In response to some of our most frequently asked questions, we have written a series of posts on those topics which require further explanation
Freeman Brothers has been established as Funeral Directors in Sussex since 1855 and our team of caring, professional staff in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint are always responding to client feedback and suggesting how the company might provide different offerings to better suit customers’ needs.
Several years ago, the Freeman Brothers team noticed that the range of a ‘normal’ funeral was broadening. Once, the majority of our customers had a funeral which was roughly similar in format, and the outliers to this were relatively few. Those people whose requirements moved them outside this started to increase and it became harder to pinpoint a ‘typical’ service.
An expressed desire for something simpler was one of the things which became more popular. This was for various reasons, both demographic and choice-based. The demographic considerations include: people living to a longer age, meaning fewer people to attend a service in due course; families being more widely spread (including internationally) and so less able to travel to attend a funeral; more families in which there are fewer or no children, meaning there are not successive generations of attendees (this is particularly pertinent when combined with the first and/or second points); and the well-publicised reduction in religious beliefs which means there is not an automatic structure to many ‘milestone’ life events, including funerals.
Following this feedback from our customer base we decided to establish a Simple Funeral for those people whose requirements were inclined towards the straightforward. However, deciding how to structure this was quite a challenge. Obviously, as a Funeral Director, there are some aspects of our service which it is not possible for us to compromise on. All funerals require a certain amount of administration which needs to be carried out accurately and in a timely manner in order for the service to take place. All funerals require the person who has died to be transported to the funeral, which means there will always also be a need for a minimum quantity of staff. There will virtually always need to be a coffin. And, perhaps most importantly, it will always be necessary to ensure that the person who has died is looked after until their funeral in a way which is both appropriate and dignified. This is something which it’s not possible to compromise on for Freeman Brothers – the care of the Deceased person is fundamental to our values and not something where we believe it’s possible to cut corners.
It is also worth remembering that funerals have third party costs, called ‘Disbursements’, which Freeman Brothers has to pay to other companies such as those operating the Crematorium or place of burial, as well as someone to take the service. These will not alter just because the person arranging the funeral has only simple requirements – although some of them (such as fees for a service elsewhere beforehand) would not apply.
Therefore, we had to look at what parts of our services we could remove, and where we could place restrictions, to ensure we provided appropriate inclusions both for the Simple and Traditional funerals. There had to be a clear difference between the two for the introduction of a Simple Funeral to be meaningful and offer a real difference.
The main place where it was appropriate to make changes was in the level of service we would offer around discretionary items, such as the collection of donations and visits to the Chapel of Rest. The former of these can be very administratively time-consuming. Even our online donation facility, which means our arrangers process fewer donations, needs setup and monitoring. We therefore decided that we would not include processing of donations in our Simple Funeral.
Because of the reasons outlined above, it is very likely that there will be less people who would want to visit the Chapel of Rest. Reducing the administration of booking visits was another simplification which could be reflected in a simpler, lower cost arrangement. It’s worth saying that the advantage of using an independent funeral director such as ourselves instead of a large company is that our staff have the discretion and autonomy to vary our services should they consider it appropriate to do so, and so we may on occasion find that people who have our Simple funeral do pay a visit to the Chapel of Rest.
The other place where we are most straightforwardly able to simplify a funeral service is in the logistics of the day itself. It may seem evident to say that the funeral service takes time and requires the presence of staff to ensure things run smoothly. Reducing the variables reduces the overall impact of this. So, the service can only take place at one venue – either a local crematorium, or the graveside when the service is a burial. There is therefore less travelling time to take into account. The provision of the hearse only, without following limousines, where everyone meets at the funeral venue, makes the day easier to manage and timings easier to work out and stick to. A funeral where there is a service in church and several limousines collect people from different addresses beforehand, and then a cortège proceeds to the cemetery or crematorium is probably not ‘simple’ by anyone’s definition, so making this a guideline felt instinctively right for us.
The aspect of the Simple Funeral which we are questioned about most is where we say that we are able to decide the date and time of the service, and will probably suggest that it starts earlier in the day. We understand how this might be interpreted but we are very clear that we don’t intend to be proscriptive and suggest a date and/or time that wouldn’t be suitable. We still work with whoever is arranging the funeral to find something mutually convenient. But we might be more, rather than less, inclined to say that we are not able to carry out the service on a particular day due to the commitments we already have in place.
As for suggesting earlier times, this is for several reasons. There are ‘popular’ times for funerals, which tend to be late morning to mid-afternoon. By avoiding those, it means we have to spend less time on the logistical maths we have already mentioned above. A funeral earlier in the day is less likely to be affected by services before it at the same venue and so less likely to cause a ‘knock on effect’ to later commitments. Also, for those funerals where the requirement for something simpler is a consideration purely based on cost, some crematoria offer a lower price for a service taking place earlier in the day, meaning there is the possibility to make an additional saving which should be taken advantage of.
Like any provider of services, we find that set structures are not for everyone. Every funeral is individual in any case. Simple funerals will still be bespoke thanks to their content. However, we feel it is important to demonstrate that we are a business that listens to feedback to take account of changing preferences, and also ensure that our clientele is aware that there is nothing wrong with choosing something simpler if that is where your requirements lie. Our priority is to create meaningful, appropriate funerals – after all, giving someone ‘bells and whistles’ when something straightforward is more in keeping is as inappropriate as the reverse.
For any questions about our Simple Funeral, or any other aspect of our services, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Tel: 01403 254590
If you have an urgent query, please call 01403 254590. This number is answered by one our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the quickest way to reach us.
Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497