The secret to reducing stress in the funeral planning process is organizing your thoughts and making a step-by-step plan. While emotions are high, having a checklist can be a reassuring base for you to return to when you get lost. With a detailed funeral planning checklist, you can move forward with confidence and create the perfect ceremony for your loved one. We have put together 6 steps to follow while making funeral arrangements to guide you and help you start.
Write Out What They Would Want
Before you start making any decisions, it can help immensely to write out what you think the deceased would have wanted. For instance, would they have preferred a cremation? If so, what kind of urn seems appropriate for their ashes? If you think they wanted a more traditional burial, where would they have wanted the cemetery plot, and what kind of grave marker best represents them?
There are different types of services to consider when thinking about what the departed may have wanted. Many people want a traditional funeral with a reception. It may be more appropriate in some circumstances to have a graveside service. A celebration of life is a type of service gaining traction as a joyful way to remember the deceased with family members and loved ones. Another option gaining popularity is a green burial or natural burial for those who may have been close to nature and conservation.
By considering factors like these and thinking about the deceased's preferences, you can rest assured that what you are doing is a celebration that will honor their memory. It also helps you with every other step of the process, giving you a guiding set of ideas and needs to remember as you start making other decisions. Grief can make this step more difficult but frame it as a moment of reflection on this special person's wonderful life.
Set A Budget
Now that you have some initial ideas on how the deceased would have wanted the memorial services, you have to consider funeral costs. Luckily, there are many areas where you can look to cut costs so that you don't have to sacrifice anything to create the quality ceremony that you want. Looking back at your guidelines you made in the first step, start considering a budget that works for you or your family.
There are many options for things like caskets, services, embalming, and other funeral services that can help you lower the financial impact. For example, when looking for a funeral provider, you can ask for their general price list, which will list all of their services and their charge. This can give you a good idea of the different ranges for certain services. Once you have found a place that fits your vision and your budget for funeral expenses, start thinking about what is important to achieve your goal. For instance, are flowers less important to you? What about casket material or type of embalming? By balancing these elements, you can emphasize the things you think the deceased would have wanted while also staying within your price range.
Remember to consider any life insurance policy funds or prepaid funeral plans that may have previously existed. It isn't uncommon for these types of funds to be used to help pay for a funeral if they are available. Sometimes a place of work or family will help contribute to costs as well - if you are struggling to cover costs, reach out and consider your options.
Select A Casket, a Funeral Director, and a Venue (in that Order)
So, your budget is set - next, you have a handful of decisions to address in a specific order. To get the most for your money, you need to select certain parts of your funeral before others. Step one is one of the biggest decisions you may make - picking a casket.
There are many things to consider when picking a casket. Prices vary wildly depending on the material you want it to be made out of. For example, if getting a metal casket, picking a lower gauge or choosing normal steel instead of stainless can save you a significant amount of money. There are also bronze and copper caskets, with copper being cheaper. Wood coffins vary in price depending on the material, with the cheaper options often being pine, and more expensive styles being mahogany and cherry. You also can consider a green option like bamboo or fiberboard, which can be a cheap alternative as well. You can read more about picking a casket on our blog post here.
You want to pick a casket first so that you can shop around for the best price. Because of a law passed by the federal trade commission called the 'funeral rule,' funeral homes and directors have to accept a casket if you purchased it elsewhere. While you sometimes can get a nice price at a funeral home for a casket, you are often much better off shopping around online without a car-salesman-like funeral director trying to upsell you along the way.
Once you have found the right casket, then you should start finding a funeral director. Make sure to ask for their general price list for service pricing, and to find someone who you feel confident has your loved one's best interests in mind. Once you find the right person, they often can help you find great local venues that fit what you have in mind, and sometimes they can get discounts on these locations.
Invite Family And Friends
Your basics have now been decided for the funeral. Next, you have to make a guest list and invite the family and friends of the deceased. This can be as informal as a social media event, or you can opt for letters or other direct methods of contact.
When inviting people, set expectations and describe the venue and plans for the event. For instance, detail if there will be a wake, and if so, at what time. If you prefer charitable donations over flowers or other details, make sure to convey these details.
Overall, the most important thing is to make sure to invite those that were close to the deceased. For a sentimental touch, you can look for funeral invitation templates online that allow you to insert a picture and statement about the deceased that guests can save. Remember that this moment is also for the survivors and that this is a time for healing together.
Select Readings And Poems
Typically, services have readings and poems read throughout. Often there are two or three, and these can be pieces that either invoke memories of the deceased or were a favorite of theirs. Also, consider your eulogy and who will be writing it. They may have helpful ideas based on what they plan to say.
There are a few types of readings you can consider. For example, psalms and other bible verses are common in religious ceremonies, while others prefer poetry or quotations for their statements. Regardless, they should reflect the person whose life you are remembering and provide some comfort for the service attendees.
Determine Funeral Songs
The process of picking funeral songs is very similar to picking readings and poems. You want the songs to either help to memorialize the deceased or that was a favorite tune of theirs. Think about what kind of tone you want to set for the event. For instance, you may want to pick happier, more joyful songs for a celebration of life.
This is a good place to request input from loved ones close to the deceased. They can offer great input and feel as though they are contributing to the event in a significant way. You can even discover unheard stories through sharing these moments with family and friends during the planning process.
What about obituaries?
Obituaries should be written and released with time for readers to plan for the memorial service since they often announce dates and venues. You also can instead write a death notice if that is a better fit.
What do you do if you are scattering ashes or have cremated remains?
Many people opt for cremation, but that doesn't mean that you can't have a funeral. Often you can hold a traditional funeral before cremation, but you also can have a cremation ceremony where the ashes are present rather than the body. Another option is traveling with close family and friends to a special site to scatter ashes, which can be intimate and memorable. If this happens, you can still hold memorial services separately.
What if I change my mind?
Sometimes plans change. If you are concerned about the circumstances around your funeral's date or specifics, make sure to look for a funeral home that offers refunds. Many do not so ensure to get this in writing before starting to work with someone.