Alternative Funerals

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Alternative Funerals

Ceremonies with more creativity and individuality

These days many people don’t worry so much about how things have traditionally been done.  They want to be more creative as they put together their loved one’s funeral.  We are keen to assist, suggest and enable ideas which encourage the individuality of a funeral.

Whether you are looking for a humanist funeral (non-religious funeral), a natural burial, green funeral or a celebration of life, we strive to accommodate any and all requests.

But we don’t like binary choices: there doesn’t have to be a black and white choice between traditional and alternative ceremonies.  Each funeral we provide is unique and can have elements of both the traditional and the alternative.

We work with you to create a ceremony that is right for your loved one.

Our complete alternative funerals are priced from £2,988 including disbursements. Please see our price list for all our itemised fees. If you want something not shown in our standard price list, just ask us - we will find a price for you.

See below for some suggestions for alternative funerals and see the links below for information on HUMANIST FUNERALS, GREEN FUNERALS, NATURAL BURIALS and BURIALS AT SEA.

green funeral coffins

What is an ‘alternative funeral’? Here are some ‘alternative’ ideas:

Coffin: rather than a solid oak or wood veneer coffin you could choose a woven coffin, made of willow, bamboo or pandanus. Or a cardboard coffin which can be plain or decorated by members of the family. Professionally printed coffins are now widely available which can depict countless themes and styles.

Transporting the coffin: You can eschew a motor hearse in favour of a Victorian glass sided, horse drawn hearse or one of the many alternatives now available: a VW Campervan hearse; a motorcycle hearse or hearses based on a landrover or even a tank. We once conducted a funeral where the deceased had left a request that his coffin be taken to the crematorium in his 2CV.

Carrying the coffin: rather than have our pallbearers carry the coffin, why not arrange for family members to carry?

Funeral ceremony: Traditionally most funerals in England up until fairly recently would have been conducted by a member of the clergy from the Church of England. These days most people don’t go to church and so don’t turn to the church for funerals, so humanist funerals offer an alternative. There are many non-religious and humanist celebrants who can officiate at the ceremony. Alternatively, it is not unusual for members of the family to conduct the service themselves.

Music: a favourite tune can be more evocative and moving than any words. Many crematoria and cemetery chapels now use the Wesley Music System which means hundreds of thousands of music recordings are available. Or why not have live music? Professional musicians can be hired: organists, choirs, soloists, ensembles, cellists, guitarists, jazz bands, pipers – anything is possible.

The order in which things happen: Most funerals these days take place at one venue, e.g the crematorium or cemetery chapel. But traditionally the funeral ceremony would often take place in a church and then there would be a brief committal ceremony at the graveside or at the crematorium. These days, if the main service and the committal are at different locations, it is not unusual for the committal ceremony to take place first (perhaps attended by just the immediate family) and then for a Memorial Service or Service of Thanksgiving to be held afterwards. This can be on the same day or at a later date. It can be held in any suitable venue or even outdoors.

Sometimes the main ceremony takes place with the coffin present and then, at the end of the service, the mourners retire to the reception while we take the coffin on to an unattended committal. The advantage of this is that there is no awkward delay while the mourners stand at the reception waiting for the immediate family to return from the crematorium.


Green Funerals & Natural Burials

The effect of modern living on our environment is an unavoidable reality and many people are looking for ways to reduce their personal footprint. Towners are founder members of the Association of Green Funeral Directors, and we share the concerns of the many people who are trying to make a difference.

We would be delighted to help anyone who is planning an environmentally-friendly funeral and we are also happy to incorporate a range of green or eco-friendly elements into our clients’ funerals.

We can help to achieve an environmentally friendly funeral in a number of ways, including offering a simple, plain cardboard coffin starting at £187. Our other environmentally-conscious coffin materials are Bamboo, Willow and Pandan. For those who prefer more a traditional coffin for cremation, we offer sustainable options such as the ‘Sussex’ coffin as an alternative to solid wood.

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Environmentally friendly funerals

Environmentally friendly funerals

humanist ceremony

Humanist or non-religious funerals

Humanist Ceremony

Some of us prefer to celebrate the life of our loved ones in a non-religious ceremony or without the formality traditionally associated with a funeral, instead preferring to focus on the life that the person has led.

Towners understand that everyone is different and we believe that our differences should be celebrated. We therefore offer a range of options for those who are seeking humanist and non-religious ceremonies.

These ceremonies can be as varied and unique as the person whose life is being celebrated. We can provide you with the support you need to arrange a funeral that meets the wishes of the deceased and their family.  To help you find out more about our humanist funeral services, we have answered some common questions below. Please contact us for more information or to discuss whether this is the best way to say goodbye to your loved one.

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Burials at Sea

If you or your loved one have chosen to be buried at sea, you may already be aware that the legal requirements can be very complicated. Fortunately, Towners have the necessary expertise and experience required to help you with this.

Our clear understanding of the legislation surrounding maritime burials allow us to provide a complete service in committing someone to the deep. We can take care of all the details, assuring that you or your loved one can have the burial that is right for you. Speak to our team today to find our whether burial at sea is the right choice for you or your loved one.

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Sea burials

Sea burials

Whether traditional or alternative, each funeral is unique but there are several elements we are usually asked to provide. Find out more below.

If you would prefer to discuss your requirements then please get in touch by calling 01424 436 386 or email us at We’ll be here to help you.

Removal of the Body

Our highly experienced team is available 24 hours of every day to attend wherever and whenever a death occurs. Upon receipt of a call our removal ambulance is despatched and can normally attend within 30 minutes. We are able to help with any initial questions you may have at this distressing time and will then convey the deceased with dignity to our Chapel of Rest. Before the removal can take place we must ascertain that the person's doctor - or the doctor on call - has given permission for the body to be moved.

If the death has been reported to the Coroner, the deceased must be taken to the public mortuary at the Conquest Hospital, St. Leonards. This must be carried out by the funeral directors who are contracted for this purpose by the Coroner - we are not allowed to attend. However, you are still completely free to choose our Company for the funeral arrangements themselves.

Our Physical Care of the Body

Once the body of a deceased person has been received into our Chapel of Rest it is usual to carry out a certain amount of preparation and dressing to restore their dignity. Either at the time of the removal or at the arrangements interview the family would be asked if the person should be dressed in any particular clothing, for instance a favourite dress or suit. Alternatively we can provide a funeral gown.

If you wished to carry out the washing and dressing of your loved one yourself this is always possible.  We would be happy to provide any help you may need.  It is also always an option to keep your loved one at home until the funeral.

If a family wants to come to visit the person who has died we can discuss with them at the arrangements interview whether embalming or any other restorative procedures should be carried out.  It is often not necessary to carry out embalming but it does make sense in some circumstances.  We promise we will only carry out embalming if it is desirable or legally required (i.e for international transportation) and if you have agreed to it.  The problem with the word embalming is that it conjures up images of ancient Egyptians and mysterious practices. Modern embalming has no connection with any of this; it is a scientific process in many ways similar to a blood transfusion. Its purposes are to arrest any physical change between death and the funeral, to create a sanitary condition, and to restore a normal appearance.  In this way a family can visit the Chapel of Rest with confidence, knowing that the last visual memory they keep of their loved one will be of help to them in coming to terms with their bereavement. This part of the funeral director’s work is not something that everyone finds easy to talk about or even contemplate but we can explain things with sensitivity in as much or as little detail as you need so that you can make an informed choice.

For members of the local Islamic community we have a room where Ghusl Mayyit (ritual washing of the deceased) can be carried out by family and friends.

Visiting the Chapel of Rest

In trying to come to terms with a death many people attach great importance to visiting the funeral director's Chapel of Rest to 'view the body'. Other people may not wish to do this. As in all other aspects of the funeral arrangements we would stress it is your choice whether or not to visit the Chapel of Rest. We will be pleased, however, to discuss this subject with you so that you have the necessary information to come to the right decision.

Our Chapels of Rest are provided so that you may visit your loved one at any time, day or night. Our services in this regard, including modern refrigerated mortuary facilities at every branch, are designed to enable the deceased to rest in dignity so that the last picture you keep in your memory is positive and helpful.

On visiting the Chapel of Rest the family will be invited to a private room where their loved one is laid.  Unless specifically requested by the family we do not arrange for the deceased person to be placed in the coffin at this time - instead we have found a more helpful memory is provided by being able to see them on a bed with a pillow under their head and a coverlet over them from the waist down.

Our clients are welcome to visit our Chapel of Rest at any time, including evenings and weekends; all we need is a telephone call to arrange a suitable appointment. There is no charge for any visit within office hours. We charge a fee of £40 per visit outside office hours.

We believe it is important that, throughout their time in our care, you know where your loved one is.  Unlike some of our competitors we do not use a central ‘hub’ as a storage facility, with bodies being moved backwards and forwards between the hub and branch office to suit the company.  With us, your loved one will remain at the branch of your choice.  If there is ever a requirement for a person to be temporarily held at another branch (for instance, for certification of death by the local doctor) we will always keep you informed.

The Arrangements Interview

This is the meeting between you and one of our funeral directors to discuss the funeral arrangements. This will usually be at our funeral office or in your own home.  The meeting usually lasts about one hour.

We would liaise with various parties to arrive at a firm funeral date, for instance the Crematorium or Cemetery, the minister, organist, Churchwardens, and (for burial) the gravedigger.

In conversation with you we will talk about the type of funeral service that is right for your loved one, including music, special readings and - most importantly - who is to be asked to officiate at the ceremony.

There will be discussion of your requirements for transport on the day, and all matters relating to floral tributes and/or charitable donations.

We will provide you with help and advice regarding the registration of the death, including your legal responsibilities in this regard.

We are happy to advise on wording for newspaper announcements and will be able to place the announcement in the newspaper of your choice.

Your wishes regarding visiting the Chapel of Rest will be discussed, as will the type of coffin to be provided.

If the funeral is to be a cremation, we will discuss with you the options for dispersal of cremation ashes.

The Crematorium or Cemetery will require your signature on various forms and we will assist to make this task as quick and as simple as possible.

The interview would include our detailed advice on the cost of the funeral with the production of an itemised estimate and a confirmation of the arrangements in writing.

We conclude with a review of the choices you have made, a reminder of any information/decisions still needed and an outline of what will happen on the day.

Sometimes it becomes apparent that an additional meeting is needed, which we are happy to arrange at your convenience.


We are often asked to produce printed orders of service for funerals and memorial services.  They provide a running order for the congregation to follow and usually include the wording of any hymns. They also make a lovely memento of the occasion for those who attend and can be sent as a gift to anyone unable to be there on the day.

We are very experienced in the design of these leaflets and, in conjunction with our friends at Fastprint & Design in Gensing Road, St Leonards, can provide a very high quality product.  We can incorporate photos and images and can scan and digitally enhance or alter any image as required.

Prices depend on the number of booklets to be printed, the number of pages in the booklet and whether they are to be in mono or colour. We can provide a quote on request.

We can also supply other printed material like intimation cards (which you send out to advise people of a death and of the funeral arrangements) and prayer cards.


Under this heading would come collection and delivery of certificates from and to doctors, hospitals, the coroner's office  or the Register Office, completion and checking of forms and certificates and their delivery to the Crematorium or Cemetery Authorities.

The information compiled from the arrangements interview needs to be disseminated to our staff so that various tasks  are carried out efficiently: collection of the deceased, preparation of the coffin, preparation of the deceased, and the logistics of managing our staff and fleet of funeral vehicles throughout the week.

Letters or emails confirming the funeral arrangements will be sent to the officiating clergy or funeral officiant.

If you have asked us to handle newspaper announcements for you they will be composed to your requirements, checked for accuracy, sent to the relevant papers and checked for their accurate reception.  The cost of the newspaper announcement is added to the funeral account.  The amount the newspaper bills us is the amount you pay; we do not add anything on.

Similarly, if you have asked us to order flowers for you, the cost can be added to the funeral account and the amount the florist charges us is the amount you pay; we do not add anything on.  We normally order flowers from La Collina Gardens with whom we have worked for many years.

If wished, we will create a tribute page on our website in memory of the deceased person, which enables family and friends to donate to the selected charity or charities securely online through  The family can also take editorial control of their tribute page to add messages, thoughts, photos, videos and music or light a virtual candle.

Attendance of the Funeral Director & Staff at the Funeral

On the day of the funeral there is considerable preparation 'behind the scenes' before we leave, including preparation of the vehicles, closing the coffin, recording of floral tributes received at our premises and placement of floral tributes on the coffin and in the hearse. As well as supervising these activities, the funeral director will also be carrying out a final study of the arrangements to ensure all is in place. He or she will also be calculating timings (of vehicle arrival at the house etc.) with care. With a funeral, preparation is everything.

At the Crematorium or Cemetery the funeral director will manage and co-ordinate things so that you may concentrate on the ceremony itself.

Our competent and experienced pallbearers will convey the coffin with dignity to its final resting-place. Their responsibilities also include arranging the display of floral tributes after the service and being on hand to provide assistance or advice to anyone attending.

After the funeral we will be pleased to present you with the cards from the flowers to keep as a memento and to distribute the flowers to a location of your choice (often the hospital or hospice, a church, a nursing home or children's home). We provide details of the deceased and next-of-kin so that the recipient of the flowers may write an acknowledgement.