There are lots of decisions to be made when planning a funeral. It can be hard to know which options to choose, especially at such a difficult and upsetting time. Having all the right information can help, so you can weigh your options and make the best decisions for you and your family.
You might find that planning a funeral can help you to put advance plans in place so it makes it easier for your own family when the time comes.
For some, the coffin is one of the most important choices you’ll need to make when planning a funeral. It is an integral part of the funeral service, but which one to choose? In this article, you’ll find out more about what coffins are made of and which designs may suit your needs best.
What are coffins made out of?
Coffins have traditionally been made out of wood. In fact, wooden coffins are believed to have been used as far back as 5,000 BC, after archeologists uncovered a rectangular wooden coffin in an ancient Chinese tomb.
A variety of different woods can be used. Oak, pine and mahogany are popular choices for traditional coffins, and you can choose from solid wood or veneer styles. Solid wood is more expensive and much heavier, while wood veneer designs tend to be a more affordable option.
Wood veneer and wood effect coffins are made in different ways. Veneer coffins feature materials such as oak laminated onto medium density fiberboard (MDF) or chipboard, whereas wood effect coffins feature a wrap that’s been printed to look like wood. Other options when you’re choosing a material for a coffin include bamboo, wicker and cardboard.
Coffins are sometimes confused with caskets. The latter is a term often used to describe American-style caskets, which are designed for use at funerals where the casket can be left either open or closed. They are usually plushly lined and have a split lid so that the top section can be opened during the service. These caskets also tend to be more ornate in decoration, as they are intended to be on display. You’ll often find that they feature intricate decoration and lavish metalwork.
It’s important to bear in mind that in some religions, the material of the coffin is symbolic. For example, according to Jewish burial traditions, coffins should be simple in design and construction. They are made from wood that naturally decomposes, unlike metal that is seen to prevent the natural process of the body’s return to earth. Even the metal nails used in many other types of coffin are replaced with wooden pegs.
Eco-friendly, painted and unique coffins
Coffins can often be highly decorative. Depending on your wishes, you can choose wooden coffins with beautiful carvings, embellishments, embossed details and shiny brass or metal accessories. Alternatively, you can go for something simple and unfussy - it’s completely up to you.
In addition to traditional decorative wood, you now have even more choice when it comes to your coffin - or the coffin of a loved one. An increasing number of manufacturers are now offering unique painted coffins, which are decorated with an image or scene of your choice. For example, some families choose a personalised picture coffin decorated with a countryside scene from a spot the person loved to visit, or with images of their favourite animal.
You can also choose an eco-friendly coffin. This is increasingly popular as people become more concerned with their carbon footprint, in death as well as in life. Eco-friendly coffins tend to be made from fast-growing natural materials such as bamboo, seagrass, banana leaf or wicker, all from sustainable sources. You can even find coffins made from wool, which is woven into a beautiful, lightweight yet surprisingly strong structure.
There’s a common misconception that some lightweight eco-friendly coffins such as those made from cardboard or wicker cannot support much weight. In fact, these coffins are designed to be extra strong and can be made in larger sizes too. For example, some bamboo coffins can support weights of up to 25 stone, while cardboard models can also support weights of up to 25 stone.
Are wicker coffins cheaper than wood?
Cost is often a key factor when planning a funeral. If you would love to choose an eco-friendly coffin but are worried about the cost, there’s good news.
Although of course the price can vary depending on the provider, wicker coffins are often cheaper than wooden ones. This is partly because they are lighter, so can be much easier to transport.
Wooden coffins are more complex in their construction, and typically require more materials and accessories (for example, glues, chemical finishes and metalwork fittings) than wicker, which can make them more costly to produce.
Wicker coffins, on the other hand, are designed to be beautifully simple. They are made with all-natural materials and their construction doesn’t usually involve any chemicals, or metal fixtures or fittings.
How much does a coffin weigh?
You don’t need to worry about the details of the exact weight of coffins. Speak to your undertaker for further advice on this when choosing the coffin and planning details such as whether or not you will have pallbearers. Alternatively, a professional funeral director will be able to provide advice in these areas as part of their service too.
There are usually around four to six pallbearers who carry the coffin into the church. If the total weight to be carried is over 90 kilograms, it is advisable to have six pallbearers. It’s important that they have the physical strength and stability to be able to carry the weight of the coffin with the person inside, and to do so safely and securely. If you’re worried about it, you can choose to have the undertakers carry the coffin or use a wheeled stand instead.
For more information on the different funeral plans available, click here.