How to Plan a Funeral
The main thing to remember when planning a funeral is there is no set checklist. Below, we offer a rough guide / timeline so you understand the main things you need to organise. Guardian Angel provides a free Family To-Do list, a way for you to manage all the tasks you need to compete is a short period of time.
Although this guide is mainly for people dealing with the loss of a loved one, if you are planning your own funeral, please get in touch. We can help guide you in the right direction re: funeral plans. Although the plan below spans a three-week period, sometimes this can be shorter or longer.
The First Week
Spend Time with Family and Friends
We have put this first, as we think this is the most important thing you can do during these tough times. Although a death in the family is hard, it also brings everyone together. The funeral director will be helping you. Make sure you take the time to embrace your friends and family. It is ok to cry, remember and share together.
Choose a Funeral Director
Choosing a funeral director is a tough, but important job. At the end of the day, the most important factor is choosing a funeral director you feel comfortable with. This is your loved one’s farewell, and should be exactly how you/they wanted. Other important factors for choosing a funeral director are personal recommendations, location and price. We provide a guide on this here.
Please read our ‘What to Do When Someone Dies’ resource.
Is There A Will?
This is important for several reasons. Firstly, there may be information within the will in regards to what they want for their funeral service. Also, the will may provide information on whether they had pre-paid funeral plan or life insurance information. Funerals can hard to manage financially, so getting clarity on this could be beneficial to you over the next few weeks. If you are struggling, please go here.
Plan the Funeral
Once you select your funeral director, they will be able to guide you through what you need to plan. Remember, this is the time to ask for specific requests. Good funeral directors will help you plan the funeral the way you want.
They call this a consultation, and this can take up to one or two hours. You can either visit their premises to get a feel for the funeral director, or ask them if they can come to your home. Below, we provide several topics you might discuss during this consultation:
- Would you like to visit your loved one? It is good to decide this early on, as the funeral director will need to put plans in place. There is no “right” answer here. This is generally referred to as a “visitation” or a “viewing”.
- Would you like to bring your loved one home? Bringing your loved one home is another option. Although you need to make some preparations, if this is what you want, be sure to tell your funeral director.
- Cremation or a burial? This can be a difficult decision, so take your time to decide. Do not feel pressured one way or the other. There may be specific requests here due to religion or personal benefits.
- Which coffin or urn would you prefer? Your funeral director will have a list of coffins and urns, and will generally have pictures to guide you. There are numerous options, but like all things, take your time. If you find a coffin or urn you like online, it’s okay to ask your funeral director to order it for you. Alternatively, some people may want to create something special themselves, and this is also ok!
- What should the person who has died wear? This is an individual decision, and many families use this as a time to go through their loved one’s clothes and recount great memories. These clothes are for the viewing, but it is common that families are ok with their loved one being buried or cremated in this outfit. Just remember, you will not be able to get this back, so if special jewellery or clothes are included, ask the funeral director to return this to you.
- Would you like the body to be embalmed? Funeral directors will complete the “last offices”: washing, dressing and preparing the body of the person who has died. Embalming is where the body is carefully treated to preserve it for longer. This is often suggested when the body is to be repatriated from abroad. If you are doing a burial, be sure to check with them first if they accept embalmed bodies.
- Funeral transportation? There are several options here, and you do not actually need this. Often, families like their loved one to arrive in special transportation. The funeral director will take you through this. Most funeral homes offer hearses and transportation on request.
- Funeral service location? You will need to decide a venue for the funeral service. Cost can play a big part here, so talk to your funeral director about different times and locations. Funerals held on weekends can prove more expensive.
- Would you like a wake? You need to decide if you will be having a reception or “wake”. This is the event after the funeral service, and a time for socialising and remember your loved one. However, this is not a requirement, and these can be open to the public or not. You can organise this 100% on your own, if you prefer.
Plan The Funeral Service
A celebrant or religious representative will conduct the actual funeral. Anyone can do this, including a friend or family member. However, most families generally go with a professional celebrant.
The celebrant or religious representative will ask a few questions about your loved one and ask to see photos. This is so they can understand more about who they were as a person, and make the funeral service more personal. There is no specific plan you need to follow, but you will generally be limited by time. Some useful things to think about include:
- Music for the funeral? This will be before, during and after the ceremony and you can choose Hymns, pop songs or classical music.
- Would you like any specific funeral poems, prayers or readings?
- Theme? This is becoming more common. If there is something specific you would like to ask for, talk to them about it.
- Attire? People know roughly what they should wear to a funeral, but families can request specific garments or colours for the guests to wear / avoid.
Write The Eulogy Death Notice
The eulogy is a speech read out at the funeral as a tribute to someone who has just died. Like choosing songs and poems, the eulogy can be a time to bond with family and remember. There will be parts of a person’s life you did not experience, and hearing these stories can be warming. Take your time on this, even though it may seem hard at times. Guardian Angel allows you to alert people when you do not want guests, and it is common to request to be left alone whilst the family is writing the eulogy.
The Second Week
The first week involves a number of formalities. The second week is generally about the funeral service organisation. Guardian Angel’s Family To-Do list allows you to create a list of what needs to be done, by when and by whom.
Share Funeral Information
Once you confirm the time and date with the funeral director, you need to communicate this to your friends and family. You can call, email or put a notice in the paper. Guardian Angel allows you to share this information in a private and secure environment. Simply share the obituary and funeral information with friends via the links we provide you.
Flowers and Food
The funeral director will be able to help you with flowers and catering services. However, you can organise this yourself. Just make sure the flower providers have a little notice. They tend to order flowers twice a week. Guardian Angel staggers the flower deliveries sent to you, so please let us know if you want some of the pre-ordered flowers sent to the funeral service. We are happy to offer this service for free.
Order Of Service
The order of service is the schedule for the funeral guests. However, families often use this booklet to explain a little about their loved one, and full it with lovely photos. Families and friends generally keep these ‘order of service’ booklets to look at in the future.
Finalise The Plan
Sit down with the funeral director a few days before and ensure you provide everything they need from you. Make sure the To-Do list you form is complete. If they aren’t organising the wake, talk to your caterers, etc, and make sure everything for the wake is ready. Also, confirm the venue in advance.
The Week Of The Funeral
This may well be before the three-week mark. The funeral service is a time to remember, share, cry, laugh and be around the people you love. There is no correct way to deal with grief, and everyone will deal with it differently. Some will cry whilst others may stay emotionless. It is always good to remember everyone at the funeral is there to support you and your family.
Pick Up The Ashes
You, or the funeral director, should be able to pick up the ashes from the crematorium two days after the service. Take your time to think about what you want to do with the ashes. There is no rush.
Start Thinking About The Headstone
There is no hurry to pick a headstone at all. Take your time. Many families reveal the headstone in the months to come and turn it into a get-together after the funeral.
Reach Out For Bereavement Support
We highly recommend you talk to someone within bereavement support, even if you think you are doing ok. Losing someone you love is the hardest thing you will have to deal with, and it is ok to say you are not able to cope. We list bereavement support services here, but you can also ask your GP to recommend bereavement support services in your area.