How to Plan a Funeral

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A step-by-step guide to help you through the difficult, and often overwhelming process of planning a funeral for a loved one.

Planning a funeral for a loved one can be a very emotive and difficult task. There’s a lot to think through and numerous decisions that need to be made. If the responsibility seems daunting, we understand and you’re not alone. This step-by-step guide will gently help you through the process and give you a clear focus on where to begin in your planning. 

First things first. Remember that everyone will process their grief differently and there is no one-size approach to dealing with the stress and feelings that will emerge as you start to plan the funeral. Be kind to yourself as you begin to organise the arrangements and delegate tasks to others if it starts to become too stressful a situation for you. 

Decide if you’d like to hire a funeral director

A funeral director is someone who will be your support throughout the planning process. They will walk you through all the steps and help you make the choices you need to make. If you’re grieving and finding planning a funeral too difficult at this time, try not to worry, as a funeral director is an expert at helping to relieve some of that pressure for you.

It’s important to note that there is no legal reason you need to hire a funeral director, and of course, it is possible to plan and hold a funeral service without one. However, many will choose to pay the extra fee and use a funeral director for the sake of their own mental health, as well as for convenience purposes. It is true that funeral director’s fees can be up to 50-66% of the total price, so of course, you’ll need to decide if this is the right choice for you and fits within your available budget. 

Choose a type of service

Once you’ve decided on whether to use a funeral director or not you’ll need to choose the type of service you’d like to hold. You’ll have the freedom to consider personal family traditions or religious preferences and can include anything you feel is appropriate. 

This is also the time to decide whether you would like a religious or non-religious service and whether you would like to plan a burial or cremation for your loved one. There are a number of options now available including woodland burials, direct cremation or alternative funerals. There really is something for every preference, so it’s a good idea to sit down to look at all the options before you decide which route you feel is best.

Pick a venue and date for the service

An important part of funeral planning is deciding where and when to hold the ceremony. You may be surprised to learn that a funeral service can be held in several different suitable venues, including a crematorium, a place of worship, a private home, village hall or hotel. 

Once you have chosen a venue, decide on a time that suits your family circumstances, religious beliefs and of course the availability of the funeral director and the crematorium or cemetery.

Consider the type of casket

Although choosing the type of casket or coffin can cause a lot of upset for many people, it can often help in the bereavement process as it allows loved ones to focus on physical elements of the planning; things they can control. In a time of great disruption, these little things can help provide some much needed grounding. 

Caskets are available in various different types of material including wood and metal. The type of material you choose will be dependent on the type of service you plan. For a woodland burial for example, you’ll need an eco-friendly alternative such as wicker or a cardboard coffin. For a more traditional church wedding you may want to choose wood. Of course, there will also be the opportunity to personalise your chosen casket, with special handles or trimmings and even engravings if you wish.

Arrange funeral transport

A funeral procession is a tradition in which family and close friends of someone who has passed away are able to follow behind their coffin as it travels towards its final resting place. While they aren’t as common as they once were, families can still find a great deal of comfort in being part of the funeral procession. 

Often, there are some etiquette rules to follow. A modern UK funeral procession usually starts at the home of the deceased and is led by the hearse, with friends and family following close behind in limousines or cars. The procession will first travel to the funeral service and then to the crematorium, burial ground or cemetery. It’s also possible to arrange a particular route you want the funeral procession to take. 

If you do not want to take part in a traditional funeral procession don’t worry, as you can still hire funeral transport to take your loved one to the ceremony and then to the churchyard or crematorium. Remember that any choices you make should feel right for you, your circumstances and the wishes of the deceased. 

Write an obituary 

Writing an obituary is often considered to be one of the most important tasks for anyone planning a funeral. This is the time where you can memorialise your loved one through the written word and tell their life story. 

An obituary can summarise a person’s life and legacy in a truly beautiful way. When beginning to write an obituary, start from birth and work forward. Think of yourself as a storyteller, telling the story of your loved one’s life. Obituaries can be funny and heartfelt, moving and informative. It can feel like a really overwhelming task, however try not to worry as there really isn’t a right or wrong way to write one.  

Some facts to include are the full name of the deceased, their age, their date and place of birth, the date and place of death, where the deceased live and a list of relatives, both living and passed. 

There are of course more elements to think about when planning a funeral, including choosing flowers, deciding on any readings you’d like in the service, allocating a chosen charity or making plans to organise a wake. It really depends on what kind of send off you feel is fitting.

You can discuss all these steps and more in depth with your funeral director or the person who is leading the funeral. Don’t be afraid to ask questions,  however small or insignificant they may seem. It’s important that you feel comfortable making any requests you know your loved one would have wanted. 

Despite the discomfort, many people find that planning a funeral can be a very cathartic process. It’s the perfect way to show your loved pne how much you care and what they meant to you during their life. It also allows you to process your grief in stages, as you walk through the steps that will lead your loved one to their final resting space.

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