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UK Funeral Traditions

Funerals and burials are a very important part of life, they allow people to get closure and ultimately say goodbye and let go of their loved ones. The loss of a loved one is absolutely heartbreaking and how we mourn and grieve is a central part of how we move on.

We have come a long way when it comes to funeral traditions from people believing that graves needed to be filled with items for the next life to our modern day traditions such as flowers, headstones and more. Some traditions however have remained for years and probably will remain for years to come. Today we are going to look into modern UK funerals and their traditions.

Buried or Cremated

In the UK, you can either choose to be buried or cremated. One tradition during a burial service is to throw soil onto a coffin as it is lowered into the ground, this is usually done by the funeral director, however, family members can also choose to carry out the tradition. When this tradition happens you will usually see others throwing other items such as personal belongings and flowers on top of the coffin too. People do this as a sign of love and remembrance.


In the United Kingdom white lilies are the most popular and traditional funeral flower. Carnations and roses are usually also a very popular choice traditionally. Flowers are very traditional in British funerals as they provide comfort and ultimately beauty in a time of sadness. It has also been said that flowers represent the continuation of life as usually people choose their loved ones favourite flowers.

As mentioned above white lilies are the most common at funerals as they are believed to be a symbol of innocence that is being restored into the soul of the deceased. They are also known to symbolise purity and sympathy.

A Wake

Also in the United Kingdom it is customary to hold a wake after a funeral has taken place. This is a small gathering which is designed to celebrate the life of the person who has passed away. Some people choose not to do this, however it is usually tradition.

The wake is usually hosted at the home of the deceased’s immediate family but more recently it has also been known to be hosted at a local pub or a hotel. There is usually food and drink available as well as a photo of the deceased with their loved ones. People will usually tell old stories and come together as one during difficult times. Wakes are of course a sad occasion but they do provide family and friends a chance to get together and reminisce about the past.

Black Clothing

Wearing black clothing at a funeral is a tradition that dates back to the Elizabethan times and remains a tradition in the UK today. The tradition dates back to the Queen’s prolonged mourning of Prince Albert when widows were expected to wear mourning attire for two weeks.

Now-a-days it has become more common for mourners to be asked to wear a specific colour or black but a colourful tie for example to bring a bit of personality to the funeral and to celebrate the life of the deceased in a more touching way.

A Funeral Procession

Funeral processions are still very traditional in the UK and are led by the hearse. There are no motoring laws surrounding this topic, however, passers by will still usually stop and pay their respects before carrying on.

The Future of Funerals

There is more and more concern about the environment and global warming which has led to modern legislation changing around how and where we can bury our loved ones. Now-a-days there are a lot more people thinking about “green” burials.

Green burials are where you have a disposable coffin and you choose to be buried amongst the woodland. Some people even choose to have memorial trees planted instead of traditional headstones, there are even virtual memorials gardens where you can find a lot more out about the deceased person’s life.

Funeral Etiquette

Despite all of these traditions when you attend a funeral it is important to remember that you are there to show unconditional support and respect to the family members of the deceased. Understanding funeral etiquette is the perfect way to make sure you are prepared and feel comfortable at a funeral service.

What Shall I Take?

It can be quite helpful to know what to bring to a funeral, we would recommend:

  • Tissues
  • Flowers
  • A charity donation
  • A story or memory of the deceased
  • A sympathy card

What Shall I Wear?

As mentioned above it is traditional to wear black to a funeral due to its association with mourning, however wearing brighter colours has become more popular due to the symbolism of celebrating life.

Men usually wear a suit, black tie and formal shoes and women usually opt for a dress or suit with smart shoes and a jacket if needed.

Where Do I Sit At A Funeral?

At a funeral, immediate family and close friends sit in the first few rows and then the remaining seats can be filled.

What Happens At The End of The Funeral?

After most services in the UK the minister will leave giving everyone time to pay their final respects. The coffin then will be lowered, carried out or hidden by a curtain. The coffin may however remain in view for loved ones to say their final goodbyes. Family and friends will leave first followed by the rest of the attendees.

Our Funeral Services

Here at The Elms Funeral Directors, we completely understand the grief and stress you are feeling. That’s why it is important to us to do everything we can to help you plan each element of the funeral.
Our team will be here for you at an extremely difficult and challenging time. Feel free to give us either a phone call on 01934 616006 or send us an email.

As proud members of the National Association of Funeral Directors, we’ll ensure that all of the appropriate steps are taken to offer you with the care and respect you need. With over four decades of arranging and offering funerals in weston super mare, we’ll make sure that you have all of the help and support you need.

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