Funeral Disbursements

Undertakers may list a funeral as one cost, or plus disbursements.

Funeral Disbursements

The additional costs

Funeral disbursements are a crucial aspect of funeral planning that often go overlooked. They include costs like flowers, cremation or burial fees, embalming, headstones and more. Understanding disbursements is essential for informed and responsible funeral planning. Always ensure that you understand a stated undertaking price includes disbursements, or  will be plus additional disbursement costs.

When paying for funeral expenses undertakers may list their funerals as an all-inclusive (package) cost, or plus extra costs, these extra costs are called funeral disbursements. These costs are sometimes incurred by an undertaker on behalf of the bereaved family. For example, a cremation fee from the crematorium. Alternatively the costs can be paid directly by the person responsible for paying the funeral.

Understanding the costs

Knowing the various costs associated with a funeral allows individuals and families to financially prepare for the inevitable. This understanding helps prevent unexpected financial burdens during an already emotionally challenging time. Pre-planning allows individuals to make rational decisions and secure cost-effective arrangements in advance.


Understanding funeral disbursements empowers individuals to create a budget that aligns with their financial capabilities. This ensures that they can honour their loved one’s memory without overspending or going into debt.

Informed decision-making

When you’re aware of the breakdown of funeral expenses, you can make informed decisions about which services and products are most meaningful and appropriate for your loved one’s send-off.

Avoiding overcharges

Knowledge of funeral costs can protect consumers from overcharges or unnecessary expenses. Being informed enables you to question or negotiate pricing when dealing with funeral service providers.

Access to financial assistance

For those facing financial constraints, understanding funeral costs can help them identify potential sources of financial assistance, including Government programs, charity organisations, or funeral plan payments.

Comprehending funeral disbursements is essential for making well-informed and financially responsible decisions during a challenging and emotional period. It ensures that the farewell to a loved one is as meaningful and financially manageable as possible. The six main spokes from the large disbursements wheel are covered in this article.

Woman in thought

What are funeral disbursements?

Funeral disbursements are additional funeral fees incurred by the undertaker, and are separate from the undertakers professional fees. These disbursements can also be paid directly by the person responsible for paying the funeral, such as flowers. They are also separate from any charity, Government grants or benefits that may be available to the family of the deceased. For example, some families may be eligible for a bereavement payment to help cover funeral costs. Undertakers may be able to provide guidance on any available financial assistance that may be available to the family.

Overall, expenses such as funeral disbursements can add up to a significant portion of the overall cost of a funeral service. However, an undertaker should help the family to ensure that the service is tailored to meet the specific needs and preferences of the family.

The wheel of disbursements has many spokes

The large wheel of funeral disbursements has many spokes when it comes to paying for funeral related expenses. They may vary depending on the specific needs of the family and the requirements of the funeral service. Further common examples of disbursements are shown below.

Common disbursement costs 

  • Cremation or burial costs
  • Embalming
  • Flowers
  • Funeral service
  • Headstones
  • Wake

General disbursements

a) Cremation fees: Can alter between different boroughs.

b) Burial plot fees: Can alter enormously between different cemeteries especially in London and other cities.

c) Cremation certificate: One doctor certificate.

d) Funeral service: Spokesperson to conduct the service

e) Funeral service: Printed order of service sheet or booklet

f) Flowers: Flowers are a common feature of funeral services, and the cost of floral arrangements can vary depending on the size and type of arrangements.

g) Embalming fee: This is needed after a post-mortem, and in other cases.

h) Transport: Such as a limousine to transport family and mourners to the service.

i) Transport of the deceased: Removal of the deceased from a nursing home or private residence out of office hours.

j) Viewing the deceased: Charges for viewing the deceased out of office hours.

k) Returned ashes: Cremated remains delivered to the family.

l) Medical device removal: Removal of a pacemaker or other medical device for cremation.

m) Oversized coffin: If the deceased was obese or very tall.

n) Headstones: If the family wishes to have a headstone erected.

o) Newspaper notices: Families may wish to place notices in local newspapers to inform friends and acquaintances of the funeral service.

p) Catering/Venue hire: It is common for families to hold a wake and provide food and refreshments for mourners following the funeral service.

q) Religious or ceremonies: If the family wishes to incorporate specific religious or cultural traditions/rituals into the funeral service.

r) Music and entertainment: The family may wish to have music or other entertainment at the funeral service.

Saving on disbursements

When it comes to paying for funeral expenses, certain disbursements could be avoided as listed below:

a) If you arranged an early morning cremation, the fee can be reduced. If you have a cremation on a weekend, then the costs can double from the weekdays. The undertaker fees are also often increased for a weekend.

b) Inquire which are the cheaper, cemeteries or natural burial sites.

d) If you arrange your own spokesperson

e) Print your own order of service sheets/stapled booklet.

f) If you order the flowers directly from the florist, and not through an undertaker. Alternatively, if possible, you can use flowers from your garden.

g) Sometimes embalming is not necessary unless a post-mortem has been carried out. It is best to seek the advice of the undertaker to see if embalming is required.

h) If you inform your family members and guests to meet at the crematorium or cemetery then you could cut out the cost of limousines.

j) If there are plans to see the deceased at an undertaker, try and visit during office hours.

k) If you were to have the ashes scattered on the crematorium gardens, and not returned.

m) Purchase the coffin directly from a manufacturer.

n) Deal directly with a supplier of lower cost headstones.

o) Contact the newspaper yourself

p) Organise the wake yourself

q) Organise any ceremonies yourself

r) Organise any music or entertainment yourself

The six common funeral disbursements spokes of flowers, embalming, cremation or burial fees, funeral service, headstones and wake are explored in further detail below.

Cremation and Burial

Comparing the cost

Are cremations popular?

Choosing between cremation and burial is a deeply personal decision, and cost considerations often play a large role. Cremation is generally more cost-effective than traditional burial due to the absence of expenses associated with a grave, and headstone. However, costs can vary widely depending on individual preferences and location.

Ceramic urn for ashes

Factors influencing cremation and burial fees 

Geographic location

Prices can vary significantly by region and even within the same city.

Cemetery costs

The choice of cemetery and specific plot location can influence burial expenses.

Coffin selection

Traditional burials require coffins, which can range from simple to elaborate.


If chosen, embalming can add to burial costs.

Urn for ashes 

For cremation, the cost of an urn or a container for ashes is a consideration.

Average costs for cremation and burial

Cremation costs

On average, cremation costs range from just over *£400 in Northern Ireland to just over *£1000 in England.


Burial costs

Traditional burial costs can vary widely but typically range from just over **£400 in Northern Ireland to an average of **£1700 in England. 


Eco-Friendly Burial Options 


For those concerned about the environmental impact of traditional burials, eco-friendly alternatives are gaining popularity. Natural or green burials involve minimal environmental impact by avoiding embalming, using biodegradable coffins or shrouds, and selecting natural, unmarked grave sites in dedicated green woodland, or fields. These funeral disbursements provides a more environmental choice while still honouring the deceased.

Choosing between cremation and burial involves not only personal preferences but also cost considerations. Costs can vary widely, so it’s essential to research and plan according to your budget. Eco-friendly burial options offer a sustainable alternative for those looking to minimise their environmental footprint while preserving the memory for their loved ones.

Embalming fluid sign


What is embalming and why is it necessary?

Understanding the preservation process

Embalming is a funeral disbursement that involves a mortuary procedure designed to preserve a deceased person’s body temporarily. It involves injecting a mixture of chemicals, including formaldehyde, into the body’s vascular system to slow decomposition. In this third spoke the process of embalming is explained.  Embalming serves three main purposes:


It delays the decomposition process, allowing for an open-casket viewing and extended visitation periods.


It helps reduce the risk of infection and the spread of disease.

Enhanced appearance

Embalming can improve the deceased’s appearance for a more natural and peaceful presentation during the funeral.

Costs associated with embalming 

Embalming costs can vary by location and the complexity of the procedure. On average, embalming typically ranges from £125 to £200. This fee covers the embalmer’s services, the necessary chemicals, and preparation of the body.

However, additional costs may arise if you choose additional services such as cosmetology, hairstyling, and/or dressing.

Is embalming needed?

In most cases, embalming is not legally required. However, some situations may necessitate embalming  such as:

After an autopsy

Embalming is normally mandatory after an autopsy, which is also referred to as a post-mortem.

Transporting long distances or abroad

When a body is transported abroad, or long distances the body would require embalming and/or refrigeration.

Long delays

If a significant delay occurs between death and burial or viewing, embalming may be necessary.


Some religions such as Muslim do not allow embalming. Therefore, burial normally takes place within 1 -3 days.

Alternatives to embalming

For those seeking to reduce costs or exploring more eco-friendly options, alternatives to embalming exist:

Direct burial or cremation

These options bypass the need for embalming, allowing for a quicker disposition of the body.


Refrigeration is a temporary preservation method that can delay decomposition for a limited time without the use of embalming chemicals.

Natural burial

In natural or green burials, embalming is typically avoided, and biodegradable coffins or shrouds are used.

Mum flowers

Flowers in a funeral service

A natural colourful farewell

Why have flowers?

Flowers have played a timeless role in funeral services across cultures and eras. These funeral disbursements are an expression of love, sympathy, and respect for the departed. Beyond their visual beauty, flowers symbolise the nature cycle of birth, life, and death. They serve as a reminder of the delicate nature of existence, making them a meaningful part of the grieving process.

Funeral flowers and their meanings 

Funeral flowers come in various types, each carrying its unique significance:


Often associated with restored innocence and the soul’s return to a peaceful state.


White roses symbolise purity and reverence, while red roses signify love and respect.


These are a symbol of remembrance and admiration for the deceased.


Common in many Asian cultures, chrysanthemums symbolise grief and loyalty.


Representing everlasting love and beauty, orchids can be a fitting choice.

Selecting and arranging funeral flowers 

Selecting a thoughtful wreath or arrangement can go a long way in showing you care.

Consider personal preferences

Think about the deceased’s favourite flowers or colours to personalise the arrangement.

Consult the family

If you’re unsure, consult with the bereaved family or the deceased’s close friends to select flowers that hold special meaning.

Balance elegance and simplicity

Opt for elegant arrangements that reflect the solemnity of the occasion, but avoid excessive extravagance.

Funeral flower etiquette

Ensure timely delivery to the funeral home or service location. Attach a card with a heartfelt message to convey your condolences.

Potted plants

Sometimes, potted plants or living arrangements are appreciated, as they can serve as a lasting memorial.

Costs for funeral flowers 

The cost of funeral flowers can vary widely based on factors like the type of flowers, the size and complexity of the arrangement. Flowers can be one of the less expensive funeral disbursements. Floral tributes can range from £25 for a simple spray to £100’s for more elaborate displays. Discuss your budget with a florist to find a suitable arrangement.

Funeral flowers provide solace and comfort to grieving families while paying tribute to the departed. Understanding their significance, types, and arranging tips ensures that your floral tribute is a heartfelt expression. While costs can vary, thoughtful selection and arrangement can create a touching memorial without exceeding your budget


Funeral Service

Honouring your loved one

A fond farewell

A funeral service is a deeply meaningful way to honour and remember a loved one, but it can also come with significant costs. In this forth spoke, we’ll explore two cost-cutting strategies related to funeral services:

  •  Finding a spokesperson 
  •  Producing order of service sheets independently.

Finding a spokesperson for the service 

Having a spokesperson to lead and officiate the funeral service is a traditional and comforting choice. However, many people are not aware that there’s often a fee from the undertaker for arranging this service, on top of the spokesperson fee.

A spokesperson is generally  a clergy member, celebrant, humanist or Salvation Army officer. However, even a family member or friend who is comfortable speaking in front of an audience can be a spokesperson. 

A spokesperson normally requires a fee, but obviously a family member or friend could conduct the service for free. Funeral directors often have contacts with local clergy or celebrants who can carry out the service.  They can assist in coordinating this arrangement. Costs range from around £80 to £250, making it one of the less expensive funeral disbursements.

Producing order of service sheets independently

Order of service sheets provide a guide to the funeral service, helping attendees follow along and participate. While these sheets are essential, purchasing them through the funeral director can be expensive.

A cost-effective alternative is to produce the order of service sheets independently. You can create a personalised design and content, which adds a unique touch to the service. Printing order of service sheets at home using a computer and printer or photocopying them at a local library or print shop can be a much more budget-friendly option.

By finding a spokesperson at no additional charge and producing order of service sheets independently, you can maintain the significance of the funeral service while managing costs effectively. This allows you to focus on creating a heartfelt and memorable farewell for your loved one.

Headstones in gravel cemetery


A lasting memorial

Locating lower-cost headstones

For many headstones stand as enduring symbols of love and remembrance, marking the final resting place of our dearly departed. However, these monuments often come with a hefty price tag, making them a significant consideration in the funeral disbursements process. This heavy price often means that many cannot afford the cost.

In this fifth spoke, the importance of headstones as a permanent memorial and how choosing a lower-cost headstone manufacturer can provide a more affordable option is discussed.

The significance of headstones

Headstones hold a special place in funeral traditions, allowing families to create a lasting tribute to their loved ones. These markers provide a physical connection to the deceased, a place for reflection, and a means of preserving their memory for generations to come. The choice of a headstone and script is deeply personal, reflecting the unique personality and life of the individual.

The cost of headstones

While headstones play a vital role in memorialising the departed, they are often very expensive, and out of reach for some families or individuals. The price of a headstone depends on factors such as material, design, size, and engraving. Traditional headstones made from granite or marble can range from hundreds to thousands of pounds, placing a significant financial burden on families already dealing with funeral costs.

Choosing a lower-cost headstone manufacturer

To make headstones more affordable, consider exploring lower-cost headstone manufacturers. These manufacturers offer a range of options that cater to different budgets. By choosing a more cost-effective headstone, you can maintain the significance of the memorial while reducing the overall financial strain associated with funeral disbursements.

Headstones serve as permanent memorials, honouring the lives and legacies of our loved ones. However, their expense can be a source of stress during an already emotionally challenging time. Exploring lower-cost headstone manufacturers can provide a viable and affordable option, allowing you to create a meaningful and lasting tribute while managing funeral costs more effectively.

Champagne being poured

The Wake

A time to remember

Different wake ideas

A wake is one of the time-honoured funeral disbursements to bring friends and family to come together to remember and celebrate the life of a departed loved one. However, the costs associated with hosting a wake can be significant. In this sixth spoke you can see the expenses involved, and see the option of holding the wake at home to keep costs down. Other suggestions are shown for achieving a lower-cost wake.

Understanding the cost of funeral wakes 

Funeral wakes can be costly, primarily due to expenses related to venue rental, catering, and décor. These costs can add up, particularly when organised through an undertaker or event/catering specialists.

Tips for lower cost wakes

At-home wake

One way to significantly reduce the cost of this potentially expensive funeral disbursement is to consider hosting the wake at home. If suitable, consider hosting the wake at your home or the home of a close friend or family member. This obviously eliminates venue rental costs, and offers a more personal setting.

Potluck style

Instead of hiring caterers, opt for a potluck-style gathering where attendees bring dishes to share. This not only reduces costs but also encourages a sense of community.

DIY decorations

Decorations can be a major expense. Consider DIY decor options or repurpose items you already have to create a meaningful and personalised theme.

Digital invitations

Use digital invitations instead of printed ones to save on stationery and postage costs.

Limit alcohol

Alcohol expenses can add up quickly. Limit or omit alcoholic beverages, or opt for more affordable options. Alternatively if holding the wake in a pub then make it clear in the invitation that guests are responsible for purchasing their own drinks.

Music and entertainment

Utilise personal playlists or ask musically inclined friends or family members to provide music, reducing the need for hired entertainment.

Minimal floral arrangements

Instead of elaborate floral arrangements, opt for simple and locally sourced flowers or greenery. An example of this would be flowers from your own or a friend/relative’s garden  if suitable.

Use existing furniture

If possible, use your existing furniture and seating options for the wake, minimising rental expenses.

By considering these cost-saving tips and choosing to hold the wake at home, you can create a heartfelt and meaningful gathering that honours the deceased without the burden of excessive expenses.

Crossed hands

The funeral directors role in managing disbursements

A funeral director should play an important  role in helping families manage funeral disbursements while still creating a meaningful service. They can provide guidance on budget-friendly options, and ensure that the service reflects the family’s wishes and the deceased’s preferences, all while providing support during a challenging time

The history of funeral disbursements

Funeral disbursements can be traced back to ancient times when burial practices were an integral part of many cultures.

Egyptian tomb

In ancient Egypt, the wealthy were buried in elaborate tombs that were filled with treasures, while the poor were buried in simple graves. Funeral expenses were paid by the family of the deceased and were seen as an important part of honouring the dead.

In ancient Greece, funeral rites were performed by family members and close friends, who were responsible for preparing the body for burial and arranging for the funeral procession. Funeral expenses were also paid by the family, and the cost of the funeral was often seen as an indication of the deceased’s social status.

During the Middle Ages in Europe, funeral expenses were typically paid by the church or the local community. Funeral rites were often elaborate and included a procession through the streets, followed by a mass or other religious ceremony.

In modern times, funeral disbursements are typically paid for by the family of the deceased, or by their estate if they have made prior arrangements.


Saving on funeral costs

Across all six main disbursement spokes, a consistent theme is the importance of finding ways to save on funeral expenses. Whether it’s choosing cost-effective alternatives, simplifying arrangements, or DIY options, incorporating these strategies can significantly reduce the financial burden.

The main costs have been broken down for a clear understanding. Let’s recap the six key spokes from the main disbursements and reaffirm the importance of other informed decision-making in this solemn time.


Flowers serve as a beautiful tribute, symbolising love and remembrance. The choice of flowers can carry deep meaning, and careful selection adds a personal touch to the service. It will be more cost effective for the person organising the funeral to deal directly with the florist, to avoid an undertakers fee.

Cremation and burial fees

Cremation and burial fees are mostly influenced by the area in which the cremation or burial is carried out. Purchasing the coffin directly from a manufacturer can be more cost saving than purchasing through an undertaker.


Embalming is not always required, and is not allowed for a natural burial, but is a sensible procedure in many cases.

Funeral service

Whether you are thinking of using a humanist, celebrant, Salvation Army officer, religious spokesperson it is best to book directly. This will avoid any extra fees an undertaker would charge.


Again it is always best to contact a stone mason directly to avoid any extra third party fees.


If possible, hold the funeral wake at home to avoid premises/hall hire. Likewise, if possible, also organise the food and drinks, if this is not possible then shop around at local pubs who can provide both food, drink and a space. Church halls often can provide a space and sometimes offer catering. 

Government and charity financial aid

The Government and some charities offer financial assistance that can provide relief to those struggling with funeral expenses. Understanding these resources can make a significant difference in managing costs.

Plan ahead for cost-saving options

Planning ahead acknowledges that foresight can ease financial burdens during emotional times. Explore cost-saving options and prioritise elements that resonate most with your loved one’s memory.

Contact low-cost funeral professionals

For personalised guidance, reach out to low-cost funeral professionals. Like most other undertakers they possess the expertise to tailor services to your preferences, ensuring a dignified farewell that aligns with your financial capabilities.

Additional Resources

  • UK: Save Funeral Costs. This guide explains how to organise a low-cost funeral and lists a funeral directory which includes low-cost undertakers and many other funeral suppliers including purchasing a coffin.
  • USA: Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA): The FCA offers valuable information on funeral planning, consumer rights, and affordable funeral options. They have state-specific resources and can help you make informed choices.
  • UK: The Natural death Centre: A charity that gives free advice on natural burials, bereavement and dying.

For further helpful information covering different aspects of funerals from poems, flowers, bereavement gift ideas, what to wear at a funeral, low-cost headstones and much more, visit the Save Funeral Costs™ blog.

SW Barratt
Founder: SW Barratt

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