Three Preston Council workers have been suspended after photographs of themselves in a chapel with a skeleton were posted on social media.
Funeral celebrant Angela Riding is pictured, along with council staff, in different poses with a skeleton, in a chapel where families pay their final respects to loved ones.
But Ms Riding said she was carrying out the final wishes of a man who died - who had asked for an “unconventional” funeral, with the skeleton at the service.
An investigation has now been launched by Town Hall bosses, after a complaint was received, and the council workers have been suspended.
Lorraine Norris, chief executive of Preston Council, said: “We are shocked by these pictures which are wholly inappropriate.
“The council has to operate with complete trust and integrity especially at the crematorium.
“This may have been a moment of stupidity but these pictures show a complete lack of respect.
“The council, but more importantly the people of Preston, have been let down by the actions of these staff.
“They have been suspended and a full investigation is now underway.”
However, Angela Riding said she had been carrying out the final wish of a man who had asked for the skeleton to be at the funeral, and said she had made an “error of judgement” posting the pictures on Facebook.
She said: “I was asked to do a service and I went to see the family, and the guy who had died owned a skeleton.
“It was his best friend.
“His last wish was he didn’t want a conventional funeral.
“So I gave him an unconventional one with the skeleton sitting in the front row, because that’s what the family asked me to do.” She said there was even a selfie of the man who died with the skeleton printed in the order of service.
Ms Riding said the pictures had been taken about 20 minutes before the service, after she had asked crematorium staff for help to set it up.
She said: “It was my error of judgement putting it on Facebook, but I did it because I was proud of doing something different.”
Coun Peter Rankin, leader of Preston Council, said: “I want to apologise to the people of Preston.
“Words cannot begin to express how upset and angry I am at the actions of these staff.
“We expect staff to behave in a professional and respectful way at all times.
“It’s deeply distressing, disturbing and quite frankly sickening.
“An investigation is now underway.”