How to plan a funeral or memorial service

How to plan a funeral or memorial service

Note: Although a funeral service and memorial service provide similar experiences with the same purpose there are difference between the two. To put it simply, a funeral service is one where the body of the deceased is present — this typically occurs within a week of their passing. A memorial service typically occurs following the cremation or burial as a time to memorialize the deceased and can consist of spreading the ashes if cremation was decided on. It’s not uncommon for both events to take place to celebrate the life of a loved one, with the memorial service followed by the funeral service

Determine if any pre-arrangements were made 

It’s not uncommon for someone to coordinate their own pre-arrangements. These can include signing up for funeral insurance to cover a portion or all of the associated cost, pre-selecting and purchasing designated areas for burial or going as far as premeditating the events to take place following one’s death. If any of these pre-arrangements were made, you will want to be sure to connect with the funeral home, insurance agency or individual who is more familiar with the deceased wishes. 

Decide on a final resting place 

If your loved one did not have any arrangements in place, you will need to decide on their final place of rest. You will want to start with deciding on the disposition type — the finality of how your loved one’s remains will be handled. Traditional burial and cremation are currently the most common options. 
Once you have made a decision, it’s time to consider where those remains will be located. If traditional burial was chosen, a burial plot will need to be selected and purchased. If cremation was decided on, there are a few options. You could have the urn buried in a burial plot, stored in either a mausoleum (free standing building to hold one or multiple urns) or columbarium (storage structure holding multiple urns), keep the urn at home, scattering, or a combination. 
Once you have decided where the remains will be located, you will need to decide what they are stored in. With either disposition decision, you can either shop on your own or request the assistance of your funeral home (in the event you decide to go that route). Funeral homes are not allowed to charge you for purchasing a casket or urn elsewhere. 
The final step in the burial process is selecting the clothing, jewelry, and heirlooms you may want to bury your loved one with. 

Arrange the plans

By this time, you’ve identified pre-arrangements and determined the final resting place. The next step is to determine the plans for the services. 
Decide on a venue: The service can be held almost anywhere, ranging from your personal home, church, funeral home, parks, beach or out in the wilderness. Consider what reflects the personality of the deceased most and what your budget can accommodate. 
Additional questions you will want to consider when choosing a venue: 
  • If you’ve decided on burial, will there be a casket? Will it be open or closed? 
  • If you’ve decided on cremation, will the urn be present? Will you be spreading the ashes or a portion of the ashes? 
  • Do religious traditions that need to be considered? 
Designate an officiant: You will need someone to lead the service and provide the eulogy. This can be a clergy at the funeral service or church if you have decided to go that route or you can ask a family member or friend who is familiar with the deceased. Other attendees may want to share personal experiences or stories of deceased but you will need someone to guide the ceremony. 
Design and send out invitations: Determine who will be invited. You will want to send the invites out as soon as possible once the venue and date have been determined.  If it is a public service you can include the date, time and location into the obituary (further details on this below). If you would prefer charity contributions in lieu of flowers, be sure to note that on the invite as well. 
Iron out the final details: Any displays you wish to have present will need to be made. 
  • Do you want framed photos of your loved one? 
  • Videos to share during the service? 
  • Memorabilia displayed? 
  • Songs to be sung or played during the service? 
All of these elements add a nice touch to memorializing your loved one but take some time to organize. If you have family or friends asking how they can help, these are great options for them. 

Draft and submit an obituary 

You may want to submit an obituary to their local newspaper, or even the newspaper where your loved one grew up. You will want to connect with the newspaper company prior to understand their formatting and length requirements. These articles typically contain the following information but adding personal details, stories or even a little humor helps create a more memorable and personal piece. 
  • Full name and nickname if applicable 
  • Birthdate 
  • Date of Death 
  • Family information - Spouses, Siblings, Children, Parents 
  • Honors and awards
  • Details about their passions, hobbies, professional life 
  • Charity or Non-profit cause to make a donation to if desired 
  • If the services will be open to the public you may also want to include the location, date and time of the gatherings
Following these steps will help you in your funeral or memorial planning. Please reach out to with any other questions — we are here to help. 
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