How to arrange a DIY funeral

Arranging a DIY funeral

A Do-It-Yourself funeral is still seen as an unconventional choice for a send off. Using a funeral director isn’t a legal requirement, but going through the arrangement process alone does take particular organisation. The DIY funeral can be viewed either as an option that’s unnecessarily stressful, or one that’s a meaningful alternative to an otherwise impersonal process.

DIY comes in many forms: it doesn’t always have to mean blood, sweat and an electric screwdriver. Rather, it could mean a few strong volunteers, a Van Morrison playlist and a trip down the pub. In any case, a DIY funeral is a lot more hands on.

Here’s an overview of the essential elements that you’ll need to prepare for if you’re going to arrange a funeral without a funeral director, either for yourself or someone else.

How to organise a funeral without a funeral director

When arranging a funeral yourself, you’ll have to keep in mind everything a funeral director would usually deal with.

One of the freeing aspects of arranging a funeral without professional help is knowing that not everything involved in the traditional funeral process is a necessary requirement. You can provide your own transport, coffin, pallbearers, coordinate the ceremony yourself, do your own flower arranging and even grave digging. Here’s a few of the basic elements to keep in mind.

Before the funeral

Keeping a body at home

When you arrange a funeral with a funeral director, there’s the option of storing the body in a mortuary or in refrigeration. Arranging a funeral without a funeral director means you’ll need to find a suitable place to store the body yourself. The body should be stored somewhere cool and, ideally, should be kept out for no more than a week.

While it can seem morbid, almost all dead bodies aren’t dangerous. If the person had any diseases, these are unlikely to survive very long. Smells aren’t dangerous, either – only a little unpleasant.

If the person has died in hospital, it’s possible that they’ll be able to keep the body for a reasonable amount of time.  

Getting hold of a coffin

While some funeral directors may not allow you to buy a coffin from them without using their services, many coffin suppliers sell coffins directly. Though, it’s likely there will be delivery charges involved.

In any case, a coffin isn’t a legal requirement. Some crematoriums and cemeteries accept bodies without a coffin, though you might want to consider a shroud or simple container.

The funeral service

Arranging a funeral service

Funeral directors tend to book dates and times for burials and cremations in advance, so if you’re arranging a funeral service by yourself you’ll need to do so speedily. It helps to be flexible, and to consider more unpopular times for the service.

You’ll need to think about whether you want to hire someone to conduct the ceremony, such as an independent celebrant or priest, or if you want to keep that personal, too. Getting in a relative with the most public speaking experience might be the best way to go, but they don’t need any special qualifications – just the ability to hold the emotional weight of seeing the celebration through. Or, family members and friends can take turns to offer some remembrance.

By designing the service from scratch, you’ll be able to create your own rituals and meaning. 

Transporting the body

You’ll need to arrange the transportation to the crematorium, cemetery or church yourself. A classic black hearse isn’t a necessity, of course. An estate car or van can do nicely, so long as it’s spacious and secure enough.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind at this stage the logistics of moving the body. Usually, four people is enough to move a standard coffin. If you need some guidance as to placing a body into a coffin, some funeral directors are happy to help.


If you’re burying the person who’s died, you’ll need to go through the same process as you would for a standard funeral. This means buying or reserving rights to a grave plot. Read our guide to burials for more details. 

If the burial or cremation is at a local authority cemetery or crematorium, they’re likely to give out advice and their services for free – grave digging, for example, is a skilled business. This can save your own biceps, as well as keep you from wreaking havoc with their hydrangeas.

Home burial

You can choose to hold all aspects of a DIY funeral at home – the service, wake and even the burial. Home burials are legal, so long as the body is buried at least 2 feet below the soil. Bodies must also be placed 50 metres from any spring or well that supplies water to avoid any suburban nightmares. While planning permission isn’t required, you might want to let a few authorities know what you’re plans are.

The DIY funeral is not for everyone. It’s a lot of work at a time that’s already difficult. Yet, it can be rewarding to know that it’s possible to create a send off that’s truly personal.

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