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Funeral Planning

Funeral planning can be an overwhelming process.  With so many different tasks ahead of you, you probably don't know where to begin.  If you are beginning your funeral planning process, you probably fall into 3 general categories.

  • You have just recently lost a loved one, and you are responsible for planning the funeral, and  making burial arrangements.

  • A loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or has an advanced age and you are beginning the funeral planning process.

  • You are pre-planning your own funeral

Whatever your reasons are for funeral planning, this article will help you get started planning a funeral or memorial service, and will recommend information to help you accomplish the tasks associated with it.  Here is some helpful information to help you get organized and get started planning a funeral or memorial service.

1.  Collect important documents such as will and estate paperwork, birth certificates, military discharge papers, and social security information.  This will help you and your funeral planner complete necessary paperwork.

2.  Understand your funeral or memorial service budget.  It may be uncomfortable to focus on money, but it is very important to understand your budget before you begin planning.  Take time to review your financial resources.  Find out if the deceased has regular or burial insurance, or if you will have to pay upfront.  See if other funding sources are available, such as the military, family members or other organizations.

3.  Briefly research typical funeral costs.  Understanding funeral costs such as funeral home administrative fees, caskets, burial plots, transportation and funeral printing costs can help you spend your money wisely, and make the best decisions.  Read our article on funeral costs for more information.

4.  Meet with a funeral director or funeral planner.  Now that you have your paperwork organized, reviewed your budget and have a basic understanding of funeral costs, you are ready to meet with the funeral director.  Consider bringing a trusted friend, family member or clergy to help with decision making.  Several issues will need to be decided about the funeral service during this time.

There will be several questions you will need to decide upon.  To get started, let's answer some general questions about the funeral process.  Beginning with these questions can help you decide on many of the details of your funeral or memorial service.

Do you want the body to be present at the funeral?

Funerals have the body present, and should be held not long after the death.  Memorial services do not have the body present, and gives you more time and flexibility with your services.  See articles on funeral or memorial service, Christian funeral and memorial service ideas to get more details about which service is right for you.  If you are considering cremation, there are many options to choose from.  You can hold a full funeral (with rented casket) and cremate afterward, or have a cremation, and later, hold a memorial at a park (or other non-traditional location), and even have an ashes scattering ceremony.  Look at our articles on cremation  cost of cremation and scattering ashes for more information. 

Do you prefer a religious-based service or a more contemporary service.

Decide whether you prefer a religious-based service held in a church.  If you choose to hold the service at a church, make sure to coordinate closely with church officials, as they may have a particular protocol or rules that you may need to observe.  Also, consult our funeral service checklist  or "funeral order of service" for a samples of funeral services.  For more contemporary services, see our article on memorial service ideas, and personalizing your funeral or memorial to get creative ideas.

Who will handle administrative tasks?
Begin to consider all the administrative tasks that need to be accomplished.  Who will write the death announcement or obituary and contact newspapers?  How will friends and family be notified of death and arrangements?  Who will be responsible for funeral printing (such as funeral programs, thank you cards and other personalized items).  Who will speak (or sing) at the funeral or memorial service?  Usually, funeral directors will assist with many of these tasks, but it helps be clear on who will handle what.  Check out the following articles:

How to write an obituary
Obituary Samples
How to write a eulogy
What is a funeral program
Writing thank you notes

Planning a funeral can be a huge task, but understanding the different tasks can help you make the process much more manageable.  Our website has an extensive collection of funeral planning resources that can help you.  Also consult your funeral director, or the Internet for more more information.

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