Catholic funerals in the UK: everything you need to know.

Catholic funerals in the UK: everything you need to know.

by Martin Jackson2022-09-190

What are Catholic funerals?

With over 1 billion Roman Catholics around the world, even non-Catholics might find themselves invited to a Catholic funeral at some point in their life. As Catholic belief focuses on the idea of life after death, funerals are very important within the faith. That’s why a Catholic funeral in the UK might include many prayers and appeals to God, offering worship and thanksgiving.

It’s most common for the funeral to take place in a Catholic church, led by a priest (who may or may not have known the deceased while they were alive). Catholic funerals can also take place at a funeral home.

Core elements of a catholic funeral service

The three core elements leading up to and following a Catholic funeral are:

1. The vigil

Family and loved ones hold vigil for the deceased, either at a funeral home, the church, or a private home.

2. The funeral mass 

At the funeral itself, a Requiem Mass (also known as a Mass for the dead) which includes both the Eucharistic Prayer and Holy Communion, is led by an ordained priest. They are not strictly required, but are encouraged and very common.

3. The burial/cremation committal service

The Catholic Rite of Committal immediately precedes the burial or cremation. The priest will lead the mourners in prayers and remembrance, and ends with The Lord’s Prayer.

How much does a Catholic funeral cost?

Like all funerals, Catholic funeral costs in the UK can vary a lot, depending on how large or small the event will be, where the funeral takes place, and many other factors. For example, the cost of a burial plot can exceed thousands of pounds in certain parts of England. And, given the church’s preference for ashes not to be scattered, you will also have to pay for a niche at a columbarium or a cremation plot to bury the ashes in an urn.

There are various ‘funeral calculators’ online that can help you manage your budget, but perhaps the easiest way to get peace of mind when it comes to planning a Catholic funeral is to speak to a funeral director or expert. 

At Fenix, we’ve been helping people arrange Catholic funerals for many years, and we’re always here for you to talk about what you need, and how to stay within budget. From friendly, supportive conversations with our personal advisers to smart digital tools that can help you spread the planning workload amongst family and loved ones, we’ve got everything you need to plan the perfect funeral. Feel free to get in touch – with absolutely no commitments.

How long after death is a Catholic funeral?

Catholic funerals usually don’t take place later than a week after death, and many take place within 2-3 days. In order for this to happen, Catholics often plan ahead, making funeral plans either for themselves or their loved ones early on.

When someone in the Catholic faith is approaching death, terminally ill, or preparing for serious surgery, they are given the Last Rites by a priest or deacon, with the aim to cleanse a person’s soul in readiness for the afterlife.

Can Catholics be cremated?

The simple answer is: yes, Catholics can be cremated in the UK, and all around the world. Some people think that, because Christian teaching says that Christ will return and dead believers will be resurrected, they can’t be cremated. But this is not what the church itself says – since the 1960s onwards it’s been acceptable.

However, it’s important to note that Catholics are not supposed to separate ashes, but keep them together. (Some people separate ashes amongst family members/loved ones, or put a small amount in a keepsake, for example.). They also should not scatter ashes, or keep them in the family home – instead they should be interred in a cremation plot or kept at a columbarium (which is a room building specifically built for funeral urns to be stored and visited).

How long is a Catholic funeral?

A Catholic funeral normally has two key parts: the funeral service (or Mass) in the church, and then the committal service at the graveside or crematorium. These two parts generally last around 30 minutes, but can run longer. And you should also keep in mind that there might be travel involved between the church and the gravesite or crematorium.

Can non-Catholics attend a Catholic funeral?

Yes, absolutely. As it’s common for people to have friends and loved ones from different belief systems and backgrounds, the Catholic church welcomes everyone to a Catholic funeral.

During the funeral mass, mourners line up and move towards the altar, where the Priest leading the service will offer Holy Communion to those who are Catholic, and bless those who are not. A common way to indicate that you’re not Catholic – and therefore don’t want the Holy Communion – is to place your right hand on your chest when you reach the priest. 

You also do not need to join the line and approach the priest, if you don’t want to. It’s fine to just stay where you are and watch the Communion take place.

Do you send flowers to a Catholic funeral?

Many people choose to send flowers to the family, or to the funeral home, for a Catholic funeral. However, it’s becoming more common for people to ask for donations to a charity or good cause, instead of flowers. If you’re planning a Catholic funeral, it can be useful to include on the invite any thoughts or expectations you have about flowers.

If you’re arranging a funeral and aren’t sure where to get flowers from a reputable source, and on budget, feel free to get in touch with us. We work with many contacts all across England who have been supplying flowers for funerals for many years.

What should I wear to a Catholic funeral?

Unlike some less traditional funerals (like humanist funerals, for example), it’s most common with Catholic funerals in the UK for people to dress in formal clothes, and in darker colours, most often in black. For example, people wear dark or black suits with black ties, or skirts and dresses that avoid low-cuts. Large heels are not normally a good idea, not least as they make it hard to walk at the gravesite.

Many venues, including churches, are becoming more welcoming to colourful dress codes, so most often when it comes to what to wear for a Catholic funeral in the UK, it’s about the wishes of the deceased. If you’re planning the funeral, it might be a good idea to indicate on the invite what the expected dress style is.

Are Catholic funerals held on Saturdays?

Yes, Catholic funerals in the UK are often held on Saturdays, and on just about every other day of the week except Sundays (which are reserved for Catholic services) and holiday days. If you’re planning a Catholic funeral, your funeral director or local church representative will be able to work with you to find the most suitable time and date. Remember though that you might have to pay more for a Saturday.

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