7 Things to Remember When Planning a Funeral

A son comforts his mother while planning a funeral.

Contributed by Christine Binney

Planning a funeral is never easy. Trying to plan a ceremony that respects the wishes of your loved one and all the family members involved is complicated, and doing it under such stressful circumstances makes it that much harder. It can be hard to manage emotions while taking care of all the details that go into organizing a funeral. With some proper planning and a few tips, the funeral process can be made easier for everyone involved. Simply remember these seven things and you’ll be able to honor your loved one’s memory in the perfect way.


1. Communication is key

When planning a funeral for your loved one, it’s important to take each family member’s wishes into consideration. If your loved one documented their funeral wishes before they passed, then you have a guideline to follow and most family members will readily get on board with the plan. But if the deceased never previously expressed their wishes for their funeral, then it’s up to the family to decide what it will look like. Since a funeral is such a major part of the grieving process, it’s important to consider everyone’s opinions. Keep the lines of communication open and try to make decisions objectively and rationally. Work on a funeral plan that will allow everyone to express their sorrow while also celebrating their loved one’s life.


2. Write a meaningful obituary
Work with family members to write a meaningful obituary for your loved one. Take the time to reflect on the most important aspects of their life that you want to memorialize. Create a list of people whose names should be included in the obituary. Decide which newspapers or online websites for where you want the obituary to be published. Be prepared for some outlets to charge a significant fee which is often based on the number of words in the obituary.


3. Handle invitations efficiently
An obituary is a good way to get the funeral information out to the public. However, you’ll also want to do some personal outreach to notify your loved one’s family, friends and neighbors. Create a list of names and recruit the help of your family members to begin reaching out. Decide how to best notify people of when the services are taking place. Announcements can be mailed, emailed or delivered via telephone. Consider group invitations for any organizations that your loved one was involved in, such as knitting groups or book clubs. Also, consider reaching out to your loved one’s alma mater so that the alumni office can inform their classmates.


4. Talk about money
The costs of a funeral can add up quickly, so don’t be shy when it comes to talking about money. You don’t want to come home from a funeral only to find unexpected bills in the mailbox. You also don’t want to put yourself into financial crisis because of the funeral. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend and be comfortable making objective decisions based on your budget. Reach out to family members who can help pitch in with some of the costs. Most importantly, research your options. Prices can change drastically from one funeral home to another, so gather quotes from several places. Be sure that all costs are clearly listed upfront so that there are no surprises. Get a contract that includes any extra fees, which could include everything from transportation costs to visitation hours to staff salaries.


5. Create a personalized ceremony
When planning a funeral, these days there are endless options to choose from when it comes to the format of the service. Many people incorporate a mix of religion, remembrance, spirituality, and a celebration of life into funerals. This eclectic combination can appease many family members by accommodating everyone’s wishes. There are event planners and funeral home staff who can help with logistics and allow you to create a unique funeral that is a true reflection of your loved one.


6. Don’t forget the details
When planning a funeral, take some time to think about the details that you can incorporate to personalize the ceremony. If your loved one was an avid fisherman, consider burying him with his most trusted fishing rod. If he or she had a favorite flower, feature them in all the floral arrangements. If your loved one had an outfit that always made them feel their best, choose that for them to wear for the services. If they had a favorite photo album, incorporate the pictures into a video slideshow that can be played in the lobby.


7. Write down everything

You may think that you have all the details of the funeral committed to memory, but don’t underestimate the effect that emotional stress can have on you. While there are some great manage stress, it will likely still affect you on the day of the funeral. Stress combined with sadness can make it hard to remember details, especially as you are being pulled in a hundred different directions. To ensure that all of your careful planning pays off, have all of your logistics written out in a planning document.  Share it with other key family members and funeral home staff members who will be playing a part in facilitating the funeral. This type of organization will ensure everyone is on the same page and that no detail is forgotten.