What should I consider when choosing a coffin for a loved one?

purple teardrop woven willow coffin


Whilst as a nation we’re getting better at sharing our wishes about funeral arrangements and our personal affairs, few of us will actually leave specific instructions around some of the more detailed aspects of the funeral, such as coffin choices. This means that if you’re the one having to make the arrangements, you may find yourself having to second guess your loved ones wishes. If you find yourself in that position, what should you consider?  

Ethical or strongly held beliefs 

It’s highly likely that if your loved one had any strongly held or ethical beliefs, you’d be aware of them, and they would have been incorporated into other aspects of their wishes. And they can be a good starting point when thinking about choosing an appropriate coffin.  

We often hear of people’s values playing a big part in the shape of their funeral plans. With the average price of a funeral on the increase, it may be that there is a concern over the financial cost which could mount up, particularly if they wouldn’t have been comfortable with an excessive amount being spent on a coffin. In the case of cremations, the choice of coffin can be a particularly sensitive matter; some people may even perceive it to be ‘burning good money’ – or even good wood.  

If you want the coffin to acknowledge more environmentally based concerns held by the deceased, then bamboo, willow and bulrush coffins are sustainable materials and as a result may be more sympathetic. English willow is a popular choice too as it supports local, artisanal enterprises and offers a traditional craft making element too.  

So, in the first instance, it’s sensible to choose something that you think would fit with your loved one’s moral, financial and ethical values. 

Making it personal 

In days gone by the choice of the material for the coffin may have been light wood or dark wood. But today, you can choose from a range of solid woods, cardboard, MDF with wood veneer and natural materials such as bamboo or willow. You can even have coffins brightly painted or which carry a wraparound picture. This change in the available options is designed to help you make the coffin an extension of your loved one’s personality; something that when placed in front of family and friends can be part of the grief or celebration of life process.  

If you opt for something more traditional, then it may be that you personalise the coffin with an engraved plaque or dress it with items that reflect your loved one’s hobbies and interests. If they had a favourite colour, then even natural coffins can be spray painted to match. There are lots of interpretations here – it may be appropriate to choose a favourite football team’s colours if your loved one was a keen fan, but sometimes it’s touching to just opt for a colour that was synonymous with the person you’re saying goodbye to. 

Picture coffins can be the ultimate reflection on someone’s life, with the ability for you to choose from a predetermined range of images or supply your own image to create something truly personal and bespoke. We’ve read about and seen examples of cardboard coffins being purchased and signed with messages by those attending the funeral or painted/coloured in, in advance of the body being placed inside. By making it personal to your loved one and those mourning their loss the result can be a very genuine farewell.   

With so many options now open to you, the opportunity exists to create something highly bespoke and reflective of your loved one and their wishes, and also a fitting memorial that can offer comfort to those in attendance at the funeral.

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