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What is the Difference Between a Funeral Director, a Mortician and an Undertaker?

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Published 19/11/2020
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by Kieran Mitchell
Understandably, most people aren’t experts on funerals. It’s an area that few will glance at until they’re put in the unfortunate position of having to plan one for a loved one. This in turn means that a lot of the technicalities involved may be confusing. How long does it take to plan a funeral? How many people can be invited? And the subject I’m going to cover today, what is the difference between a funeral director, a mortician and an undertaker?

What is the difference between a funeral director and an undertaker?

So let’s start with the question ‘what is the difference between a funeral director and an undertaker?’ To put it simply: a funeral director is defined as ‘A person whose job is to arrange and manage funerals.’ An undertaker is defined as ‘One whose business is to prepare the dead for burial and to arrange and manage funerals.’

So as you can see, there is some overlap here, part of the reason why it can confuse some people, particularly those with no prior experience with organising a funeral for a loved one who has passed away.

But although those are the technical definitions of the roles, they often take on different meaning, particularly in this day and age. All across the United Kingdom are branches of funeral directors, whose jobs take on many different areas. Chief among these is the general planning of the funeral; organising a venue, arranging a time and date for proceedings, taking donations for the deceased to pass on to a chosen charity, and even placing death notices in the local newspaper to make people aware of the passing and the aforementioned arrangements.

An undertaker’s main role is to prepare the dead, whether this be in a casket for a burial or a cremation so that ashes can be scattered. However, this will often fall into the list of tasks for the funeral director themselves, hence the reason that Oxford Dictionary lists funeral director as a synonym for undertaker.

The truth is, arrangements with both a funeral director and an undertaker will vary on a case-by-case basis. The best thing to do is to get in touch with a local funeral director themselves, who will be able to explain who carries out the different roles and, arguably more importantly, what needs to be organised by you.

What is a Mortician?

Just to confuse things further, you may hear the word ‘mortician’ used. This phrase – more commonly used in the US than the UK – is defined by the Oxford Dictionary simply as: ‘a person whose job is to prepare the bodies of dead people to be buried or cremated, and to arrange funerals’. So again, there’s a lot of overlap with these terms, but ‘mortician’ does tend to be more associated with the actual preparation of the body.

Thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog on what is the difference between a funeral director and an undertaker, I hope you have found it useful. For more interesting blogs, please take a look at
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