planning, it takes a lot of teamwork to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day.

What actually happens

The funeral director’s role

On the morning of the funeral, your funeral director will hold a briefing session with the rest of the team who will be supporting him or her on the day. This will typically be the hearse and limousine drivers; the team of coffin bearers; the team who will be going ahead to the church, crematorium or burial ground to deliver orders of service, place trestles, or list names, or set up and play recorded music. In the case of a burial, they will place a grave marker and soil for strewing.

Your funeral director will then go through exactly what is going to happen including the route and timings for the journey and any other logistical information; often regarding the layout of the church or churchyard, how the coffin will be carried, and any other issues to be aware of, such as uneven ground, steps, or restricted access.

Preparing for departure

Before placing the coffin into the hearse, a final and thorough check is carried out. This is done with at least three staff present, and involves checking the name of the deceased, and the name on the coffin nameplate. Most importantly, we have a checklist which notes all clothing and personal possessions which are to remain in the coffin. This document is signed off by the funeral director, the person who will close the coffin, and the hearse driver. Then the coffin is sealed, the flowers are placed on the coffin and any other tributes are arranged in the hearse.

Your loved one’s final journey

Your funeral director will ‘page’ the hearse away from our premises – in other words they walk in front of the cortege, not only as a sign of respect, but also to keep the vehicles together in traffic. The same happens when they arrive at a home address, and again at the church or crematorium. This slows down the procession, and enables family to compose themselves before they arrive at the venue for the service.

When the cortege arrives at the funeral venue, your funeral director will have a brief chat with the family, just to reassure them. He or she will also greet the minister or celebrant, check all is in order and ready to receive the funeral party, and indicate to the organist or crematorium attendant when to start playing the entry music. Then he or she will instruct the bearers to lift the coffin out of the hearse on to their shoulders to be carried into the church or crematorium.

The funeral ceremony

Sometimes family will choose to walk behind the coffin into the church or crematorium, or they might prefer to be seated first. It is a matter of personal preference and either is fine. The coffin will then be placed on the catafalque (the raised platform in a crematorium), or on trestles if in a church.

Your funeral director will show you to your seats, and ensure you are comfortable before discreetly withdrawing during the ceremony. He or she will still be on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly, and at the end of the ceremony will lead you out to see the floral tributes and to meet with family and friends.

When you are ready to leave, your funeral director will lead you to the limousine and accompany you back to your venue of choice, before taking their leave and returning to base.