Alternative Funerals: What Are My Options?

Memorial flowers floating at sea for somebody who wanted an alternative funeral

From the cars we drive to the shoes on our feet, the particular way that we like to have our hair cut or our unique home decor choices - us Brits love letting our personalities shine through everything we do. That’s why it’s no surprise that so many people want a personalised funeral that reflects who they were in life.

A 2021 study on Funeral Planning by Co-operative found that approximately 35 million Brits want their funeral to be a celebration of life that is personal to them, instead of a ‘sombre’ event. Whether that’s a traditional but highly personalised funeral or something whacky and unconventional it’s a matter of personal choice. You can see our quick list of some alternative funeral options that will be discussed:

  • Moving away from tradition
  • How much does a personalised funeral cost
  • How to afford a personalised funeral
  • 7 alternative funeral options
  • Get the send-off you want

Let’s have a look at what options you have for a personalised funeral, how much a personalised funeral may cost and how to plan the send-off you really want.

34% of Brits

want their favourite song played at their funeral.¹
A Funeral Insurance Plan can provide your loved ones with some financial support to help them with funeral costs and/or other expenses when you’re gone.

Moving away from tradition

People are leaning towards less traditional funerals. As a result, there are more funeral planning options available than ever before. We’re no longer limited to the bog-standard religious ceremony in a church and standard burial or cremation. 

While you can always opt for a traditional funeral, it’s nice to know what options are available to you if you fancy something a little bit different. Do you want your funeral to reflect your larger than life personality? Do you want everyone to wear your football team’s colours? Want to be buried in a natural burial ground? Maybe you’d rather there’s no fuss made at all. Whatever your funeral wishes are, we can assure you it’s possible. 

How much does a personalised funeral cost?

A personalised funeral will look very different from person to person and so the cost of it will vary depending on what type of service you would like to have. According to our Funeral Costs Report, in 2023, people spent an average of £380 on flowers and tributes, £614 on limousines and other vehicles, and £710 on catering. The venue for the reception typically cost £1,318, while a headstone or memorial plaque cost an average of £1,114.

Based on our research, the average total cost of a funeral over the last five years is £4,515 – but depending on personalised elements, it could rise to over £13,000.

How can I afford a personalised funeral?

It’s important to us Brits that we give our loved ones a send-off that really expresses who they were in life. Unfortunately, it’s no secret that funerals are expensive and we asked Brits how they felt about being able to afford to pay for a funeral, 29% said the cost of living crisis has made them think more carefully about their savings and what they might need to be used for, including meeting the costs of a funeral, while 27% don't think they could afford to cover the cost of a funeral right now2.

You could use savings to help fund your funeral, or you may be relying on family to cover the costs. However, this might not be enough to afford all the personal details or service that you want. The good news is there are options available to help you contribute towards the cost of your funeral while protecting your family from shouldering all of the costs alone.

With a British Seniors Funeral Insurance Plan, you can secure a set lump sum of money to be put toward the cost of your funeral and/or other expenses when you die. Based on our research into UK funeral costs, we offer three different levels of Funeral Insurance Plans with different life insurance benefit amounts. That way, you can easily choose the cover that suits your needs and wishes.

Gold offers a benefit of £5,500, Silver offers a benefit of £4,000, and Bronze offers a benefit of £2,000. So, whether you want a simple private service or dream of something different, like a burial at sea, you can choose a plan that suits you. You’ll also have the option to choose an extra cash sum to include in your protection depending on your age. 

Silver provides a life insurance benefit of £4,000. This could help with the average cost of a more ‘basic’ funeral⁴. You also have the option of adding up to £6,000 of extra cover depending on your age.

Bronze provides a life insurance benefit of £2,000. This could help with the average cost of a direct cremation⁴. You also have the option of adding up to £8,000 of extra cover depending on your age.

Easy to arrange protection

Help protect your loved ones from the financial pressures of paying for a funeral

Planning your alternative funeral

Do you know that you want an alternative funeral but you’re not sure what kind of personalisation you would like yet? Let’s have a look at some of the ways you could make your funeral unique to you.

Traditional and faith-based funerals

We’ll begin with a straightforward approach to funerals; traditional, faith-based ceremonies and burials. This is a common type of funeral in the UK. It is held in a place of worship by a religious official and includes readings. Hymns and eulogies are more often than not religious.

Christianity is the biggest religion in the UK, but millions of Brits are Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and Islamic. These days most funeral directors can accommodate a variety of religious needs when it comes to funeral planning.

If you want a traditional, but unique funeral you can always add some personal touches; a funeral can be personalised through the use of music, photographs, physical items, personalised eulogies, a dress code, flowers and so on.

Humanist or civic funeral (or ceremony)

There are a rapidly growing number of humanists and people with no religious affiliation in the UK. Because of this, humanist and civic funerals are becoming increasingly popular.

Since this kind of ceremony does not have to follow tradition, it can be arranged in a number of ways. You can still choose someone to lead the funeral, like a celebrant or officiant who specialises in non-religious funerals. A celebrant will usually talk about the life of the deceased while family members can contribute to the ceremony too. You can always skip this altogether and have those closest to you read eulogies or share fond memories.

This kind of funeral can take place in your own home, a hall, a venue or at the cremation or burial site. That’s why it could be a great option for those who would prefer a more intimate affair with close family and friends only.

You can ask a funeral director to point you in the direction of a funeral celebrant or you can contact the British Humanist Association if you would like to organise it yourself. A funeral director can also help with the planning of the funeral like the arrangement of flowers, coffin, music, eulogies, pallbearers and so on.


Celebration of life ceremony

A celebration of life funeral is all about remembering the deceased and the good times you shared as opposed to mourning and grieving. These services tend to look back on fond memories with a happy perspective. This can put a positive spin on a sad day and make the grieving process a little bit easier.

Some common elements of a life celebration funeral include wearing colourful clothes instead of traditional black. Playing some favourite songs of the deceased, especially happy or upbeat music they enjoyed. Sometimes the body will not be present during the wake or ceremony.

Unattended cremation 

We all know someone who hates anyone making a fuss over them. There are also people who are less keen on funerals and simply don’t want one. When this is the case, it can be handled in a number of ways, but it is commonly dealt with by way of unattended cremation.  

Unattended cremation could also be ideal for those who can’t justify spending ever-increasing fees on their funeral. As more people become aware of unattended cremation, it’s becoming a popular choice - particularly with the current state of funeral costs in the UK. Even music legend David Bowie was sent to direct cremation after his death in 2016. This method is slowly gaining traction as people move away from traditional approaches.   
When choosing unattended cremation, you’ll either have no funeral at all or you can have a memorial service or a Wake without the body being displayed or present. Many people don’t realise that this is an option but it could be alternative to a traditional funeral.  

Eco-friendly funerals 

We're becoming more environmentally conscious by the day. If you’re an avid recycler, dead set on reducing your carbon emissions or you try to live an environmentally friendly life - an eco-friendly funeral could be the right choice. 

Green funerals are on the rise but how do you make your funeral kinder to mother nature? 

Well, first of all, cremation is considered to be a major polluter, so you may want to avoid this if this is a concern of yours. A burial could be a better choice although burials can add another £1000 on average to your funeral bill in comparison to cremation according to the Money Advice Service. 

You don’t have to choose a traditional burial. These days, it’s even possible to be turned into compost or to be buried in a ‘mushroom suit’ but there are of course less extravagant options available right here in the UK. 

More people are choosing to be buried in natural burial sites in woodlands and meadows. There are sites scattered across the UK which you can find with the help of the Natural Death Centre. Since cemeteries are running out of space, the prices are higher so it could be a more affordable option to choose a natural burial ground. 

You can also choose a biodegradable or cardboard coffin and burial shrouds with burial plots that have no visible impact on the earth. 

Burial at sea 

According to the BBC, ‘Anyone can be buried at sea, so long as the person arranging it has a licence - available for £175 from the MMO - and complies with some environmental rules. Applicants must provide a certificate from a doctor that the body is clear of fever and infection, and the coroner may also need to be informed.’ 

There are rules like, the deceased cannot be embalmed and should be in the light, biodegradable clothing. You’ll have to prove that the site is suitable for a burial at sea and provide exact coordinates. This includes proving that there is little risk of the body returning to shore as a result of currents or fishing nets. In case this happens, the body must have an identification tag attached. You’ll also need a special watertight coffin that fits specific guidelines. 

There are three designated burial sites in English coastal waters: 

  • Newhaven in East Sussex 
  • The Needles Spoil Ground near the Isle of Wight and Tynemouth 
  • Tyne and Wear 

 There are businesses and organisations who will help you accomplish a burial at sea with ease. 

Themed funerals 

A themed funeral might include rainbow colours and happy themes, or it could be related to football team colours for example. It’s not unheard of for people to have superhero funerals, race car themed funerals amongst other strange and unusual things. This could be achieved by using things such as costumes, music, unique hearse choices and alternative coffins.

How to make sure you get the send-off you want

Write funeral wishes into your will 

We offer a FREE legally approved Will Kit worth £100 to all policyholders. The kit will help you to put together a free, legally sound will from the comfort of your own home. You can use your will to write in any specific funeral wishes you have as well as information on the allocation of your assets. 

Speak to your family 

It can be a difficult conversation, to say the least, but being direct with your family about your funeral wishes can help clear up confusion and make things less stressful for the ones you love. 

As you can see, there are lots of alternative funeral options available to you and it’s possible to have the send-off you deserve with some careful planning. Nobody wants to fear the potential costs of such a funeral which is why British Seniors is here to help with our Funeral Insurance Plans. You’re guaranteed to be accepted if you’re a UK resident aged 50-80. 

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