The day of the funeral

The funeral director’s role

Most of the funeral director’s work is done in the lead up to the funeral, rather than on the day of the funeral itself, however there are still a number of tasks to be performed.

Having confirmed all arrangements are in place, on the day of the funeral the funeral director and their staff will transport the deceased from the funeral home or mortuary to a location of the family’s choosing and then to the place of ther funeral itself.

As ‘Master of Ceremonies’, the funeral director’s aim is to ensure smooth progress of the funeral cortege with all cars remaining together for the journey.

The funeral director will ensure all flowers to accompany the coffin are in place and travel with the coffin.

All funeral directors should have systems in place to ensure the correct body is going to the correct funeral.

Once at the location of the funeral, the funeral director will escort the mourners into the venue in time for the service and attend to any needs of the main mourners.

Crucially, the funeral director will also ensure mourners leave the venue on time after the service, particularly if there is a risk of an overrunning fee, as is the case at many local authority crematoria. They will also attend to any further needs after the service.

Tip: Be aware, particularly with larger firms, that the person arranging the funeral might not be the one conducting on the day of the funeral.

Carrying the coffin

The funeral director is able to provide staff, known as pallbearers, to carry the coffin from the hearse to the place of committal. Family members are able to perform or assist with this aspect of the funeral if they so wish.

All funeral directors will have carried out a risk assessment of the route into the venue and to the graveside, where burial is the chosen method of disposal.

Tip: Most funeral directors will provide pallbearers for the funeral but will also support families and friends to perform this role too if desired.

The wake or reception

The gathering after the funeral is commonly known as ‘the wake’. It is also referred to as ‘the reception’.

There is no requirement to have a wake but it is a long-standing tradition and mourners may want to meet up after the ritual of the funeral service to remember the deceased in a more informal setting.

Families can save money by hosting this at home, however, pubs and social clubs are popular venues. A funeral director will be able to advise on venues and some even have dedicated spaces within the funeral home for this aspect of the funeral.

Tip: The wake can take place at any venue with the owner’s permission but bear in mind that an unlicensed premises will be unable to sell alcohol.

What happens to the ashes

Contrary to popular belief, a deceased person does not go straight into the cremator when they pass through the curtains at a crematorium.

Depending on how busy the crematorium is, the actual cremation may not take place until several hours after the service and in some cases even longer.

Once the cremation has taken place, the ashes will be scraped into a cinderation urn and allowed to cool. Any medical implants such as joint replacements are separated and usually given to a recycling charity.

The ashes are then put into a machine called a cremulator, which crushes any larger remains. After this, the ashes are placed into an urn for collection. The family may stipulate that they will collect the ashes or that they are to be collected by the funeral director. The family can request that they be scattered in the grounds of the crematorium by its staff.

If the funeral director will be collecting the ashes they will liaise with the family over what is to happen next. This could be an interment with a spouse or partner, or simply collection for a decision to be made at a later date.

It is recommended that families make a decision as what will happen with cremated remains rather leaving them in storage at a funeral home.

In Scotland, cremation regulations require funeral directors to return ashes to the crematorium if no instructions have been received from the client after a period of eight weeks. The crematorium will then contact the client and advise that the ashes will be scattered if no instructions are given within four weeks.

Tip: When scattering ashes on privately-owned land, first seek the owner’s permission.