Austin's Blog


Personalising Your Own Funeral

March 18th, 2019    Author:

Personalising your own funeral

There are lots of initiatives around to help people start talking about death, and part of that conversation is funerals. Most people know whether they want to be buried or cremated, but some have whole sections of their funeral planned out; from the music they want played to what they want people to wear.

Who remembers the scene from Love Actually where Liam Neeson’s character is talking about his late wife’s funeral requests, one of which was he should take Claudia Schiffer as his date?! She also chose photos of herself to be shown on screen while ‘Bye bye baby’ by the Bay City Rollers played out as her coffin left the church.


Your wishes

We fully support people wanting to have a say in their own funeral. It’s a way to let your loved ones know how you want to be remembered on the day; perhaps by planning things they wouldn’t think to do in their time of grief.

Personalising a funeral doesn’t have to cost the earth – there are lots of little things you can do, even just having your photo displayed on top of the coffin.

Just remember, while a bit of pre-planning can take a lot of pressure off your loved ones when the time comes, it’s nice for them to be able to add their own touches to express how much you meant to them, so perhaps don’t try and plan every last detail.

Our Little Green Book could be a good starting point for you to think about the various decisions that need to be made. You can find it at:


First things first

Typically you would put big decisions about your death in your will. When it comes to your funeral, the most important questions your loved ones should know the answers to are:

  • Do you wish to be buried or cremated?
  • Where do you want to be buried or your ashes scattered?
  • Do you want a religious ceremony, or one at a crematorium or woodland site etc.?


Personal touches

Flowers or donations: Do you want a particular type of flower, or perhaps a special arrangement for your coffin? If you have been in a trade, you might want an arrangement made out of tools instead. Alternatively, do you have a charity close to your heart that you wish people to donate to rather than bring flowers?

Coffin: There are many different types of coffin from traditional wood to wicker, but it’s not all about the material. Did you see in the news recently that one dedicated primary teacher from Bath had her coffin decorated in her pupils’ drawings?

Transport: While it can sometimes be overlooked, the transport you choose can be hugely symbolic of your life. For instance, the families of bikers often ask for fellow bikers to accompany the coffin in a motorcycle procession. Other symbolic modes of transport include VW campervans, vintage lorries and traditional horse and carriage.

Eulogy: You can write your own eulogy in a traditional style, or perhaps as a poem. You could also select your own readings and even ask someone close to you to read them, if they are comfortable doing so.

Music: For some people, music is a huge influencer in their lives. If you have a special song, or an artist you love, or have come across something that sums up you and your life, then the music you choose can add a very special touch.

Photos: You may want to choose some photos of yourself for the order of service, or to be on display at the church or crematorium. We are the only funeral director in the UK to create unique films and photo slideshows that can be played during a service and kept by friends and family afterwards.


Funeral plans

Of course, we can’t overlook cost. The average funeral costs around £4,000 and there are many funeral plans available to pre pay for your funeral. Our Hertfordshire Funeral Plan is exclusive to us and, unlike many other plans available, customised specifically to your requirements. Find out more at:

How to tell your loved ones what you want

If you, or those close to you, don’t feel ready to talk about your wishes, then you can always write everything down in a book and make sure they know where to find it after you pass away.

Butterfly volunteers: Making a difference to every last minute of life

February 4th, 2019    Author:

Butterfly Choir

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life”. We all know February is the month of love, but with Time to Talk Day on the 7th, it’s also about opening up about mental health – anxiety, depression, perhaps even loneliness. We all know how important relationships are at all stages of our lives, and feeling close to those that we love.

How would you feel about being alone in the last chapter of your life? What would you do if you couldn’t get to a family member or close friend in their last few days?

Charity of the year

With this in mind, we’re delighted that our charity of the year for 2019 is the Butterfly Volunteers Service. This incredible team of specially trained volunteers are based at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage where they provide support and companionship to dying adult patients and their families.

The quote above is from Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the Hospice Movement. It’s hugely poignant and synonymous with the Butterfly Service, which creates a ‘hospice in hospital’ environment.

The Butterfly volunteers, or ‘Butterflies’ for short, say: “It is recognised that in the final days and hours of a person’s life, it is not always possible for staff or family members to sit with dying patients; factors determining this include busy workloads and geographical proximity of relatives.”

Happiness is love

We love these words from one of the Butterflies: “For me happiness is love, not just receiving it but also being able to give it, share it. Being with a person at the end of life is a privilege and I hope it makes a difference to their lives, as little as it may be.”

Helping in numbers

Did you know that, before the Service was set up in 2016, an estimated 15-20 patients a month were dying alone at the Lister Hospital, either waiting for relatives to arrive or because they didn’t have any relatives?

As heartbreaking as that number is, it’s wonderful to hear that last year the hospital’s 30 Butterflies sat with 650 patients, made over 2,000 visits and provided over 1,000 hours of emotional support. Now they’re some numbers to be proud of, and there’s no doubt the Service has made a fundamental difference to the way the Lister provides end of life care.

Working as a team

The work these volunteers do really is priceless. If you’re at the Lister Hospital and see people in purple polo shirts with butterfly logos, you’ll know what amazing work they’re doing.

The Butterflies work with:

● Patients nearing the end of their life, who may feel lonely and frightened. They might read to them, sit with them or just hold their hand
● Friends and family of the patients who may need someone to talk to, someone to give them a break from sitting by the bedside, or simply to make hot drinks or run errands to the hospital shop
● The ward staff to help free up their time to care for other patients, safe in the knowledge that there is someone providing support to patients who are dying

One person helped by the Butterflies said: “To leave Dad with a Butterfly Volunteer, who we knew would sit with him in our absence, was a great comfort to us. You helped to make a difficult time a little easier. Thank you.”

Austin’s charitable work
The Butterflies need £25,000 a year to continue their work and we aim to help them towards that target throughout 2019. Our charitable fund was set up in 2002 and it has raised over £125,000 for community-based and local charities including the Samaritans, Stevenage Haven, Cancer Hair Care and Tracks Autism. We’re very grateful to everyone who has helped to raise money for these brilliant charities so far.

To find out more about the Butterfly Volunteers Service, visit:

We’ll also be posting updates about the work they do throughout the year on the website and on our social media channels.

Gone But Not Forgotten

December 4th, 2018    Author:

The funeral of a loved one is overwhelming. For many, the service passes in a blur of grief and afterwards it can be difficult to recall many details. You may not remember all the people who were there or have only hazy memories of the floral tributes – yet those memories can bring solace in the days, and years, to come.

That’s why Austin’s offer a tribute service to capture all the special moments of a funeral or memorial. We discreetly film the service, taking in everything from the music and eulogies to the poems, tribute cards and messages. All the little details are then there for you to replay when you feel ready. It can be a great comfort to be reminded of all the people who cherished your loved one and came to pay their respects.

A tribute film also allows family and friends who couldn’t be there to share the commemoration. And for children who were too young to attend or understand what was happening, the film is a wonderful keepsake to show them when they are older.

Your tribute film can be of the service alone or we can personalise it by adding location footage – perhaps a walk you both loved or your favourite picnic spot – and family photos and videos. Whichever you choose, we’ll give you the gift of an everlasting memory.

* To discuss our tribute film service, please contact us on 01438 815555.

A Guide to Winter Funerals

November 13th, 2018    Author:

With the weather turning chilly, we’ve put together some tips on dealing with a winter funeral

Keeping warm will be a key factor in your choice of outfit as you’re likely to be spending time outside viewing the flowers and chatting to mourners after the service. You might want to layer your outfit with a cardigan or jumper that can be removed if you get too hot. Likewise, a thick coat will keep out the chill and be easy to slip off when you’re inside. If you particularly feel the cold you may want to wear some thermal underwear. And don’t forget winter accessories such as hats, scarves and gloves – as well as keeping you toasty, these can be used to add a little bit of colour, if that’s what your loved one would have liked.

There are plenty of winter flowers available for wreaths and floral arrangements. For something different, you could include pine cones, fresh spruce and eucalyptus, or perhaps go with a white and red theme for a December funeral. If, on the other hand, you want a more warm and colourful arrangement, think about including tropical flowers, many of which are available all year round. If you need help with your floral display, our florist (Daizy flowers] will be pleased to advise you.

Tissues are always useful to have to hand – but with winter sniffles you might want to take an extra supply, for you as well as other mourners. If it’s raining take an umbrella plus a spare one just in case yours breaks or you lose it. When the weather’s really cold, you could take a hand warmer, which will easily fit into a pocket or handbag. And finally, remember that wintery weather can cause problems driving so have de-icer on standby and a spade in your car in case of heavy snow.

A cold buffet is usually the simplest way to cater for mourners after a funeral, but when the weather is cold you may want to offer a hot option such as soup or stew. You could use your loved one’s own recipe it and personalise it with a menu card, like ‘Nan’s hearty vegetable soup’. As well as tea and coffee, you could offer a fun option such as hot chocolate with marshmallows and sprinkles.

* Austin’s are here to help you with funeral planning. Please get in touch with us on 01438 316623.