8 Alternatives to Burial to Provide Simple Funerals for All

8 Alternatives to Burial to Provide Simple Funerals for All

Simple funerals aren’t just limited to burials and cremation; there are many more ways you can be deposited back into our earth you never even knew existed…

Thinking about dying and leaving behind your loved ones isn’t a nice thought but unfortunately, it is a fact of life. Organising all of this is something that a lot of people put off, but there is lots to think about that you may have never considered. Not only do you have to start writing a will, you must also make arrangements for pets and loved ones, as well as plan your funeral and designate sufficient funds for it.

When you think about funerals, you might think about a church or other religious setting, a minister, a hearse and a burial. However, over the past few years, people have sought out more simple funerals or alternatives to the traditional funeral that are personal and unique to the person who has died.

To discover some of the best ways you can head back to the earth after you pass away, you came to the right place. Perhaps this will inspire you to think outside of the box, so to speak…

A group of people in a garden

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All About Traditional Funerals

Depending on the type of funeral you would like, the price can vary greatly, for example coffins can vary in price from £100 to £10,000. There are also optional extras to consider, which include headstones or plaques, catering, venue hire, flowers, order of service sheets and any death or funeral notices. These costs can all add up.

In the UK, a funeral using a funeral director costs on average £4,321, and the average cremation costs £3,250. Although these prices will vary depending on where you live, the fact is, funerals can be costly, particularly when using a funeral director.

A funeral director can help you to arrange and carry out the funeral. However, their fees are the most expensive part of a funeral in many cases. A funeral director will provide the following services:

  • Collection and care of the deceased
  • Providing a basic coffin
  • Holding a viewing, which consists of two to three days where the family of the deceased can visit them at the funeral home
  • Arranging a simple service
  • Burial or cremation, which will dictate whether a hearse and limousine is provided to follow in procession
  • The cost of burial or cremation, as well as a cremation certificate from a doctor, will also be charged
  • Minister fees will also be included

A wake usually follows the service in traditional funerals, which is generally arranged by the family of the deceased and held at a separate location. Ultimately, these costs are sure to rack up, and with land space for burials becoming scarce, many people are looking for varied options.

8 Alternative Options to Traditional Funerals        

Whether you’re looking for a more cost-effective funeral, a simple funeral, or even an eco-friendly funeral, we’ve found some alternatives to the traditional burial service:

1.    Direct Cremation

Direct cremation is a service offered by some companies where a body is cremated without a ceremony. The family can then request the ashes to be delivered for a fee or collected.

This gives you the freedom to plan your own simple ceremony and cut down on costs associated with a traditional funeral. It also allows you to plan a funeral that is the most unique and personal to you.

2.    Humanist Funeral

A humanist funeral simply refers to a service that celebrates a person’s life and does not mention or include religion. They are usually led by a ‘celebrant’ instead of a minister. You can hold a humanist funeral almost anywhere you would like such as a cemetery, a natural burial site or even at a village hall.

Humanist ceremonies can be as simple or elaborate as you wish, with the average humanist celebrant charging between £150 and £280 for a service. You then may wish to think about other costs such as venue hire and catering, depending on what you want.

3.    Woodland Burials

A woodland burial, also known as a green burial, is an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional funeral. Many sites across the UK are now offering woodland burials, but what is involved in this process?

The process generally doesn’t include embalming of the body, as the chemicals can be damaging to the soil. Usually, a biodegradable coffin is used, made out of carboard, willow or paper. The grave is not marked with a traditional headstone, but natural memorials are used, such as plants or trees.

Much like a humanist ceremony, a woodland burial does not follow the traditional protocol. You may wish to have no ceremony at all or invite people to take a memorial walk through the woodland. Depending on what you choose, a woodland burial can cost from as little as a few hundred pounds to thousands.

4.    Tree Pod Burials

Another eco-friendly alternative to the traditional burial is a tree pod burial. There are companies, such as Capsula Mundi, who will either place the body in an organic, bio-degradable burial pod that is planted into the earth, followed by a tree sapling. The tree will then grow as the pod bio-degrades.

Smaller pods can be made to fill with ashes. The idea is that these pods can go on to create a lasting legacy in the form of memorial woodlands and parks.

The pods cost a few hundred pounds, and you generally have to buy the tree sapling separately. You will also need permission to do this from whoever owns the land, but there are dedicated woodland burial sites that you can do this in. There will usually be a fee for the plot, and perhaps an ongoing maintenance fee for the upkeep of the grounds.

Much like a woodland burial you can choose a ceremony to suit you, or no ceremony at all.

5.    Burial at Sea

Currently, only around a dozen funerals in the UK a year are burials at sea. However, it’s thought that that number may be on the rise as people look for more unique ways to say goodbye to their loved ones.

As you can imagine there are regulations surrounding burials at sea, so it can be helpful to find a funeral director who specialises in this – although this can bump up the price. What’s more, there are only five places in the UK which have been approved for burial at sea, making this an unusal option. Ultimately, your family or loved ones will need:

  • A licence, which costs £50 if you’re to be buried at one of the five locations, and £175 if it is in a different location
  • Death certificate
  • A Certificate of Freedom from Fever and Infection, obtained from your GP
  • A Notice to a Coroner of Intention to remove a body out of England, which must be obtained from the coroner in exchange for a Certificate of Disposal from the registrar
  • The correct coffin requirements, e.g. it must be made of solid softwood, not contain any plastic, lead, copper or zinc etc. (Details can be found on the government website)

As well as the coffin having set requirements, it is required that the body not be embalmed, is lightly dressed in biodegradable clothing and has a non-biodegradable ID tag with contact details.

The average cost of a burial at sea is around £2,200 without funeral director’s fees. The cost will vary depending on where at sea you are buried, whether you choose to enlist the help of funeral director, transportation costs and the number of people attending. You are not required to obtain a licence to scatter ashes at sea, so this may be a simpler and more cost-effective solution.

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6.    Eternal Reef

Another eco-friendly burial option is an Eternal Reef. An Eternal Reef is like a burial at sea, only your ashes are combined with an environmentally safe cement mixture to create artificial reef formations. The idea is that these formations create new marine habitats for fish and other forms of sea life.

At the moment this is only an option off the coasts of America. The smallest reef available costs around $4,000, and the largest costs around $7,500. The company will create your reef with any personalisation requested, and will be finished with a dedicated plaque.

The family of the deceased is then invited to view the reef, take photos and rubbings of the plaque, and leave messages. The company encourages families to be involved as much or as little as they want, which keeps it as simple as possible.

7.    Home Burial

Burying a loved one at home in the garden, can be a much more personal experience than a traditional funeral. It is also the most simple and cost-effective. There are no legal restrictions to being buried at home, and costs can be kept down as you will not require transportation, catering, venue hire, a minister etc.

Although there are no real restrictions to being buried at home, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, digging the grave is hard to do manually, so hiring a small digger may be easier. Also, if you were to sell the property later, this may affect the selling price, and you may not get access to the grave site. What’s more, there are some requirements that must be met to be buried at home:

  • You must have the consent of the landowner, and planning permission for a gravestone or memorial;
  • You must check that there are no restrictive covenants attached to the deeds of the property that would prohibit burials;
  • You should ensure the Environment Agency is happy that the burial will not take place within certain distances to specific types of water;
  • There must be a minimum depth between the top of the coffin and the top of the settled soil;
  • You must obtain a Certificate of Authority for Burial from the registrar.

8.    Donate Your Body to Science

People who donate their body to science can help teach medical students about how the human body works through examination. It may even be used in medical research for certain diseases. The donation of bodies is highly valuable to medical staff and can leave a lasting legacy for the deceased.

Although some bodies may be exempt from donation, the Human Tissue Authority can talk to you about the process in more detail. Generally, once a body has been accepted and fulfilled its use, the medical schools will arrange and pay for a simple funeral, or it can be arranged by relatives. The medical school will let loved ones know when the body is available for a funeral.

Plan the Funeral You Want

As you can see, there are many different options to consider when thinking about your funeral. Many of these ideas are more simple, cost-effective and even eco-friendly.

With forward planning, you can have the funeral you want, that is personal and unique to you. You can even be sure to create a lasting legacy, without putting you and your family in debt.

Have any of your family members had a less traditional funeral? Or, maybe your will specifies a unique way in which you wish to be put to rest? Whatever it may be, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments down below.

Kate Dyson

Kate is the Founder of The Motherload, the 'owner' of one husband, two daughters, two cats and one rabbit. She loves wine, loathes exercise and fervently believes in the power of women supporting women. Find me on instagram: @themotherloadhq

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