When people think about funerals, it's probably the traditional burial that comes to mind first. While burial of the dead has been one of society's rites for thousands of years, the range of burial options has probably never been greater. Modern funeral burial services range from the simplest secular event to the most elaborate of religious celebrations.

Planning a burial

Planning a burial might have been done by the deceased before they died; it's increasingly common for people to plan their burial in advance and leave specific instructions to be followed as closely as possible by their loved ones.

Often, however, the family will have to make all the arrangements in the emotionally challenging period after the loss of their loved one. As with so many aspects of funeral planning, the key to doing this successfully lies in arranging a service that truly reflects the life and personality of the deceased. If this can be achieved, their life and memory will be properly honoured and celebrated.

Planning a burial service will depend on many factors including the following:

Some people have very strong religious beliefs or views about what they want to happen after their death. This requires friends and family to show great sensitivity and respect for their loved one's wishes at what is an emotionally charged time. That's why it's so helpful if clear instructions have been left for friends and family in one of the following ways:

Over the last decade, burial costs have risen consistently faster than the rate of inflation. Based on recent surveys, the typical cost of burial in the UK now tops £3,000. Even the cost of burial plots alone varies considerably depending on location. Prices ranging from a few hundred pounds (rural Wales) to several thousand pounds (Greater London) are widely reported.

Documentation required for burial

The following documentation currently applies to the UK burial process:

Always seek professional advice and confirmation of the exact documentation requirements. And remember that, if the death occurs outside England or Wales, or on a foreign ship or aircraft, different forms will be needed.

A typical religious burial service

A funeral service is distinguished from a memorial service by the presence of a body. Sometimes, there will be just one service; in other cases, a funeral and burial might be followed by a separate memorial service.

Where there's no burial (perhaps the deceased has donated their body to medical research), there might only be a memorial service.

A typical order of service for a traditional burial is as follows:

While the basic format may be determined by religious protocol, there's still enormous scope to personalise the burial service. Here are a few suggestions:

Alternative burial ceremonies

Burial practices are evolving all the time. The traditional burial ceremony involves a coffin and the consecrated ground of a cemetery. Increasingly, however, the family and friends of deceased people are looking for alternative burials. Many people perceive these as being more positive celebrations of a life than the traditional 'conveyor belt' funeral with its ubiquitous pine box. Other possibilities include the following:

At the most exotic (and expensive) end of there are even space burial and mummification services and at least one US-based organisation offers an Eternal Reef burial where the deceased's remains are formed into a tranquil seabed habitat...

For more details about natural burials in the UK, contact the Association of Natural Burial Grounds at the following address or visit their website at [http://www.anbg.co.uk/]?

The Association of Natural Burial Grounds

12a Blackstock Mews

Blackstock Road


N4 2BT

Tel: 0871 288 2098

Pros and cons of burial

While burial is chosen by about 70 per cent of Britons, recent reports suggest a swing back towards burial of a body (also known as inhumation or interment). The burial versus cremation debate can arouse strong views; here are some of the pros and cons associated with burial:



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