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8 tips to make funeral arrangements more personal

Funeral arrangements to create a unique send off

Today, more of us are making more personal funeral arrangements that give a nod to the person's hobbies, passions and character. Some of us are also taking a more active role in our funeral plans, recording our wishes to help loved ones arrange our send off just how we'd want it to be.

If you'd like to arrange a funeral for yourself or someone dear to you, that's a true reflection of the person's life and loves, here are some special tips and small touches to help you get started.

1. Location

Where the funeral, burial or scattering of ashes takes place can say a great deal about the person. Alternatives to a church or crematorium could be to hold a ceremony in a dramatic setting like a bluebell wood, a theatre or a country mansion, or even at sea. Thrill-seekers have been known to have their ashes scattered from planes, hot air balloons and hang gliders.

Pall bearers carry a wicker coffin through sunlit glade of bluebells

Source: greenacreswoodlandburials.co.uk

2. Transport

The black hearse and limousines are the traditional funeral choice, but there's nothing to stop you going for something completely different. Think pastimes and passions. For an avid biker, or even their long-suffering partner, there’s a motorbike sidecar hearse. For transport to an animal lover or keen race goer’s funeral, how about a horse drawn carriage? What about using their occupation for inspiration? A tractor for a farmer or a flat bed for a lorry driver.

Vintage train carriage for carrying coffins

3. Reception/wake

There are many places that can cater for family and friends after a funeral. Home can be great for those who want something intimate or have a limited budget for a funeral. If you want to reflect the person a little differently, think about a place that meant a lot to them. If they loved the local pub how about a buffet in the bar, or if they enjoyed a little luxury, high tea in a lavish hotel could be the perfect tonic. You could even brace the outdoors and congregate at a favourite spot for a picnic or barbecue after the funeral.

Solitary wooden bench overlooking rolling green hills

Source: sharphamtrust.org

4. Songs for funerals

Funeral songs are a very personal thing and a well chosen song played at a funeral can bring tears, smiles or even both. When choosing funeral music, think of personal moments like a first dance, a song from childhood or a much loved toe tapper. What about live music; especially if music was a passion. Search the internet to find anything from a string quartet to a hard rock band. Or ask a musical member of the family, young or old, to play at the funeral for a truly personal touch.

Smartly dressed little girl playing the piano

Source: pianoplay.co.uk

5. Keepsakes

The idea of placing keepsakes in the coffin is one of the oldest funeral traditions around, going all the way back to the tombs of Egypt. Knowing some cherished, personal items are with the person can be a tremendous comfort to those left behind. Popular keepsakes, include wedding rings, photos, books, sporting paraphernalia, military awards and letters, but it’s entirely your choice. If you have something in mind you’d like to accompany you at your own funeral, make sure you include this in your funeral wishes.

Box of WW1 medals

6. Clothes

What we wear, our style, can say a lot about us. which is why choosing what a person should be dressed in for their funeral, can be a very personal and touching tribute. a simple robe provided by the funeral director in a chosen colour, may well suit the occasion and the person best. if not, you’re free to choose personal clothing like a favourite outfit, wedding dress, uniform, motorbike leathers or an adored onesie or football shirt. again, if you know what you’d like to wear at your own funeral, make sure you note it down.

An England football shirt as worn at the 1966 World Cup

Source: wikipedia.org

7. Personal words

Readings or eulogies, are a very special way to involve family and close friends in the funeral. A reading can be anything that reflects the person or offers comfort to those left behind. Try finding a passage from a favourite book, a much-loved poem, the lyrics from a song or a letter written specially for the occasion. The eulogy is the tribute at the heart of the funeral and the perfect opportunity to share the most precious and fondest memories.

The words to WH Auden’s poem ‘Funeral Blues’ typed on paper

Source: brucemctague.com

8. Photographs

From the first day at school, to weddings, career successes and fashion fads, photos are a very personal way to pay tribute to a person at a funeral and bring a smile to those left behind. You could collect a range of photos and create a memory table, or even a slide show to be presented at the funeral service or wake.

Selection of personal photographs and possessions set out on a memory table

Source: funeralmagazine.co.uk

We hope these ideas give you some inspiration for planning a funeral, to reflect the unique qualities of the person the funeral will be for. Just a few deviations from the traditional funeral can be enough to make it more personal and meaningful.

If you have your own thoughts on what you’d like for your funeral, why not use our My Perfect Send-Off planner to document your choices and save them for others to refer to when the time comes? It really helps to let others know your funeral plans, even if it’s only to say ‘I don’t mind, please do what you want’.

If you’re thinking about how to get help with funeral costs, the results of our latest survey into the average cost of a funeral today today in your area and across the UK contains lots of useful information.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife? 

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Phoenix Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 110418). As part of SunLife’s commitment to quality service and security, telephone calls may be recorded.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd. Golden Charter Ltd are not required to be authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority in relation to funeral plans but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

If you choose to pay for your funeral in one go, with a single payment, you will have a contract with Golden Charter. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

If you choose to pay for your funeral with a life insurance policy, the policy will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.