Step-by-step guide to planning a funeral
If your loved one has not discussed their end-of-life wishes, planning a funeral may be trying and draining. But with a strategy in place, funeral planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
The National Funeral Directors Association has provided a list with an array of goods, services and logistics that are often included in a traditional funeral and/or memorial service. They report that some of these items can be arranged and even paid for prior to death, lessening the strain on grieving family members. However, some cannot be pre-arranged and can only be purchased following a loved one's death.
Step 1: Locate any pre-arrangements
If your loved one made any pre-arrangements – like paying for funeral plots, buying funeral insurance to cover some or all of the costs, or simply writing down their wishes for memorial services – locate the information. Call the funeral home that your loved one used for those pre-arranged or pre-paid funeral arrangements. The more decisions that were already made, the less stress and cost for the family.
Step 2: Compile information for the obituary
Speak to the next of kin to gather personal details about the loved one who has passed. This information will include birthdate and date of death, information about spouse and children and grandchildren, plus details about their work. If your services are open to the public, list the dates, times and locations. Friends and family will also appreciate a mention of a cause or charity to make donations. And you can look here for examples of particularly memorable and evocative obituaries.
Step 3: Choose a funeral home
One of the best ways to find a funeral home is via a referral from a friend or loved one. Having a recommendation can go a long way to finding a provider who fits your needs and goals. Once you have two suggestions, call each provider and discuss your wishes and budget. You can also use our directory to find providers near you.
Step 4: Decide on the type of funeral
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, you have several choices for the types of services you can hold -- traditional burial, cremation, green burial, interment in a mausoleum and more. A funeral director or funeral home will be an informative resource to help make these decisions. They can clearly explain costs and processes. AARP says these questions should also be discussed with your funeral director:
- Will there be a casket, and if so, will it be open or closed?
- If a body will be cremated, will the ashes be scattered? If the ashes are deposited in an urn, will it be placed in a mausoleum?
- Do religious traditions need to be respected?
- Will there be contributions to charities in lieu of flowers?
Step 5: Select a casket or cremation container
The funeral home you’ve decided to use can help you select and purchase a casket or urn, but understand you can shop elsewhere. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, funeral homes are required to agree to use a casket you bought elsewhere, and doesn't allow them to charge you a fee for using it. Prices may vary for caskets or urns depending on materials, design and ornate finishes.
Step 6: Choose a location of interment
Final disposition choices - cemetery plots, cremation urns or a variety of alternatives - can vary wildly depending on preferences and arrangements. The sheer number of choices can be daunting. Some may be inclined to purchase a cemetery plot due to location; others are dictated by the type of cemetery. During this time of grief, it is always helpful for advice and input from loved ones. A resting place can be determined at a later date if the loved one was cremated.
Step 7: Figure out details of the service
Arrangements for photos and other displays, videos, memorabilia and post-service meals need to be made. Also, funeral music or songs to be played or sung at the service. If people ask if they can help with any of this planning, take advantage of their good-will offers. If the loved one is being buried, clothing needs to be selected, and the family should be consulted to see if they want jewelry, photographs or other heirlooms buried with the loved one.
Step 8: Decide who will actively participate
Determine which relatives and friends may be needed to serve as pallbearers or will give a eulogy. Some rely on a clergy representative to speak about the person who has passed. Other details include choosing passages to be read at the service and arranging transportation to and from the service for family members.
Step 9: The day of the funeral
If you are too emotional to drive, make sure that you don’t. Friends, neighbors and family members understand you are grief stricken. If you are too upset the day of the funeral to drive, please reach out for help. Enlist the help of relatives and friends if they offer, especially at a post-funeral gathering.