Alternative Funerals

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.

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 the ceremony that is right for your loved one.

See below for some suggestions for alternative funerals and also for information on GREEN FUNERALS and BURIALS AT SEA.

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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 motorcyle 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. There are many non-religious and humanist funeral 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 (www.wesleymedia.co.uk) 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

Many people are rightly concerned about the environment today. As founder members of the Association of Green Funeral Directors, we share that concern and so are keen to accommodate any environmentally-friendly elements to our funerals that might be requested by our clients.

One example of putting our concern for the environment into practice is to offer a simple, plain cardboard coffin, priced at £247. Other ecologically-sound options in our range are the Bamboo, Willow and Pandan Eco Coffins. Even if a family preferred to opt for a traditional coffin for cremation, we would always encourage them to choose something simple like the ‘Sussex’ coffin; we can see no sense in using a solid wood coffin for cremation.

If burial is preferred, there is the option in this part of East Sussex of laying a loved-one to rest in the Natural Burial Area at Hastings Borough Cemetery. This is specially set aside for environmentally-friendly or 'green' funerals. This part of the Cemetery is designed to be a natural woodland area which will not be laid out in a formal manner with graves marked by headstones. The following is a quote from Hastings Borough Council’s booklet entitled 'Natural Burial in Hastings Cemetery - A Return To Nature':-

"Hastings Borough Council shares the concern of many people at the loss of trees and the variety of threats to wildlife and also appreciates that burial facilities can be designed to offer many benefits to both whilst offering a greater choice for bereaved.

The Natural Burial Section of Hastings Cemetery offers a resting place for those who would like to be buried with native trees and shrubs and among birds and wild flowers. In other words a 'return to nature'.

The Natural Burial graves are located at the North East end of the Cemetery on The Ridge, Hastings, with grave spaces available to provide a natural form of burial for many years hence. The burial ground is bordered on 2 sides by established trees and sets of graves are located around a group of native shrubs surrounding a deciduous tree giving a permanent semi woodland ambience to this natural area.

The graves have been accurately recorded on plans, each grave being numbered to enable location in the subsequent natural undergrowth. All graves can be excavated to a double depth and arrangements exist for the reservation of an adjoining plot for those who wish to be buried beside other family members.

In order to ensure that the Natural Burial area remains as natural as possible in every respect, only bio-degradable coffins will be permitted. These can include cardboard coffins subject to their being capable of conveying the body decently to the graveside and being lowered into the grave.

After each funeral sufficient time must be permitted to allow soil settlement. After that time grass together with wildflower seeds will be sown at a reasonable time of year.”

Woodland burials tend to be cheaper than a traditional burial, for two reasons: firstly, the coffin is very simple and, secondly, you are not obliged to purchase the burial rights to the plot (normally £412) as the rights ascribed to the graves can be held by the Cemetery Authorities.

We are happy to advise on all aspects of choosing a green funeral.

Our commitment to the environment goes further: in our range of traditional coffins we will no longer offer solid mahogany or mahogany veneer coffins. We have sought, and received, assurances from our suppliers that the hardwood used in our oak veneer and solid oak coffins comes from a properly-managed forestry source. As founder members of the Association of Green Funeral Directors we pledge to abide by the Association’s Code of Practice which states:

The Association expects its members to always aim for the highest level of service possible, both personal and practical. This includes providing clear pricing information, empowering each bereaved family to arrange a funeral which meets their individual needs, and allowing them to have as much involvement as they want.

Members also make the following pledges:-

On Embalming: Not to carry out embalming as a routine procedure, but instead to give an accurate and clear explanation of the procedure to the bereaved and only carry out the procedure at the direct request of the bereaved or as a regulatory requirement. Not to refer to the procedure as 'hygienic treatment', which has the effect of persuading families that embalming is at least desirable, if not essential. Members should refer to the leaflet on embalming produced by the AGFD.

On Literature and Other Information provided to the general public: To ensure that they have literature available, and information on their website (if they have one) that gives eco-friendly options for funerals at least equal prominence to traditional choices.

On Coffins: That a range of environmentally-friendly coffins is made available to all customers. That all staff who have routine contact with the public understand what characteristics make a particular coffin environmentally-friendly, e.g. made from recycled materials, constructed from FSC sources of timber, made from renewable sources, locally sourced, nested during transport (like Russian dolls) and/or has biodegradable fittings.

On Natural Burial: That all staff who have routine contact with the public have a good knowledge of at least the two closest natural burial grounds and are able to advise (prospective) customers about the regulations in force at those sites concerning: types of coffin accepted, tree planting policy, maintenance regime and long-term vision, prices, extent of grave marking/memorialisation allowed, whether ashes can be interred or scattered at the sites and whether the sites are members of the ANBG (Association of Natural Burial Grounds) and hence comply with their standards.

On Flowers: That all staff who have routine contact with the public have a good knowledge of environmentally-friendly options, especially those that avoid the use of non-recyclable materials and create funeral waste. These options should be given at least equal prominence to other flower options.

Burials at Sea

We are experienced in all aspects of arranging burials at sea. If this is something you wish for a loved one or that had been requested by them you can be assured that we understand the complicated government and legal requirements and are able to provide a complete service in committing someone to the deep.

There are currently only three positions around the coast of England where it is legal to bury a body at sea: off Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear; off The Needles on the Isle of Wight and off Newhaven, East Sussex. As we are based in East Sussex we carry out burials at sea in the specified location about eight miles off Newhaven.

We would arrange for the collection of the deceased and bringing them into our care. Family and friends may visit their loved one in the chapel of rest at whichever of our premises – in St Leonards-on-Sea, Bexhill-on-Sea or Battle - is most convenient for you.

We would arrange for the coffin to be prepared to the required specification for burial at sea.

We would meet with you to discuss all aspects of the arrangements and advise on costings. Please bear in mind that occasionally a pre-arranged date for the burial might be subject to postponement if the weather was such as to make a boat trip unsafe.

We would convey the coffin to Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne for lifting aboard our chosen vessel, which will have comfortable inside accommodation, outside seating and facilities. The voyage from Sovereign Harbour to the burial site and back to Sovereign Harbour is about 5 – 6 hours in total and during this time the family and mourners will be looked after and served food and refreshments. Up to nine guests can travel to the burial spot; this would include a minister if required, although the boat's skipper is well used to leading a short service and conducting the committal if no minister is present. If there are more than nine guests wishing to attend the burial then further boats can be arranged at an additional charge.

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

Click on any heading below to find out more: 

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 a family wants to come to visit their loved one we can discuss with them at the arrangements interview the question of 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

When someone close to us dies we find ourselves overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions. In trying to come to terms with the 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 that 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 Chapel of Rest is provided so that you may visit your loved one at any time, day or night. Our facilities and services in this regard 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 £20 per visit outside office hours.

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.

Printing

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.

Administration

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 you have asked us to handle charitable donations we will acknowledge each donation individually and hold the fund open until all donations have been received. We then write to the charities concerned enclosing the donations, and  write to you to advise the total received, enclosing a list of the people who have sent a donation.  If wished, we will also 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 MuchLoved.com.  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.