Cost of a funeral

The average cost of a funeral in 2012 was £3,456, an increase of 80 per cent since 2004, according to Sun Life Direct. The average total cost with all expenses added including, probate, flowers and a headstone, was £9,556 in London and £6,096 in Wales, the least expensive.

The funeral director’s costs will usually consist of three elements; basic costs, various costs and extras.

1. Basic costs

These basic costs include the funeral director’s own fee, the cost of the hearse etc.

2. Various costs 

These various costs are called disbursements and are payments that the funeral director will make on your behalf. They may include the minister’s fee for conducting the funeral service, doctor’s fees and cremation or burial fee.

3. Additional costs

These extra costs may include such items as flowers, order of service sheets, a better quality coffin, another car for the mourners, a memorial and venue hire and catering for a gathering after the funeral.

Situation regarding VAT

In general, the funeral director’s bill and the cost of the burial or cremation will be VAT exempt. However, the following costs are not exempt and VAT will need to added on these items at a rate of 20%:

1. Flowers, wreaths, announcement cards, headstones, plaques and other commemorative items;

2. The coffin or urn when not sold as part as a funeral package;

3. A newspaper announcement;

4. The costs incurred in the catering of a gathering following the funeral; and

5. The hire of a hearse or a limo if the funeral director doesn’t provide the driver.

Complicating factors

This breakdown of the underlying costs is sometimes difficult to obtain as funerals are often sold as an overall package. A further complicating factor is that each funeral director has a different way of describing costs.

Costs can vary considerably

These prices can vary considerably; for example, a coffin can cost from between a few hundred pounds and a few thousand. To avoid problems later on, it is therefore essential you understand completely at the outset what you are agreeing to purchase.

Ways to reduce the cost

There are a number of ways that the cost of the funeral can be cut. The problem you will face is that time is short and with emotionally distraught family members it may not be easy to reach agreement on reducing specific items of expenditure.

Here are a few items that you might want to consider:

Minister or humanist celebrant

There is no legal requirement to have an officiant take the funeral service. You might want to conduct your own service if the person who has died was not religious and the funeral ceremony is not on consecrated ground.

Orders of service

You should consider arranging the printing of your own orders of service or indeed designing and printing them yourself.

Flowers in the church

Instead of using expensive flowers from a florist you could ask family and friends to bring flowers from their gardens.

The coffin

You should check the price of coffins with the funeral director and also elsewhere. Alternative types of coffins are increasingly being used including coffins made of willow or cardboard.

Pall bearers

Rather than using professional pall bearers you may want to use family members and friends.


Instead of using professional caterers you could consider asking family and friends to bring cakes and sandwiches.

Grave digger

Some cemeteries and natural burial grounds allow the family to dig the grave. To avoid any possible problems, you need to obtain written consent of the appropriate authorities beforehand.


The headstone will not be placed in position until the grave has settled. This is usually done nine to twelve months after the burial. You should consider contacting a stone mason directly to prepare and position the headstone.

Hygiene treatment

You should be aware that embalming is not necessary unless the body of the deceased is going to be viewed before the funeral.

Please note

The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.