Posted by Richard Rawlinson
While many undertakers’ websites offer useful information for those planning funerals, they’re understandably not impartial, being the marketing platforms of commercial companies. Compare and contrast, for example, these words from both mainstream undertakers and specialists in their given niche (simple funerals, woodland burials etc).
A full-service, family-run chain says this of direct cremation:
Direct cremation may be the least expensive but we’d advise that it’s not for everyone. There is no ceremony at the crematorium. The funeral takes place at a time and date to suit us. This pared-down service is designed for people who want minimum fuss and who may wish to have a larger ceremony at a later date. As funeral directors, we are conscious that the evolution of traditional funeral rites reflects our need as human beings to bid farewell to a life with a degree of ceremony and communality which helps us to bear our loss.
A direct cremation specialist says:
Using my service removes so much of the stress from an extremely difficult time, and provides the family with their loved one’s ashes, complete in solid wood casket, for whatever style of farewell they may then wish, and at a time and location of their choice.
A traditional undertaker says this about embalming:
Embalming is a temporary preservation process which is required where the deceased is to be buried overseas. It is also advisable in the following circumstances: where there is to be viewing; when there is going to be a delay between the date of death and the funeral; in times of exceptionally hot weather. Whether or not embalming is appropriate in any particular case is a matter upon which we would be pleased to offer you advice.
Green undertaker scarcely mention embalming at all, except perhaps as an aside:
[Woodland burials] offer an ecological alternative to traditional burials and are sometimes but by no means always less expensive. The land is managed with the environment in mind and the land is reverted back to woodland or meadows. Instead of a traditional headstone, sometimes a tree is planted with a plaque and environmentally friendly coffins made from materials such as bamboo, wicker or cardboard are used. The body is not embalmed with harmful chemicals.
A large funeral director says this of humanist funerals (a slight bias towards the less exclusively-atheist civil celebrants perhaps?).
The term ‘humanist funeral’ is often used to describe a non-religious funeral, or one which may have religious elements, but is not led by a religious leader. In fact, a Humanist funeral is essentially atheist rather than agnostic or multi-faith. When the congregated mourners are of many faiths or the deceased was an agnostic, the most fitting approach may be to use a civil, non-religious or secular celebrant. These celebrants are open to the inclusion of readings, prayers, hymns and music which derive from any spiritual or religious traditions relevant to the deceased and the congregation.
Meanwhile, an undertaker somewhat renowned for its religious funerals seems keen to make clear its diversity:
As a company, we represent no single culture, race, religion or nationality and will assist you in whatever requirements you have. Should you need help in finding a religious or non-religious celebrant to conduct the funeral or advise you regarding a religion that may not be your own, we will gladly help. We warmly welcome people from all cultures and all religions or none.