How to Plan a Funeral
Funerals are an event no one wants to think about until the necessary time comes. Preparing for, planning, and attending a funeral is an emotional and challenging task. Not only are you mourning the loss of your loved one, but you’re also responsible for bearing the burden of a funeral’s preparation and costs. And that can be something that’s very difficult to manage when you’ve undergone a stressful, life-altering loss. How can you plan a service, discuss the details of your loved one’s final arrangements, and find a way to afford all of the end-of-life expenses when you’re grieving?
That’s why it’s important to begin preparing for and planning a funeral in advance. It’s a significant responsibility, and one that is especially hard for the loved ones left behind.
The following steps are ones you can take before a loved one passes on to prepare for and plan a funeral.
Discuss End-of-Life Wishes With Your Loved One
Before your loved one passes away, it’s important to understand what their wishes are for their own funeral. As the end of someone’s life draws near, it can become increasingly difficult to make these decisions and have these types of conversations, especially as health concerns grow more pressing.
So, take the time to discuss your loved one’s end-of-life wishes and hopes while they’re still alive. You’ll want to discuss how they envision their funeral, and if they have any particular ideas. Do they want a religious ceremony or service? Do they want something simple? Are they hoping for a celebration or a memorial?
It’s also important to discuss the legal paperwork that’s needed to make end-of-life decisions. Your loved one will need to have a legal document that authorizes a specific person to make and handle funeral arrangements. They can also specify any particular wishes in this legal document, such as who will make medical decisions and how end-of-life arrangements will be carried out.
Choose a Funeral Home
It’s also a good idea to begin considering funeral homes before a loved one passes. A funeral home will handle different aspects of the funeral, such as embalming and dressing the body, arranging a viewing, and transporting family. But every funeral home offers different services, so it’s important to research different funeral homes and learn about their offerings.
Before you begin reaching out to specific funeral homes, make a list of what you or your loved one would like. Know which services will be important and which are not. Then, you’ll be prepared to ask about the most important details when comparing and contrasting different funeral homes.
Then, you can search for funeral homes online. Check out their information online, and you can call or email these funeral homes for more information. Make sure to ask for a price list, which all funeral homes are required to provide when asked. Go over these price lists on your own, without any input or pressure from the funeral home.
And don’t forget to compare a few different funeral homes, their services, and their prices. Many people don’t shop around for a funeral home, and that can cause you to overpay for the services you want. To save money, you’ll want to take the time to do your research and compare all of your available options.
You can also consider and choose a funeral home after a loved one is gone. You may just need to follow these steps in a more accelerated manner.
Decide on the Type of Disposition
Your next important step in planning a funeral is to determine the type of disposition. This is how the body will be handled.
You have a number of disposition options to choose from:
- Burial: Your loved one will be buried below ground in a cemetery plot or above ground in a mausoleum, within a casket or other type of resting place.
- Burial (Natural or Green): A more recent type of burial, this option is for those who wish to minimize the impact of their burial on the environment.
- Cremation: Your loved one is cremated, or reduced to ashes, using heat or flame. The remains are able to be kept in an urn, scattered in a special location, buried underground, or placed in a columbarium.
- Alkaline Hydrolysis: A much newer kind of disposition, this option is called “flameless cremation.” Pressure and low heat are used to reduce a body.
Choosing a disposition type can be difficult and emotional. But it’s still important to know and consider different types in order to ensure you’re choosing the right option for your loved one and their wishes.
Plan the Service
Next, you’ll need to make plans for the actual funeral service. A service can come in many, many different forms. And it can also be personalized in many ways.
In any case, the service should reflect the unique life and personality of your loved one. Some families might prefer a service that reflects on and remembers who the deceased person was in life. Others might focus on the remains themselves. And still others might take a more celebratory tone, focusing on the spiritual or religious afterlife. Try to imagine the type of service that you or your loved one believe is the most meaningful way to say goodbye. What details will reflect the person who’s passed? Did they have any spiritual or religious beliefs to consider? What did they love? What did they find important and special?
A service can include components like:
- An officiant who leads the service (a pastor, celebrant, funeral director, or other leader).
- Readings, like poems, prayers, or religious passages.
- Eulogists, who write and deliver eulogies about the deceased.
- Music, such as religious hymns or contemporary songs.
- Personal touches like memory boards or memorial videos.
As you consider these details, remember that no matter what shape the service takes, it’s a meaningful opportunity for mourners to express their grief. Those who attend will be able to comfort and support one another, and it can be an important event for all involved.
Prepare for the Financial Costs
As you begin putting together the funeral plans together, you’ll want to prepare for the costs and expenses. Funerals can be very costly, and that can add extra stress during an already emotionally challenging time.
Funeral expenses and costs typically include:
- A basic service fee, which covers the use of a funeral home, a funeral director’s services, attendants, necessary permits, and other burial arrangement coordinations.
- Optional service charges, which are fees charged for any extra services you choose like transportations, a viewing or wake, and burial containers.
- Cash disbursements, which covers the costs a funeral home pays any other involved vendors on your behalf.
Lastly, remember that it’s important to shop around. A funeral is a significant expense, and many people fail to shop around when planning one. However, considering different providers and services, comparing your available options, and getting price quotes can help you avoid overspending. You wouldn’t buy a car without doing your research first – and a funeral can be just as costly.
Do your due diligence and compare multiple options before paying for any funeral services or expenses. Shop around online, and you can simplify the process while also ensuring you spend an appropriate amount.