How To Plan A Funeral: A Step-By-Step Guide

A step by step guide in how to plan a funeral so that you can spend more time with your family and less time worrying about the details when the time comes.
how to plan a funeral

When someone close to you dies, the last thing you want to think about is how to plan a funeral. However, it’s something that must be done, and it’s best to do it sooner rather than later. This article provides everything you need to know about planning a funeral, from start to finish. It covers all the basics, from choosing a casket to writing the eulogy.

If you want to jump ahead, here are the steps that we’ve laid out for for how to plan a funeral:

  1. Make Initial Phone Calls
  2. Identify Any Specifications from the Deceased
  3. Choose a Funeral Home
  4. Select the Date and Time
  5. Decide on the Location
  6. Choose the Type of Service
  7. Choose the Readings, Music, and Other Elements
  8. Choose the Pallbearers
  9. Choose the Officiant
  10. Make Arrangements for the Reception
  11. Plan the Burial Process

Let’s get started.

Why Is Planning Important For A Funeral?

how to plan a funeral - step by step

When a loved one dies or is on the verge of dying, there is a flood of emotions. You are dealing with grief, alongside a desire to honor their memory. This is why it is so important to have a plan in place for the funeral. It can be difficult to make decisions when you are grieving, which is why having a plan makes things much easier.

There are a lot of decisions that need to be made when planning a funeral. You will need to decide on the date and time, as well as the location. You will also need to decide what kind of service you would like, and who you would like to speak at the service. In addition, you will need to choose the music, and select pallbearers if you desire.

Making all of these decisions can be overwhelming. Having a plan in place ensures that nothing falls through the cracks and you won’t need to worry about how to plan a funeral at the last minute.

How To Plan A Funeral

Let’s look at all of the steps involved in planning a funeral.

Step #1: Make Initial Phone Calls

If the loved one has not yet been transported to a funeral home, the first thing to do is make the necessary calls to have the body moved.

You also need to make phone calls to close friends and family members. You will need to let them know about the death, and ask them to be a part of the funeral planning process. This includes asking them to be pallbearers, eulogizers, or simply help with making decisions.

To stay organized, consider creating a list of phone numbers to call, as well as a list of people you need to notify. As you go down the list, check each person off so that you don’t notify someone twice, which can increase the pain they might feel. Collaborating on this list with your siblings or other family members will make it all a bit easier. We recommend using WayWiser’s notes & lists function for this.

Step #2: Identify Any Specifications From The Deceased

how to plan a funeral - wishes of the deceased

In some cases, the deceased will have left specific instructions for their funeral. This might include what type of service they would like, as well as who they would or would not like to be involved.

If the deceased did leave specifications, make sure to honor them to the best of your ability. After all, this is their funeral, and you want to make sure that it is a reflection of their life. If your loved one has created a document with specific instructions, be sure to keep this in a safe place. For a digital file, again, WayWiser is a great tool for this as their document storage is simple and secure.

In some cases, the deceased might not have left any specifications. If this is the case, don’t worry – you can still create a funeral that honors their memory.

Step #3: Choose A Funeral Home

The next step when considering how to plan a funeral is to choose a funeral home. If you have a religious affiliation, you might want to choose a funeral home that is affiliated with your religion. This can make the process a bit easier, as they will be familiar with the customs and traditions of your faith.

If you are not affiliated with a particular religion, or if you want to have more control over the funeral arrangements, you can choose any funeral home. Just be sure to do your research so that you select a reputable one.

Step #4: Select The Date And Time

The funeral needs to be scheduled as soon as possible. This is so that family and friends who live out of state have time to make travel arrangements. In addition, the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to schedule everything else.

When choosing the date and time, be sure to take into account any religious customs or traditions. For example, if you are Jewish, the funeral cannot be held on a Saturday due to the Sabbath. If you come from a religious family, you may want to consult someone from that organization and ask them how to plan a funeral as they will have specific advice.

Step #5: Decide On The Location

how to plan a funeral - location

The funeral can either be held at the funeral home, or at a church, synagogue, or another location. If the deceased was religious, they might have specified where they would like the funeral to be held. If not, it is up to you to decide.

The funeral home should be able to accommodate any type of service you desire. If you choose to have the funeral elsewhere, be sure to check with the venue to see if they have any requirements, restrictions, or advice on how to plan a funeral.

Step #6: Choose The Type Of Service

The type of service you have will be based on the wishes of the deceased, as well as your own personal preferences. There are many different types of services and the type of service can determine how to plan a funeral, so take your time in deciding which one is right for you.

Some common types of services include

  • Traditional funerals – A traditional funeral usually consists of a viewing, followed by a funeral service, and then a burial. The proceedings are usually led by one or more officiants, such as a priest, pastor, or funeral director.
  • Memorial services – A memorial service is a more informal type of service. It can be held at any location, and does not necessarily have to be followed by a burial. Usually, the purpose of a memorial service is to celebrate the life of the loved one.
  • Celebration of Life – Similar to a memorial service, a celebration of life is meant to be a positive spin on the traditional funeral service, portraying the great aspects of the individual’s life rather than the sadness of their loss.
  • Direct cremations – A direct cremation is when the body is cremated without a funeral service. This is often chosen by those who want to keep the proceedings simple, or by those who want to have a memorial service at a later date.
  • Green burials – A green burial is when the body is buried without the use of a casket or vault. This is often chosen by those who want to be eco-friendly, or by those who want to keep the funeral costs down.

Step #7: Choose The Readings, Music, and Other Elements

funeral readings

Some of the most important parts of the funeral are the readings, music, and other elements. These should be chosen carefully, as they will help to set the tone for the entire service.

Some things to consider when choosing individuals to perform elements at the funeral include:

  • The relationship of the person to the deceased – It is usually best to choose someone who was close to the deceased. This could be a friend, family member, or co-worker.
  • Their ability to perform the element – Not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of a large group of people. When choosing someone to do a reading or say a eulogy, be sure to pick someone who is confident and capable.
  • The tone of the funeral – You will want to choose readings, music, and other elements that are appropriate for the tone of the funeral. For example, if you are having a traditional funeral service, you will want to choose more serious, somber readings and music. However, if you are having a memorial service, you may want to choose more upbeat, celebratory readings and music.

Some common funeral readings include:

1) The Bible is the most common book to be read at a funeral. There are many different passages that can be chosen, so be sure to pick one that is appropriate for the tone of the funeral.

2) Other religious texts can also be used, such as the Koran or the Torah.

3) Poems are another popular choice for funeral readings. There are many poems about death and loss, so be sure to choose one that is meaningful to you.

If you want, you can also have a family member or friend write their own reading, or even compose their own music. This can add a personal touch to the service.

Step #8: Choose The Pallbearers

Pallbearers are responsible for carrying the casket of the deceased during the funeral processional and recessional. They are typically family members or close friends of the deceased.

When choosing pallbearers, be sure to pick people who are physically able to carry the casket, as well as those who are emotionally stable. This is not a decision to be made lightly, as it is a big responsibility.

Step #9: Choose The Officiant

The officiant is the person who will lead the funeral service and they may also be someone who can help you out as you wonder how to plan a funeral. They are responsible for conducting the proceedings, and for delivering the eulogy. The officiant can be a priest, pastor, or funeral director. If you are having a religious funeral service, be sure to choose an officiant that is affiliated with your religion.

If you are not having a religious funeral service, you can choose any officiant that you wish. This could be a family member or even a friend.

Step #10: Make Arrangements For The Reception

After the funeral service, there will usually be a reception for family and friends. This is an opportunity for everyone to gather together and share memories of the deceased.

When making arrangements for the reception, be sure to choose a location that is convenient for everyone. You will also need to decide on the food and drinks that will be served. If you are unsure of what to serve, ask family and friends for suggestions.

Step #11: Plan The Burial Process

how to plan a funeral - burial process

The burial process is the final step in our guide on how to plan a funeral. This includes choosing a burial plot, making arrangements for the casket and headstone, and deciding who will be responsible for digging the grave. Some of these things, like choosing a burial plot, will ideally be done in advance. However, this isn’t always possible.

When choosing a burial plot, be sure to pick a location that is convenient for family and friends. You will also want to consider the costs involved. Burial plots can be quite expensive, so be sure to shop around and compare prices.

You will also need to make arrangements for the casket and headstone. These can be purchased from a funeral home or a cemetery. Be sure to choose a style that is appropriate for the deceased.

Finally, you will need to decide who will be responsible for digging the grave. This is typically done by the cemetery, but it is possible to do it yourself. If you choose to do it yourself, be sure to have the proper equipment and knowledge.

Final Thoughts

Making funeral arrangements can be a difficult and overwhelming task and there is no single answer for how to plan a funeral. However, by following these steps, you can make the process a little easier. By taking the time to plan ahead, you can ensure that the funeral is a beautiful and fitting tribute to your loved one.

Have another question? Ask an expert.

Our team is here for you. If you have a question about caring for an older adult or other member of your family—be it physical, legal, medical, financial, or anything in between—we’ll have one of our Trusted Advisors get back to you ASAP.

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