We’ll be honest, Planning a funeral is tough.  It’s stressful, emotional, and exhausting.  Not only are you grieving the death of a loved one, but also on top of that you have to plan a funeral and pay an enormous amount.

It’s much more difficult in the U.K, because we tend to avoid talking about death, so pre-planning is a distant thought.

In most countries such as America and Canada it’s more common for people to encourage and support each other to discuss planning a funeral in advance because they do not have access to services such as the NHS. 

Planning a funeral in advance can eliminate problems of answering questions down the road, when bereaved family members have to work together to try and figure out what the deceased persons wishes were before their death.

Here are some things to consider when planning a funeral:

1. Choose the form of disposition - Planning a Funeral

It’s often assumed that burial/cremation and a funeral service are the same thing. 

It’s also assumed that if you choose cremation, a funeral service cannot take place because the body is not present, which is incorrect.

The two most important functions of a final event after the passing of a loved one are:

  1. First figure out how to dispose of the body long term, there are options we will cover in just a moment.
  2. Second function is to celebrate, honour, and memorialise the person we have lost and offer some closure for the loved ones they left behind.   

​​​​​​There are several ways to handle a body for final disposition, the most traditional option is burial:

  • Burial (Traditional): is done either in a cemetery or a gravesite, or can be stored above ground in a cemetery sepulchre. This usually involves purchasing a casket, vault, headstone or plaque and a plot to bury them, or a space in a sepulchre to entomb them. This tends to be a good option for those who want a physical location where they can visit  to spend some quiet time alone with their loved one.
  • Burial (Natural or "Green"): If you are concerned about the environment, there is a new trend called “green” burial that many cemeteries are now offering. It changes the process in which they bury your loved one but may help minimise the impact left after death when burying or disposing of bodies. Usually the body is buried in a woodland without a coffin or headstone and everything is kept natural. Some people prefer this option as they feel they can be one with nature.
  • Cremation: is another popular option. The process uses heat and flame to reduce the body to bone fragments and ash. The ashes left can be placed in an urn and put wherever the family wants, many people scatter the ashes in a place that is special to the deceased. For those families that can’t decide on what to do with the body, many have found it helpful to cremate because the ashes can be divided and given to different people in different locations.
  • Alkaline Hydrolysis: There is a new option available, some places use a process called alkaline hydrolysis, which is also referred to as a flameless cremation. It does the same thing as a traditional cremation but turns the body into an inert liquid instead of ashes.  If you are interested in that, ask your provider if it’s available in your area.

2. Planning The Funeral Service - Planning a Funeral

For a long time, traditional funeral services have been very similar. However, in recent decades, services have become more and more personalised. And better reflects the life and values of the deceased, or the family of the deceased. There are no specific rules that need to be followed when planning a service.

It should be a time to reflect on the life of the deceased, say our farewells, and celebrate the life and mourn the loss of those we love. 

More and more families are getting increasingly creative on how to show the personality of the deceased at the service. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate a life and say goodbye. 

Funerals are a time to come together and support each other through the pain and grief of losing someone we love. For many, funerals are a time to draw upon spiritual or religious beliefs and gain comfort and strength in those beliefs. You can choose to hold a service in a church, funeral home, at the gravesite or any other place you see fit. Many people are opting to visit the favourite place of the deceased or a place that holds fond memories and are planning memorial services in those locations. You can choose to have a very public service, or one just for close family, or you can do both. 

Again, there is no right or wrong way to planning a funeral and the options are endless.

Planning a Funeral that will reflect the values of your family and will allow your deceased loved one the opportunity to “shine” one last time on this Earth is the end goal of anyone wanting to give a good send off.

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A Memorial Service?

A few things you may want to consider when planning a funeral is what type of memorial or program will be held. Some opt for impromptu memorials where anyone and everyone can get up and share some thoughts about the deceased. Others prefer a very structured and planned program with no surprises. It is common to have someone read a eulogy or life sketch of the deceased. Usually there is someone officiating the event whether that person is a clergy member or a senior member of the family, or it can be a close friend of the deceased. (usually there is someone that is “in charge” and makes sure everything runs smoothly). You may want to include poems, scriptures, prayers, photos, personal mementos, memory boards or anything else that might be special or reflect the deceased.

Some funerals have food served, some don’t. If you do, you can either get it catered or often times the community will get together and provide a potluck. Some funeral homes will provide food as well. You will want to check, It’s also become increasingly popular to record the service either visually or just audibly. Another option is to webcast the service for those who were unable to be physically present. 

If you are choosing a traditional burial you may want to think through who will act as pallbearers and who will accompany you to a graveside service.  Another thing to consider are flowers. It’s not uncommon for families to choose a certain theme or colour palate and then match flowers to that. In recent decades though, some families have opted for donations instead of flowers. But is has long since been customary for those who want to send sympathy or support to send flowers to the funeral. 

You should consider the following when envisioning your funeral or memorial service:

  • Officiant(s) who will lead the service, such as a clergy member, celebrant, funeral director, etc.
  • Readings, such as poems, prayers, religious or secular passages, etc., and who will deliver them
  • Eulogist(s), who will write and deliver a eulogy about the deceased
  • Music, whether contemporary, religious hymns or both
  • Food/Beverages, whether professionally catered, provided "potluck" by attendees, or arranged by the funeral home or provider
  • Pallbearers, if the final disposition involves a graveside service
  • Webcasting the funeral, or making a recording of the service available later
  • Personal touches, such as a memory board, memorial video, personal memorabilia, etc.

3. Do You Want the Body Present? - Planning a Funeral

Some people feel it’s important to have the physical body present for a funeral and viewing, Some don’t. Burial and cremations are forms of the final destination of the body. but before this you can still have the body present at a funeral service if you wish. Also you can choose to have an open coffin or a closed one. It all depends on the situation and what you feel is best for your event. You can have a viewing with the body and then cremate after, or you can cremate before and still have a funeral service after. You should do what feels best and right for you and your family. 

4. Contact and Research Funeral Directors - Planning a Funeral

The good news is, your funeral director once chose can be a HUGE help in planning a funeral and can help take care of all the small details that you may not have thought of. After all, a funeral director is in the business of helping people with their last memorials for loved ones. They have done this many times and have had many types of services for families, religions and situations. Usually, they have connections with local cemeteries, headstone makers, flower shops, and newspapers for obituaries.

A good funeral director will help walk you through all of these things step-by-step and won’t leave you clueless. They will help you understand your options and the costs associated with those options. If you feel like you aren’t getting good support from your funeral director, find another one. This is undoubtedly a difficult time and there are so many decisions to be made and details to be tended to, so it is important to get a funeral director that is interested in helping you through this time.

If your loved one dies in a hospital, often times they are well versed in helping you transport your loved one to a funeral director. Ask a lot of questions. If you are trying to pre-plan, compare plans. Search the Internet and visit all the websites for Funeral Plan providers. You can also speak to friends and family to obtain a referral. There are other ways to search for information as well, such as general directories or yellow pages and on-site visits to different providers.

5. It Is Important To Understand Your Payment Options - Planning a Funeral

The cost of your service will vary depending on what your ultimate choices are for a Funeral. But, unfortunately, no matter the cost, a funeral is inevitable. If possible, it’s always good to know how you are going to pay for something before it happens. Some options to consider for payment are savings, life insurance, credit cards, financing through your provider, trusts, or a payable-on-death account at a financial institution that will pass funds along to a beneficiary for final expenses and it avoids probate.  

All of these are good options. Obviously, some of these require pre-planning a funeral, but can help your loved ones avoid serious stress or financial strain at the time of your death. As we have stated before, you can totally pre-plan and pay for services in advance. This is always a great option. Not only does it not leave the stress and financial burden of final costs on your loved ones, but it also takes a lot of the stress and guess work off your family of planning a your funeral and trying to please everyone who thinks they have an opinion for how a service or funeral should go for you. 

Whenever possible, we suggest making your wishes known ahead of time. Informing your family of your end-of-life wishes can help them avoid the stress of trying to figure out how to best memorialise you. Put your wishes in writing whenever possible. That way your desires are in black and white. Keep the document in a safe place. If you have pre-planned your funeral and made arrangements, make sure your loved ones know where to find your documents and how to access them.