The cost of funerals
At the time this page is being written (March 2016) there has been a series of articles in the press about the excessive cost of funerals and the (relatively) inexpensive options that are available.
In the Sunday Times 6th March, Hunter Davies wrote about his wife's funeral (Margaret Forster, author of 25 novels, including Georgy Girl). Recalling that their marriage took place in 1960 in Oxford register office with two guests, no reception and a pub lunch for four, he takes the view that his wife would have preferred a similarly frugal funeral. Pressure from other family members resulted in some compromises but he aimed to keep it as simple as possible.
Noting that the average funeral now costs £3,700, he mentions that the coffins on offer ranged from £395 to £1,825 and that a horse-drawn hearse was priced at £1,800.
He chose a funeral package for £1,900; led the service himself with contributions from their children and grandchildren; designed and printed their own service programme; and catered their own wake back at home.
The death of Anita Brookner on 10th March led to a pair of almost identical articles in The Times on 18th March (Rosemary Bennett) and The i on 19th (Rosie Millard).
Brookner had requested that no funeral should be held and Bennett notes that the "no-frills" approach also applied to David Bowie in January 2016 and, interestingly, to John Lennon in 1980.
The writers concentrate on "direct cremations" costing around £1,000, where the body goes straight from the hospital or home to the crematorium. The ashes are either scattered by the undertakers or returned to the family who may choose to organise their own memorial some time later.
Both articles cite Charles Cowling's Good Funeral Guide, which is both a book and a web site. Cowling tells them that it is important to make your preferences clear to your family: this can be done through conversation or by a letter or in your will, though this will not be binding on those who eventually make the arrangements.
It is often said that funerals are for the survivors, not for the deceased and so if the family feels the need to hold a formal ceremony then it is free to do so. Nevertheless, "a good send-off" can be expensive and some undertakers might take advantage of the vulnerable by encouraging expensive options and extras, causing hardship though debt at a time when finances are often strained.