Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Wedding Celebrant | Pop-Up & Flash Weddings

Many of you may have heard about pop-up weddings but not experienced one, however, once tried - never forgotten.

“You basically just show up. If you don’t want the stress and the cost of a traditional wedding, it’s perfect!”

So  “What is a pop-up wedding?”
Not all pop-up weddings are the same, but they do have a common purpose: to make it easy for a couple to get married, and to make it less expensive.

Pop-up weddings truly are perfect for couples who simply don’t have the cash to pull out all the stops on their wedding day. They are also ideal for couples with other priorities, such as travel.

And because not all of us like wedding planning, they are a great option for couples who don’t want to invest months orchestrating an event.

Some pop-up weddings are like fancy elopements with no guests. Australia’s The Pop Up Wedding describes their service like this:

“We find the coolest venue, the hottest photographer, really creative stylists and florists and a rocking wedding celebrant and put them all together so for one hour you can have your dream wedding with no fuss, no stress and a few guests.”

Perth Pop-Up Wedding, also in Australia, allows up to 16 guests, and lets you choose from eight different venues.

“We provide an incredibly stunning and romantic venue with three inspiring and uniquely styled ceremony options … a beautiful mini bouquet, Perth’s most awarded celebrant… , celebratory champagne and cake for you and your guests and photographs of your ceremony followed by a short portrait session as husband and wife with one of Perth’s most sought after photographers…”

Thankfully, you don’t have to go all the way to Australia to have a pop-up wedding. The trend is catching on here in the UK too.

A pop-up wedding is much like an elopement. A short & sweet ceremony usually consisting of the couple, their witnesses, a few guests & a wedding celebrant. Endless natural landscapes for backdrops & vintage neon signage are a favourite.  

Another variant is a "flash wedding", flash as in "flash mob", depending on the location, not recommended unless you are a brave wedding celebrant with an equally brave couple. I did a goth themed wedding on the steps of a well know and busy cathedral (handfasting & broom jump too). The Bishop was incandescent with rage - but it was all done and dusted before he could do anything about it.

Why are couples choosing pop up weddings?
Large scale weddings aren’t for everyone. A lot of the couples would rather spend money on their honeymoon, instead of a ceremony that isn’t really about them. Pop-ups are all about the couples & the love they share. It’s really a sweet & genuine & exciting moment.

What’s the cost?
How long is a piece of string? Having taken a straw pole of those of us who have done them, the costs have ranged from £1200 to £5600 All in - including the wedding celebrant. Much depends on the imagination of the couple and the skills of the wedding celebrant / planner.

For UKSOC Wedding Celebrants interested in this concept - speak to your Mentor.

Funeral Celebrant | Funeral Poverty

What if there is none?
“The Cost Of Pauper Funerals Is Rising”, proclaimed recent headlines, along with a simultaneous shining of the journalistic spotlight onto so-called ‘funeral poverty’.

The cost of funerals is always enough to cause dark mutterings, calls for government enquiries and heated articles in the tabloids. But in a world now obsessed with labelling everything as a pressing social issue, amongst ‘Islamaphobia’ and ‘Trans-gender discrimination’ we find ‘Funeral Poverty’ being tucked in to the lexicon of contemporary social problems. As usual, the reality is complex and riddled with inconvenient truths and it takes a brave soul to try explaining it.

So here we go...

In recent years, the cost to local authorities of so-called ‘pauper funerals’ has risen almost 30% to £1.7m. Public health funerals, as they’re properly known, are carried out by local authorities for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay. Although historically the preserve of people who’d fallen through the social net, the increase in public health funerals can largely be traced to people living longer and thus more likely to die alone. But the ever-growing number of marital breakdowns and fractured family relationships is in turn why more people find themselves alone in the first place.

Local authorities carried out 2,580 public health funerals in the 12 months spanning 2013-14, representing still only a small fraction of the circa 500,000 UK deaths each year. A no-frills public health funeral will cost somewhere around £1500 and although attempts are made to recover some of the costs from the deceased’s assets, the total bill to local authorities was still £1,719,329 - an increase of 28% in the past four years. So there’s your newspaper headline.

But hanging on the coat tails of that story is the sequel: ‘funeral poverty’ – the inability to afford a funeral. The average funeral now costs approximately £3,163 nationally, (£4,836 in London). People receiving benefits can apply for assistance from the DWP Social Fund, which will cover the necessary third party costs of a simple burial or cremation and up to £700 towards funeral director's fees. But there’s no guarantee an application will succeed and because you need a funeral invoice to make a claim, families & funeral directors alike are exposed to unacceptable risk of debt right from the outset.

The £700 funding amount hasn’t changed for over a decade - while funeral director’s costs have gone up year on year (we have wages, electricity, fuel and business rates to pay, just like everyone else). Meanwhile, third-party costs have risen way above inflation. Cremation fee rises are largely due to EU regulations; burial fees are high because, with burials accounting for only 30% of deaths anyway, cemeteries are almost always run at a loss and require constant subsidy. Conversely, some cash-strapped local authorities are choosing to privatise their ‘bereavement services’ (crematorium/cemeteries), transforming them into cash cows for raising desperately-needed revenue to fund other services. They subcontract their management to private operators like the big funeral chains, but inevitably with little downward effect on the fees.

Bereavement is of course often unexpected and so for people on low incomes especially, funeral & associated costs will inevitably far exceed their financial means. As a result, there’s now some anecdotal evidence that struggling families are washing their hands of responsibility altogether, in the hope their local authority will provide a public health funeral.

But here’s the Katie Hopkins bit: the desire to offload responsibility onto the local authority and obtain a public health funeral actually represents, a more honest approach. There always seems to be a proportion of families who cannot afford an elaborate funeral but still want one anyway. Cheaper funeral options are readily available, without any loss of dignity, but they’re often shunned because the deceased “deserves better”. One result is an identifiable trend now for funerals – particularly for youngsters - being paid for by online crowd-funding appeals “because he/she deserves the best send-off”. That always strikes me as rather backward logic and once again it illustrates how the label ‘poverty’ is often relative to spending choices.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Funeral Celebrant | How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

How much does a funeral cost?
More than one Piggy Bank required!
These days a typical funeral using a funeral director costs around £3,600. However, you can pay much more or less than this, depending on how you want to remember the person who’s died, what you can organise yourself and how much you can afford to pay.

Taking the deceased’s wishes into account

Some people write in their wills what they want for their own funeral and this could affect the cost, depending on their wishes. If they didn’t make plans for what they wanted, you don’t have to follow these instructions if you can’t afford to pay for them.
Although it’s important to take the deceased wishes into account, you also need to work out what you can afford to spend on the funeral.
You may also have other immediate expenses or find that you suddenly have to manage on a lower household income, so it’s important to stick to a budget.
If you are on a low income and claiming certain benefits, you may be able to get help with the essential costs of the funeral from the Social Fund.
You could try to talking with family and friends to see if it’s possible to carry out the deceased’s wishes or if there are other more affordable ways to give them a fitting funeral. For example, how much it would matter if the deceased were to be cremated rather than buried?
Find out more about who is responsible for the costs of a funeral and help that may be available in Paying for a funeral.

Using a funeral director

Top Tip

Funeral costs can vary significantly. So while you may find it difficult at this time, it’s important to compare quotes from several funeral directors, caterers or florists to make sure you’re not paying too much.
Most people use a funeral director to arrange a funeral.
It can take away much of the administrative stress that comes with planning a funeral and can give you the time you need to deal with your grief.
When looking for a funeral director, choose one from either:
Funeral directors from these associations operate under a code of practice and have an established complaints procedure.
They should respect your choices, give you a full range of options and not put you under pressure to spend more than you can afford. If you feel this has happened, you should complain.

Typical costs for arranging the funeral

On average, funeral director services cost about £1,800. These costs include storing the body, providing the coffin, hearse and staff on the day of the funeral. Generally, they won’t cover disbursement costs.
Disbursement costs are fees for burial, cremation, doctors and ministers or celebrant services. They can add up to £1,600 onto the cost, depending on whether the deceased is buried or cremated.
Remember every aspect of the funeral is your decision, whether you use a funeral director or make some or all the arrangements yourself.
Don’t feel pressurised into spending more than you want to or can afford, simply because you feel you have to put on a show of respect. A simple funeral can be as dignified and fitting as one which costs a lot more money.
Some funeral service providers may offer a package price. This could be made up of some elements you have to pay for and some optional elements.
It’s worth asking for a detailed quote to find out what services are included in the package. If the quote includes services you don’t need, request a revised quote without them.
Before contacting a funeral director, you can use our table of costs below to find out how much you can expect to pay for a typical funeral.
The tables include items many people choose to include, such as a coffin or hearse, as well as optional items.

Typical costs of using a funeral director

ItemWays you could try to reduce the bill
Use of the chapel of rest for viewing the deceasedYou don’t have to make the body available for viewing.
Hygienic treatment of the body (known as ‘embalming’)If the body is to be viewed then it may be embalmed to preserve the deceased’s appearance. But it is not compulsory.
Administration – making all necessary arrangements and documentationIf you feel confident you could do this yourself or ask friends and family to help.
CoffinYou could request a lower priced coffin or opt for a shroud instead.
Hearse and limousineYou could ask for a more basic car or make arrangements to collect the body yourself.
Staff for the funeral, such as pall bearersYou could ask friends and family to help instead.

Disbursement costs

ItemAverage costWays you could try to reduce the bill
Doctor’s fees for death certification£165This fee only applies to a cremation, not for a burial. It also won’t apply if the deceased is in the hands of the coroner or a procurator fiscal in Scotland.
Cremation fees£660If the fee includes additional services such as an organist, you could ask for these to be removed.
Burial fees£1,750If the fee includes additional services such as an organist, you could ask for these to be removed.
Funeral Celebrant, religious or secular officiant – in other words the person who performs the funeral ceremony£165+

You could ask a close friend or relative to perform the ceremony.

Optional costs of a funeral

There are some additional services which you can add to a funeral. On average these can add another £1,800 to the bill.
Remember, these aren’t essential costs. But if you do want to include them, it’s important to get several quotes as costs can vary a lot.
This is one area where it’s easier to save money by making some of the arrangements yourself or asking family and friends to help you.
ItemAverage costWays you could try to reduce the bill
Funeral flowers£150These days many people opt for having a charity collection instead. Or if you do want flowers, you could opt for homemade arrangements.
Death notice announcing a death or an obituary£77You could ask close friends and family to help out by calling others on your behalf or with posting or emailing homemade death notices.
Funeral notice announcing the time and location of a funeral in a local newspaper£66You could ask close friends and family to help out with phone calls or by posting or emailing homemade funeral notices.
Additional limousine£230You could just ask friends and family to let you use their cars instead. Or meet at the church or crematorium.
Order of service/ celebration sheets£60You could make these at home and personalise them.
Catering for a wake/funeral reception£370This is one time when friends and family can really help out. Ask them to bring something each or help you make the food at home.
Venue hire for a wake/funeral reception£110You could use your home or the home of willing family or friends.
Memorial headstone or plaque£770These days many people opt to create an online memorial website instead, often with a link to a charity organisation supported by the deceased. This can be a much cheaper alternative.

Arranging a funeral without a funeral director

You can arrange a funeral yourself, or make some of the arrangements yourself. This can cost you a lot less than using a funeral director.
The Natural Death Centre gives advice on how you can save money on all aspects of the funeral, including the coffin and burial fees.
Find out more on the Natural Death Centre website.
You can also contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium department of your local council directly if you want to arrange a cremation or burial yourself and they will be able to guide you through the process.
Find your local council on the GOV.UK website.

Source: The data in this article has been provided by Sun Life Direct and is based on its annual Cost of Dying report 2014. The report is commissioned by Sun Life Direct and carried out by Mintel Research Consultancy.