Burial

Although only a quarter of the UK population opts for a traditional burial, there are still real issues around the overcrowding of cemeteries, and many councils have trouble providing burial space for deceased residents. Many people purchase burial plots well before their death, aware that they are an ever-diminishing resource. Some married couples purchase double depth plots, which will accommodate widows/widowers at a later date.

Burial is an expensive option; plots can cost several hundred pounds, and fees must also be paid to grave-diggers. It is possible to purchase a plot in a town or village where you are not resident - but expect to pay more. Burial plots in church graveyards are available at the discretion of the vicar and parochial church council (non-residents will pay more).

Many parish graveyards are completely full, with no possibility of new burials. In cases like this, the local authority is obliged to find space in a cemetery. Many councils will only be able to offer a burial plot for a number of years (between 25 and 100). For that period the land is exclusively yours; once it has elapsed your descendants may choose to renew the Grant of Exclusive Right of Burial.

If you do not pre-purchase a burial plot but wish to be interred, leave appropriate instructions in your will. It is still possible for your family to arrange, possibly with the help of the funeral director, to purchase a burial plot at comparatively short notice.

Consecration, which can only be undertaken by a Bishop, is the setting aside of land or buildings for sacred use in perpetuity. If you do not feel the necessity for the burial to take place in consecrated land, then you may want to look at the options for a natural burial.

The interment

The place of burial will, to some extent, dictate the order of events on the day of the funeral. If there is to be a burial in a parish churchyard, then it is more than likely that the funeral service will take place in the adjacent parish church. However, burials in council cemeteries (or natural woodland) will require a hearse to transport the coffin after the service.

It is possible to restrict the actual interment to close friends and family, but clarify this beforehand. On a formal death notice or invitation you could add the words "the funeral will take place at St Mary's Church, Little Wittering, at 2pm on Thursday 11th November, followed by a private interment." Otherwise, ensure that the word has been informally spread amongst the mourners.

The Memorial

Conventionally, graves are marked by headstones (though not in the case of woodland burials). The size and scale of memorials is restricted by churchyards and municipal cemeteries, and formal permission must be obtained from these authorities to erect a headstone.

Generally, memorials are not erected until several months after the burial to allow the ground to settle. Most undertakers are also memorial masons, but you can also obtain your memorial from an independent mason. In the case of church burials, you will need the clergyman to approve your projected wording.

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