How to Plan a Funeral

When you've recently lost someone that you love, planning a funeral may be the very last thing that you want to do.

There's a lot involved, and it can be a daunting responsibility. It becomes more manageable when you break the planning down into core steps. 

In this post, we're going to go through the common steps of planning a funeral so you know what to expect. 

Making “First Calls” & Find a Funeral Director 

Before you can start planning a funeral, it's important to make the "First Calls." This involves notifying important people and parties about the passing. 

how to plan a funeral
Depending on the death, this may include the following:

  • Law enforcement or emergency services, especially in the case of an unattended death and emergency services  
  • A family physician, medical examiner, or coroner if the death was expected 
  • Family members and close friends, though who you call is up to you; if you call a single friend, they may be able to alert the rest of the friend group
  • A funeral director, who can help walk you through the logistics; you can find a funeral director by searching online 

 Funeral directors will be crucial. They can help you arrange the transportation of your deceased loved one, and are familiar with all of the regulations involved. They may also be able to help you arrange religious or cultural traditions. 

Assess Plans Left Behind 

Some people will pre-plan their funerals or after-life wishes, especially if they know that their time is limited. 

how to plan a funeral

This may include selecting a funeral home, providing prepayment for a burial or cremation, or even reserving a burial slot in a cemetery. 

Assess the plans left behind and see if the arrangements can be made. If you work with a funeral director, they may be able to advise you on more cost-effective alternatives if something is out of the budget.  

Arrange for Funeral Services 

If any details have been arranged already, you have a built-in road map to guide you. If not, your funeral director can help during the "Arrangement Conference."

how to plan a funeral

Here, you'll discuss the following:

  • Whether you want a burial or cremation to take place
  • What type of ceremony will be held (secular vs. religious) 
  • Visitation options 
  • Timing for the funeral and service 

Confirm Cemetery Arrangements 

The funeral director can help you decide where you want to lay the deceased to rest so that you can connect with a cemetery to finalized the arrangements. 

how to plan a cemetery

Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Cemeteries may have burial and mausoleum crypts for remains, and may have crypts for cremated remains.
  • Some cemeteries have recurring fees for perpetual maintenance, others charge a one-time fee at the time of purchase; be clear about this.
  • If possible, choose a location that you like. One that is quiet and comforting is best, as well as accessible. 
  • You will want to confirm burial arrangements, so visiting the cemetery is a necessity in most cases. 

Select Funeral & Memorial Products 

While thinking about funeral details may be the last thing that you want to do right now, it is an important part of the process. 

You'll need to select caskets, urns, stationary, flowers (if you choose to have them), headstones and engravings, stationary, the outfit the deceased wears, and more. Your funeral director can walk you through what's applicable for your situation and what you'll need. 

how to plan a funeral

When making these choices, keep the following in mind: 

  • Set a reasonable budget upfront. Avoid buying based on emotion, because it can't bring back the person you love. Funerals are expensive, and unfortunately some businesses attach high costs knowing that people will splurge in grief due to anxiety and guilt.
    Set a budget upfront for what you can afford, and stick to it. The person you loved would have never wanted you to go into debt because of them. 
  • Ask for prices. By law, funeral providers are required to produce a price list for all of the products they're selling, and to offer a full list of the range of products they offer if asked. Some services will try to up-sell you. 
  • Take your time if you need to. You're grieving, so if you feel overwhelmed, know that you can take some time to walk away, clear your head, and then make a decision. 
  • You may want to consider memorial items for the service. These may include a small laminated card with the deceased's name, picture, and a favorite prayer, poem, or quote. Make enough so that everyone at the service can take one.  

Final Thoughts 

Planning a funeral can be overwhelming, which is a lot to deal with even when you aren't grieving.

Planning ahead of time can minimize stress, but it isn't always an option, and plans aren't always left. When in doubt, contact a friend and a funeral director to help walk you through the process and offer support.

The loss of a loved one is an impossibly difficult time. Subscribe to our blog, where you can find more tips on coping with grief.  

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