What happens at a funeral?

Funeral Process, Steps to Follow -

What happens at a funeral?

You may well not know exactly what happens at a funeral, yet suddenly you are in the middle of trying to arrange one. In fact there are no fixed procedures and no rights or wrongs. In just the same way that every person is individual, so should be every funeral. If they loved wild flowers, then cover their coffin with wild flowers - if they hated poetry, then skip the poems....

To some extent, the shape and size of the funeral is influenced by the circumstances of the death. Remember that a funeral is about the person who has died, but is also for the people left behind.

Your celebrant will help you work out what you need the funeral to be for you, and for all present. It sounds strange but there are so many different needs at this time and it really helps to distill for yourself what this might be for you – just a few examples are:

  • to start accepting the shock and pain of a life cut short suddenly or unexpectedly
  • to celebrate the joy of knowing a person who has fully completed their life and were ready for it to end
  • to acknowledge the savage loss of a parent who has died before they've seen their children grow up, and to give their children a platform they can understand and relate to and help them say goodbye.
  • to acknowledge the release of a loved one from an unbearable illness or sadness.
  • to start healing a conflicted family situation.

Every person is unique, every death is unique and every funeral should be unique.


Most Church or Funeral Home ceremonies are over in around 40 minutes, which many people find too rushed, and would like to know they have more time, if they need it. This is particularly so with large attendances at which it is virtually impossible to achieve a 40 minute arrival, ceremony and departure with any dignity. We always recommend a double booking to give you time to say goodbye properly. 

In the same way that weddings and christenings can now be held outside of church or registry offices , so too can funerals if this is preferred. Funerals can be held at a local club, at the park, in our homes or gardens, or any place that was particularly special to the deceased (or to you) Many many venues are both possible and appropriate and we can advise on the logistics and any permissions required.

If he loved being at the headland overlooking the beach – why not take him there one last time.

If her greatest indulgence was a picnic at that bend in the river, let's go there for her.

If she so wanted to come home from hospital but never made it, let's bring her home now.

We can absolutely make these things happen – it's not weird or hippy – this is a very important, and very human celebration of a precious life.

How dignified and beautiful to say goodbye in a place that has real meaning and context.

How worthwhile to create an uplifting place of release and remembrance for generations to come.

Eulogy, Spoken and Written Tributes

We will together create a carefully crafted ceremony in which close family or friends feel comfortable and supported to speak, honour and remember.  The celebrant can gently assist with balancing the length and content of these tributes if required and will deliver them on your behalf if you prefer.

As well as the main eulogy, plus some personal reflections, we often include an opportunity for everyone present to write their own short tribute or message of farewell. This can be a very precious time of reflection and the collective thoughts and memories of those present are a wonderful record of the life being honoured. Often these short messages bring in recollections that even closest family members didn't know about and remind us that each life has many dimensions and many stages.


For many of us, choosing the coffin is very confronting. It is a can be an unwelcome final image that is hard to shake. Also, there are many media reports about people being overcharged for coffins, and even accusations that cremation coffins are reused without a family's knowledge. The fact is that the cremation industry is extremely tightly regulated and there is absolutely no truth in the “reused” myth. However, families ARE often charged enormously inflated prices for coffins and are not even allowed to choose from the full range available.

Most coffins actually cost between $260 - $800. If you are being asked to pay more than this, you should ask why. Simple coffins can be very beautiful, especially when decorated with flowers or other tributes and there are many eco-friendly options available these days, including wicker and cardboard. Cardboard coffins have the lovely benefit that mourners can write their own messages on the actual coffin either before or during the ceremony. Children can do what children always do – draw a picture to express love – such natural and simple activities can really help draw everyone together, and to humanise this most important rite of passage.

So - with careful guidance , one of the most confronting elements of the funeral can actually become one of the most beautiful.

Currently in NSW, it is legal to wrap the body in a cloth shroud for burial as an alternative to a coffin. This is frequently a choice for a natural burial in an accredited woodland burial ground (distinct from a more traditional cemetery site). Coffins are still required for cremation.


Music holds a very important place in most of life's big events, and funerals are no exception . But the choice can be very difficult! Your feelings will be so mixed up and listening to musical suggestions usually brings forth both tears and laughter.  When you do choose your tracks, be sure to check the version to make sure it is not being massacred by the 'wrong' artist.

Readings, Poetry and Reflections

Readings and poetry are often woven into the ceremony & most often a simple poem carries a very powerful message, perhaps from a favourite book or recalling a favourite poem. If you don't feel a reading or poem is appropriate, then don't have one.  Everything is a choice; there are no "should's or cant's".


A traditional part of most funerals, a display of favourite flowers either on top of or beside the coffin are usually appreciated. Making a floral arrangement can be a welcome activity for family members the day before the service, or this can be arranged by your funeral director. The cost for a large display starts at around $350 and few families spend more than $500 or so.

Order of Service

A simple Order of Service will cost about $200 to $400 which is designed to your satisfaction to include photographs and text's, etc. 

Register and /or Memorial Book

For funerals with a large expected attendance, a register of attendees is often very much appreciated. In the emotion of the day , we often don't see everyone who is there but realise afterwards that we'd like to have known.

This can be as simple as a sheet of paper on which guests write their name on arrival, or a bound journal to keep at a cost of about $30.00.

The Committal

The “Committal” is essentially the end of the funeral service – the time at which the physical connection ends and the spiritual begins. Sometimes, the committal is given as the coffin is lowered into the grave, or as it enters the cremation process. Often, the committal is spoken as the coffin leaves the ceremony, marking the end of the funeral service.

Traditionally, a “single service” is one in which the funeral service and the committal are held at the same place (ie at the crematorium chapel or at the grave side) . A “dual service” is one in which the funeral ceremony is held at one venue and some or all mourners then travel to a separate burial ground or crematorium.

Many people today choose to have the committal for their loved one at the end of the funeral service, after which the coffin is taken directly to the crematorium. This is also known as a "single service funeral".