What does a funeral director do?

Willow coffin on back of blue cart, pulled by horse through meadow, two figures wearing leading the horse

Five minute read

Funeral directors are there to help you plan a funeral, but what exactly does that mean? We want to throw open the doors and shed light on our role.

Here’s our behind-the-scenes look at five things that a funeral director does, from caring for the person who has died to supporting you on the day.

Sounds like the job for you? Find out more and apply to be a funeral director with Poppy's.

1. A funeral director guides family and friends

It’s really common to need time to think after someone dies, so don’t feel rushed to plan a funeral. When you feel ready, one of the first things we’ll do is arrange a meeting to find out what matters most to you.

We’ll explore choices like cremation or burial as well as asking about things you may not have thought about before. For example, we might ask whether your family wants to carry the coffin yourselves or how we can match you with the right celebrant — should they be gregarious or more reserved?

We’re here to organise a funeral that feels right for you, and that can take a bit of thought. Sometimes, people know exactly what they want and we’ll find ways to put that plan into action. But it’s also completely normal to not know what you’re looking for.

Most people are hoping to create a funeral that best reflects the person who has died, which can feel difficult if you didn't know their wishes.

In cases where you’re not so sure, we’ll help by asking gentle questions about the person who has died: their likes and dislikes, and how you want them to be remembered.

It can be hard to feel creative during an upsetting time, but people usually have more ideas than they give themselves credit for. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, we’re here to find out what works best for you.

2. A funeral director helps with paperwork

Getting help with paperwork is one of the main reasons why people choose to work with a funeral director. But taking care of the paperwork yourself can also be an empowering choice, if that feels right.

When someone dies, one of the first things you usually do is register the death and get the ‘green form’ which allows burial or cremation. A death needs to be registered within five days which can be before our first meeting, so do ring us if you need some help early on.

We’ll also lend a hand if someone has died in unusual circumstances — maybe they’ve died abroad or the coroner is involved. Whenever there’s any ambiguity, we’re here to answer questions and let you know what’s happening. Otherwise, we’ll step back and support you if you’d prefer to take control over this part of the planning.

3. A funeral director organises the details

An important part of our job is organising all the components that go into a funeral — both large and small. We’ll take the time to listen carefully and explore which choices work best for you. This means talking through different celebrants, vehicles and coffins, and connecting you with the options that feel right.

We’ll also organise little details which might be less obvious. This could be anything from planning the driving route to ringing the church to ask about trestles to support the coffin. Our goal is to handle any issues that you and your family may not want to worry about on the day.

We’ll also answer questions as they come up and make sure everything is done safely. For example, if you want to bring someone who’s died home before the service we’ll think about how to get the coffin in and out of the house. We might ask ourselves if there’s enough room to pivot? Do we need to move that table in the hall? Which room is big enough for all the grandkids to say goodbye together?

Our priority is to make things as stress-free for you as possible, no matter what kind of funeral you have planned. Maybe you want to get involved every step of the way, or maybe you just want space to breathe. Either way, we’ll help with the logistics of making it happen.

4. A funeral director cares for the dead

Caring for someone who has died is a real privilege. We take a natural approach, and treat everyone gently and respectfully. When you feel ready, we’ll arrange to collect the person who has died and bring them to our beautiful mortuary.

We understand that it can be hard to let someone go, so we can ring to let you know that they’re safely here with us and being looked after.

We also encourage you to look after someone at home if that feels right. It’s perfectly normal to want to care for someone yourself until the cremation or burial, and can be a very powerful experience. In this case, we can offer advice about what to consider, like keeping the environment in the right conditions.

We’re also there to reassure you that everything is as it should be, whether you choose to spend time with them or not. Part of our job is to make sure that someone is cared for in the way you would like. We’ll let you know that your mum has got the brooch on that meant so much to her, she’s got her tea bags and all of the photos, and is ready for you to say goodbye.

5. A funeral director is there on the day

On the day of the funeral, we’re there to support you and make sure that everything runs smoothly. One important responsibility is looking after the person who’s died and getting their coffin into the venue safely.

We’ll also coordinate with everyone attending so all the plans we’ve made will happen seamlessly. That means speaking to whoever is leading the ceremony, as well as any chapel attendants or musicians, to make sure everyone understands what is happening and when.

We’ll also make sure that the schedule runs as planned and all the details have been sorted out. For example, if you’ve asked for one song to play when the attendees come in and another for when the coffin arrives, we’ll make arrangements with the chapel attendant. We’ll also think about what else could help, like having extra trestles ready so the bearers can rest if there’s a long walk.

At the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure you feel supported in planning the funeral that feels right for you. It could involve motorcycles or black hearses, suits or hiking gear, churches or fields, limos or a procession of bicycles.

We’re there to care for the person who has died and help you create a meaningful funeral — no matter what that looks like.

We’re always ready to answer any questions and talk more about how we can help, so please get in touch.

Sounds like the job for you? Find out more and apply to be a funeral director with Poppy's.

Find practical advice about how to do more for yourself when planning a funeral or explore seven ways to personalise a funeral.

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