The Rise Of DIY Funerals

Posted: 03/01/2018

The rise of funeral costs is leading to people finding alternative methods to arranging funeral services. On average, basic funeral costs in the UK are just over a staggering £4,000, with the funeral sector itself now valued at an estimated £1.5bn. According to SunLife who carried out this research, has calculated that this is 70 percent more than just under a decade ago, with the costs of a service averaging then at about £2,400.

In order to pay for these funeral services SunLife estimated that of its customers :

  • 27% used savings
  • 25% borrowed from a friend or relative
  • 22% put the money onto a credit card
  • 13% took out a loan
  • 10% sold belongings in order to meet the costs

These basic costs of a burial or cremation, do not include any other extras such as hiring funeral directors or hiring doctors and ministers, funeral flowers,  wreaths, catering, wake and legal fees for sorting out someone’s estate who has passed away. In the same research conducted it was evaluated that this costs about £8,905, over double the basic costs, with prices increasing if there are problems over burial space that is available.

Over 60 percent of funeral directors who took part in the study blamed council cutbacks as one of the main factors for the growing costs of burials and cremations.

The unaffordability of funerals?


The rising costs of even having a basic funeral or cremations service has led some MPs to state there is a ‘funeral poverty’ crisis in the UK. Source: Funeral Flowers London


In light of the ever-increasing costs of funerals in the UK,  Labour backbencher Emma Lewell-Buck has highlighted what she calls ‘funeral poverty’ in the country, calling on ministers to address the issue and review the current costs for funeral services.

According to a study conducted by the University of Bath:

  • An estimated one in five families experience difficulties when it comes to affording a funeral service for a loved one, especially so if they have not taken out a funeral plan
  • In 2014, an estimated 100,000 people struggled to pay for a funeral, and is expected by 2037 over 500,000 people per year will end up in financial difficulty each year in order to pay for costs
  • It is estimated that deaths in England and Wales are set to increase by over 17% from now until 2037. Given the increasing rate of funeral costs, this means the total cost in the country by the end of this period could be well over £10.5bn
  • Those who feel they need to approach their local authority or hospital for a Public Health Funeral report feelings of complete despair at having to do so.

This is becoming increasingly common as more and more people spiral into debt. In a study conducted by The Money Charity, they estimated that people in the UK owe around £1.562 trillion by the end of October 2017, an increase on the previous year that equates to £1,106.13 per adult in the country. In addition, the average total debt per household in the UK (including mortgages) was estimated to be nearly £60,000.

One of the suggestions by Lewell-Buck is a reform of the funeral payment social fund system currently in place, in order to fully help those in low-income households hold a ‘simple’ funeral, as she lamented that some companies have now started to offer direct cremations that do not offer any sort of formal service with it, or feeling forced to have a public health funeral, which she says ‘used to be referred to as pauper’s funerals’.

The rise of alternative funerals

The huge costs involved with funerals is leading to a growing demand for alternative funerals, who are looking for less-expensive, bespoke, unusual or a more eco-friendly funeral.  More companies are cropping up in recent years offering people alternative funerals, such as in the form of biodegradable or natural coffins, moving away from the traditional burial services involving black limousines, wooden coffins and so forth. Some people are looking to move away from companies altogether when it comes to funerals, opting for having the service on their own property.


It is becoming more common for people to opt for less expensive, eco-friendly funeral services including choosing a cardboard coffin instead of a wooden one. Source: Perfect Endings

If this is something you or your loved one would like to consider, arranging a DIY funeral can be done fairly inexpensively. If you have family and friends willing to help with carrying the coffin and help also with catering and decorations, a funeral service could cost just under £1,000, which is obviously considerably less than it would be to arrange a service with a funeral director. Some of the ways in which you can organise a DIY funeral include:

  • It is possible to collect the body from the hospital mortuary if you let them know that you are the one who will be arranging the funeral. They will store the body until you collect it
  • Most cremations involve a doctors certification fee of £160, however, if the HM is involved (usually in cases where there has been an unexpected or sudden death) then there will be no fee to pay
  • DIY crematorium fees will be about £180 for crematoria compatible coffin,  plus fees for the service which will depend on the time of day
  • DIY burial plots can be fairly inexpensive if you live in a town or village, where rural parishes can provide burial sites cheaply at around £250
  • If you want to opt for a more eco-friendly funeral service, it may be worth looking at cardboard coffins. These can be ordered for upwards of £170
  • You can hire out digging services from between £200-400
  • If you would like you, or a loved one, to be buried at your family home, then you need to make sure that you adhere to the following: that the house is not one that is mortgaged – you must own the land. In addition, an amendment has to be written into the property deeds
  • It isn’t necessary to contact your local authority if you choose to hold the burial at home, but there are regulations regarding not contaminating groundwater, you can find out advice about how to prevent this by contacting the Natural Death Centre who can provide you with the information you need.