Losing a loved one isn’t easy for a variety of reasons — one of them is planning a ceremony.
There’s enough on your mind when death completes the cycle of life. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the details of planning a proper goodbye for your loved one due to heightened emotions as well as the various logistics.
With condolences, we offer this funeral planning guide to help you and your family have more time to process, grieve, and celebrate your loved one’s life.
Before Funeral Planning
The first and most crucial part of dealing with the aftermath of losing a loved one is to find out who is the legal next of kin (e.g. the closest blood relative).
This person will have the legal right to make all of the decisions.
If you’re reading this, you may be that person (or are preparing to be that person).
State legislation typically outlines the person responsible, unless otherwise noted in the will.
After determining your role, you’ll then want to gently notify family members, friends, colleagues, and professionals such as the police, doctors, accountants, and insurance brokers.
Some of these people should be told as soon as possible (e.g. the police and family members), while others can be told a little later on (e.g. accountants and insurance brokers).
To make funeral arrangements, you’ll need to gather the following information and documents belonging to the decedent:
- Full legal name
- Date and time of death
- Contact information of the certifying physician
- Date and place of birth
- Parents names (and maiden names)
- Marital status (i.e. spouses names)
- Home address
- Military service
- Birth certificate
- Social security number
You may also need information on insurance policies to use their money to pay for the service.
Some of this information will be used in the obituary and eulogy, while other information will be used by the funeral home. It’s easiest to gather all of this information at once so you have it readily available throughout the process.
The most important of these documents to obtain first is the will. The will includes outlined information about how your loved one wants the funeral to go and what their chosen final disposition is (e.g. burial or cremation).
If your loved one doesn’t have a will or didn’t put details about how they wanted their death to be handled, it will be up to you to make these decisions.
There are a handful of things that must be done within the first 48 hours of death.
This includes notifying the police of the death, transporting the body, and filing for permits.
If you choose to work with a funeral home, they will tell you what to do and how to do it. This is one of the biggest benefits of seeking this type of professional help.
There are a number of other things that must be done before the funeral, from small details like assigning a house sitter to cancel any subscriptions.
We’re focusing on the funeral-related tasks but keep in mind this guide isn’t informative of the entire post-death process.
Notifying the Funeral Home
If your loved one has already chosen a funeral home, you’ll want to contact them to get the ball rolling.
If they haven’t, start looking for one as early as possible. Choose somewhere that meets your needs and has friendly, accommodating staff.
You don’t have to use a funeral home, but as mentioned earlier, they make the process significantly easier.
Keep in mind that the Federal Trade Commission creates something called the Funeral Rule. This is legislation that protects people’s rights when seeking funeral help.
Regardless of your decision, you’ll need to plan the funeral in a way that aligns with your loved one’s beliefs while offering guests a way to mourn and say goodbye.
The First Step of the Funeral Planning Guide
Before you plan an entire funeral, you should define your budget and estimate the cost of the whole thing.
You can get prices from various funeral homes, locations, and related services to create an estimate.
A funeral can cost more than $10,000, so it’s important to plan and budget accordingly.
You may need to pay for things like:
- Clothing for your loved one (if burying)
- Funeral services
- Interment and burial services
- Refreshments and snacks
- Staff (e.g. clergy, funeral director, musicians, and a florist)
- Transportation (e.g. limousines and hearse)
If your budget is tight, it should be easy finding ways to save money. For example, you might have family members willing to provide refreshments or flowers from their garden.
It may be hard to estimate the cost of everything before actually planning. Still, you should outline your budget and keep it in mind as you shop around for various products and services.
It may be helpful to create a checklist of things you need to do, people you need to talk to, and other relevant details to stay organized.
Getting a Helpful Team
After you have some sort of budget in mind, you should seek out a professional to help you plan things.
In some states, it’s a legal requirement to use a funeral director as this person.
If you choose to use a funeral director, make sure you find someone who listens to your needs and doesn’t put any pressure on you.
They’re supposed to be someone who helps you plan, take care of logistics, and inform you of options.
Aside from a funeral director, you may want the help of clergy, a facilitator, or a celebrant to help guide the service or honor your loved one’s religious traditions.
You may not have to hire a professional but you should consider it to make things easier. It’s already a difficult time, so making it easier in various ways will help you through the process.
Deciding On the Type of Service
Options for services include traditional, memorial, or graveside services.
The type of service may depend on your loved one’s final disposition. For example, if they wish to rest in one of these cremation urns, a graveside service may not be applicable.
Cremation is expected to become more popular than burials in the coming years, but you can still hold a traditional funeral with a few adjustments.
If your loved one will be buried, you may choose to have a closed or open casket at the ceremony. Many people believe that open caskets help with the acceptance portion of the grieving process, so consider that option.
You may also decide to have a pre-funeral event that is more intimate, such as a wake, viewing, or visitation. This may be a good option if you’re having a public funeral to give you and your family more intimate time together.
You can host one of these pre-funeral events at your home, a church, or a private location.
Logistics of the Service
Once you decide which type of service is right for your loved one, you’ll need to find a location, date, and time.
These factors may be limited based on the disposition choice. Your funeral director will be able to help you sort through this.
If you choose a place that is accustomed to hosting funerals and memorials, they may have the supplies you need for the funeral, such as seating and speaker systems.
You’ll also want to decide who the guests will be and invite them accordingly. You can make the funeral private or, if your loved one was well-known, open it up to the public.
There are pros and cons to each decision, so it’s entirely up to you and your family.
Either way, you’ll need to send out invitations in a timely manner and may need to help make arrangements for people coming from out of town.
The Funeral Agenda
Thinking of how the funeral will go may help you plan key components. Breaking it apart in this way will help you identify what you need to do beforehand to make it happen.
Traditional funerals start off with music playing while guests arrive. You and the family may wish to greet people as they come in.
Imagine this scene as much as you can and think about what elements you want to provide to enhance the experience. This includes fitting music as well as decorative flowers.
At some point, the processional will occur, which is when the casket comes in accompanied by pallbearers and close family members. This will usually happen down a middle aisle, which you may want to decorate with flower petals or long rug.
Even if you go with cremation, you can still have this symbolic process. It’s entirely up to you (and your loved one’s wishes) on how this looks.
Before the ceremony, you’ll need to designate pallbearers for the task.
The Commencement of the Funeral
When the ceremony begins, an orator (be it a family member or a facilitator) will great everyone in attendance and introduces the decedent.
You may want to have a short period of silence accompanied by music after this or get right into the eulogy or reading of the obituary.
If you decide to incorporate music, you can choose pre-recorded tracks or hire live musicians to perform.
Designate a couple of people close to the decedent to read a prewritten speech. These should consist of personal sentiments and stories since the orator will have already introduced the basic facts regarding your loved one.
This may include clergy or family members reciting religious texts, if applicable.
You may also choose to have time for an open mic where people are able to come up and share kind words about your loved one.
If you think this may take up a lot of time or might not be appropriate for the venue, you may save this for the reception.
The most notable part of the agenda will be the tributes to your beloved. This typically happens after speeches and allows people to come up, perhaps row by row or individually, and spend a little time with the casket and/or photos of the decedent.
The bulk of the funeral is typically designated to speeches and tributes, but it’s up to you how much time you want each part to take. This is where having a facilitator is handy — they can focus on keeping things on track while you can participate in the funeral.
The ceremony typically closes with thanks, acknowledgments, and final prayers.
If you choose to have a post-funeral reception, you may invite guests at the end of the ceremony.
Alternatively, you can designate time after the ceremony at the same venue for people to gather, talk, and offer condolences.
You will need to make post-funeral arrangements ahead of time.
This includes transporting your loved one to their final resting place. Your funeral director will outline this process for you in simple, easy steps.
You may want to send out thank you cards to your guests.
Once the funeral has happened, you can focus on the other aspects of dealing with your loved one’s death, such as talking to social security officials, retirement services, and so on.
Seek Help and Honor Your Loved One
Even if you follow this funeral planning guide, you should still seek the help of professionals and family members when planning the ceremony.
It will bring you comfort in this tough time and ensure that you cover all of the necessary details.
We offer our condolences to you and those affected and hope this guide helps you understand some of the components involved in the process.
Keep reading our blog to learn new things while easing your mind during this difficult time.