How to organise a Church of England funeral in a church

Church funeral: two women in pew, Poppy's team member standing

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Although Church of England funeral services often take place in a crematorium or cemetery chapel, it is also common for a funeral organised by Poppy’s to include a service in a Church of England parish church.

From our experience, here are some top tips and things to think about when organising a Church of England funeral in a church.

1. Practical details and timing

If you have a connection with a particular church, you might want to contact them directly. However, you don't have to be a regular churchgoer to have a funeral in a church, a Church of England minister will take a funeral for anyone who lived in their parish. Poppy’s can find and get in touch with your local church on your behalf.

You will need to work out the details of the service with the minister, but Poppy’s will support you with all the other funeral logistics and will care for your person while arrangements are being made.

Most church funeral services will be followed by a short committal at a crematorium or cemetery, immediately after the service or sometimes on a different day.

However, some people choose to hold the church service after the committal. This is simpler and probably less expensive, but it means that the coffin will not be present during the main funeral service. Talk to your minister to get their view.

The Church of England has a set fee structure for different types of funerals, but there are often additions for certain items, such as vergers or heating. We will be able to confirm the total for you.

To do:

  • Think about your preferred options for service dates and times, including whether the committal will come before or after the service. The church service itself usually lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. At Poppy’s, we can coordinate between the church and the crematorium and cemetery to find a time that works for everyone.
  • If you are holding a wake or reception afterwards, discuss catering arrangements with the church. You will need to pay for the wake separately, not through Poppy’s, however it’s useful for us to know your plans, so that we can make sure the timings work smoothly.
  • You can ask if the funeral can be listed in the church newsletter, as well as letting people know about it in other ways.
Church building with hearse and Poppy's team member outside on a sunny day

2. The day before the funeral

Some families like their person to be brought to the church the day before their funeral, and to stay there overnight.

To do:

  • Let Poppy’s know as soon as possible if this is something you would like to do. If you would like an open coffin, we can discuss this with your minister.
  • Talk to your minister about whether bringing your person to the church the day before is possible. You might ask them whether they can say some prayers or whether you can bring your own candles, flowers or a smart speaker to play music.
  • Find out whether your access to the church during this time will be limited or unrestricted. and who you should liaise with on the day if the minister is not available.

3. Music

Music is an important part of most Church of England funerals. Some churches have their own organist, choir master or director of music who can help organise music at the funeral.

The church will charge for any music they provide. The cost is likely to be higher if you request a piece that needs to be adapted for the organ or rehearsed in advance, or if the service is recorded. We can include this cost on your invoice from Poppy’s.

To do:

  • Choose three hymns. Some hymns have more than one tune, so check carefully that organist knows which version to play. Read more tips here about choosing hymns for a funeral.
  • Think about whether you’d also like opening or closing music played on the organ.
  • If the church has a director of music or choir master, you can ask to meet them to talk about the music. Ask for the words to the hymns, so that they can be included in your order of service booklet. If you’d like a choir or professional singers, they may be able to make a recommendation. At Poppy’s, we can help you find a solo singer.
  • If you'd like to, ask your minister about including non-religious music in the service, such as a favourite pop song.
Vicar outside church with coffin, mourners placing daffodils on coffin

4. The service

Your minister will lead the service based on a set structure, or liturgy, from the Church of England. It can include the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, if you would like.

You will be able to personalise the service through your choice of hymns and readings. If you would like Poppy's to organise a printed service booklet we will need to know the final running order. Your minister may want to check the draft before it goes to print.

To do:

  • Decide who will write and read a eulogy or tribute during the service. It could be a family member or friend, or the minister could read it, based on your notes.
  • Discuss the contents of the tribute with friends and family. It’s best to write it out in full, as this helps with the timing of the whole service. It also helps the person reading the eulogy — even the most experienced readers can find that emotions on the day make it harder than they had expected. Discover more here about how to deliver a eulogy.
  • Decide which Bible reading(s) you wish to include. You need to have at least one, although it can be very short. Your minister can offer ideas or you can find some suggestions here. Talk to your minister about including poetry or other non-religious readings too.

5. Flowers

Some churches will already have flowers on display on the day of the funeral. You may also want to order additional flowers.

To do:

  • Ask your minister whether flowers will already be in place — and how long they are likely to have been there — flowers refreshed on a Saturday may look tired by Friday.
  • If you decide to order additional flowers, you can do this through Poppy’s or sometimes via the church or a local florist. You could add a pedestal arrangement, as well as flowers on or around the coffin, altar or pew ends. Find out where the church allows you to place extra flowers. At certain times of year, this may not be possible.

There is much more information on the Church of England website.

How Poppy's can help

At Poppy’s, we’ll help you arrange the funeral that’s right for you — whether in a church, a crematorium or cemetery chapel, or an alternative venue.

To stay in touch with all the latest news and updates from Poppy's by email, sign up here or contact us if you need help planning a funeral.

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