The world is changing. And now funerals are too. Since 1600s being buried in a coffin ‘6 feet under’ has been one of the few options available to us after death in the UK. Until recently it hasn’t allowed a lot of room for individualism. That’s changing. With funeral costs increasing 3.9% year on year, more people are turning to new options to save money, and to reflect their character, interests and values in life, in their death.
That’s led people to ask the question “Can I be buried at sea?”. Being buried at sea isn’t particularly common, with only 12 people per year choosing to do so. But it is legal to be buried at sea, if not a little complicated. We talk you through the rules and regs around being buried at sea, so you can work out if this is the burial for you or your loved one.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about who is and who isn’t allowed to be buried at sea in the UK. You won’t be alone at feeling a little lost at sea on this topic (see what I did there). But we’re going to clear things up.
The first common misunderstanding around being buried at sea is that you have to be a member of the military, particularly former sailors or navy personnel to be buried at sea. This isn’t true.
Anyone can be buried at sea. You don’t need a connection to maritime life. You just need to get permission and ensure that your wishes are outlined clearly when you make your online will.
But there are some loop holes you have to jump through. There are strict rules and procedures in place to protect marine life and the environment.
Yes it is! Anybody can be buried at sea, but you do need to get permission to do so. To do this you’ll need to do the following: Apply for a special licence from the relevant authorities for your locality, make sure you have covered all the appropriate steps and pay the licence fee.
The main costs are to obtain a licence. It costs £50 to get a licence to be buried at sea in England or Northern Ireland. The remaining costs will vary person to person e.g. what you’re buried in, transportation costs etc.
There are actually pretty strict rules on where you can and can’t be buried. This is mainly to protect marine life and other human activities. You wouldn’t want to be sent off on your final voyage, only to be picked up in a fishing net the following week or for the currents to take your body back to shore to be discovered by the local sun seekers!
In the UK the government has only designated three sites for sea burials, they are:
These locations float your boat?
You can apply to be buried at sea in other locations. However, this process is much more complex and you need to provide a lot of additional information. Including:
This is to check whether the location is suitable.
If you’ve read this far and you are thinking being buried at sea is pretty easy breezy and might just be the burial for you, buckle up, the steps so far have been a drop in the ocean, there are a few more hoops to jump through before the coast is clear.
To apply for the licence you need the following:
Once you receive the licence, you need to be buried at sea within 3 months from the date that the licence was granted.
Sort of. But, you can’t use the same type of coffin used by traditional funerals due to the materials used, and its potential impact on the environment. When you’re buried at see the coffin must: Be made from non-toxic, natural and biodegradable materials and made of solid softwood. It can’t contain plastic, lead, copper or zinc. Have holes drilled into make sure it doesn’t float. Have an even weight distribution.
You can see the full list of coffin requirements here.
Family members can attend a sea burial by boat.
However most families don’t, choosing to have their ceremony on land instead.
This is mainly due to ease fo access. Getting to a location where you’re allowed to bury a body at sea can take hours. But it’s up to you.
Being buried at sea is possible, but the process of getting there can be long and complicated.
An easier and more popular alternative is scattering your ashes at sea.
There are no requirements whatsoever to be put in place before scattering your ashes at sea, you can do that whenever and wherever you want.
Cremation removes the risk of any infections or waste materials entering the ocean.
If you want to spend eternity riding the waves, but don’t want to have to jump through the hoops above then choosing to be cremated and asking the people you love to scattering your ashes at sea might be a better option for you.
Now that you know that a sea burial is possible, the question is: Is that how you want to be buried?
Having decided it’s important to communicate your wishes with your family and friends. You can either do this by just telling them, or you can include your wishes in your will - where it won’t get lost or forgotten. Most UK adults have a will in place.
Have you shared your funeral wishes? Do you have a will and is it up to date? Find out how prepared you actually are by taking this quick and easy quiz here.