Funerals – frequently asked questions
It is usual to consult a Funeral Director, who will advise on all practical aspects of the Funeral, make initial contact with a priest or minister on your behalf, and arrange for all payments which have to be made. The priest or minister will then visit you to discuss the details of the Funeral and offer pastoral care to you and your family. The deceased person may have left instructions about their Funeral, either in their Will or separately. If so, their wishes should be made known to the Funeral Director and the priest or minister.
As land available for burials becomes scarcer, your choice will tend to be restricted. Many churchyards are full, and no more burials are possible there. If there is space, the right of burial extends to those resident in or who die in the Parish. Permission can be given by the Parish Priest for other persons to be buried in the churchyard if there are good reasons for doing so. Municipal burial grounds are experiencing the same difficulties and are introducing similar regulations. The situation regarding cremated remains (following a cremation at a crematorium of your choice) is easier. Availability of space will depend on the circumstances of each individual churchyard and the Parish Priest can advise.
If a licensed Minister or Reader officiates at a funeral, they are authorised only to use the form of service approved by the Church in Wales. However, it is often possible to add to it at the request of the family, e.g. by incorporating a favourite reading which is not in the Bible, by offering a personal tribute, by adding chosen hymns and songs, and by bringing to the service objects or symbols associated with the departed person. Also, the service includes several options, and the family can discuss with the minister which of the alternative readings, prayers etc. are to be used.
The Parochial Church Council is responsible for keeping the area generally tidy and safe, and the fees which are paid when a grave is opened or when a headstone is placed must be used by the PCC for Churchyard maintenance. The particular care of individual graves has to be undertaken by the family and friends of the deceased. If a headstone becomes unsafe, the PCC will seek to trace the family of the deceased to undertake the repairs. If not, the PCC is obliged to render it safe which can mean laying it flat, but it is then the responsibility of the family either to remove the stone or to re-install it in a safe condition. The PCC can recover its reasonable costs from the family.
The Church in Wales Constitution defines the size and type of memorials that can be erected to mark burials and plots for cremated remains. These set the limits to the memorials that the Parish Priest or Archdeacon can authorise. Any memorials beyond these limits can only be erected if a Faculty is granted by the Diocesan Chancellor. Your Parish Priest can advise on these limits and give you the relevant application form to erect or modify a memorial, as well as advise on the Faculty procedure, if required. Generally, memorials outside the normal limits are discouraged.
It is only possible to reserve a plot for future burial if a faculty is granted by the Diocesan Chancellor. Such reservations are only granted in exceptional circumstances and do not guarantee the type of memorial that can be erected.
The type of coffin is down to personal choice and thus an environmentally sound casket such as from willow or recycled cardboard is acceptable. Some Parishes are choosing to designate areas of churchyards as ‘green’ areas where burials will be unmarked by gravestones etc (though some form of location identification will be needed). Marking a grave by planting trees is not encouraged because of the long term liabilities that trees represent.