How to Make Funeral Arrangements

Making funeral arrangements

Planning a funeral involves making a myriad of decisions concerning everything from choosing a final resting place … to selecting a casket … to deciding on pallbearers. For assistance in arranging funerals people usually turn to funeral directors. They are professionals who manage some, or all, funeral arrangements.

Funeral directors help you plan the funeral ceremonies and then direct the ceremonies in accordance with your wishes, including coordinating with the cemetery. They also handle the technical services regarding the care, preparation, presentation, and final disposition of the deceased. Funeral directors are available at funeral homes and "alternative" funeral service organizations.

Funeral homes, or mortuaries, are full-service organizations with the staff, facilities, and equipment necessary to help the family commemorate the life of the deceased. "Alternative" funeral service providers offer the services of funeral directors but they may specialize or sell packaged plans. For example, an alternative provider may specialize in cremation or graveside services and may not have a funeral home.

Choices that must be made when arranging a funeral include:

  1. Method of interment
    • Will the deceased be buried or entombed?
    • Will the deceased be cremated? If so, will the cremated remains be buried, entombed, scattered or kept by the family?
    • Will the body be donated to science? Will organs be donated?
  2. Ceremonies
    • Will there be a traditional funeral with the casket present or a memorial service without the presence of the casket? Will both types of services be held or no ceremonies at all?
    • Where will the ceremonies be held? At a funeral home? At a place of worship? At the graveside?
    • Will there be one or more visitations? If so, will the casket be open or closed?
    • Will the deceased be embalmed?
    • Should a DNA sample be taken?
    • Who will participate in the funeral ceremonies? Clergy? Pallbearers? Speakers? Musicians or vocalists?
    • Will the ceremonies feature certain music, readings, or tributes?
    • Will there be a procession to the cemetery? Will the deceased be transported in a hearse? Will family travel in a limousine?

Funeral products such as caskets, burial vaults and urns can be purchased from a Funeral home. See Funeral and Memorial Products for further discussion.

“Third Party” Funeral Services

Various products and services are typically provided by parties other than your primary funeral service provider.

For your convenience, most Funeral Directors will arrange these items for you and include the total cost in their billing statement, usually found on the statement in the section labeled “Cash Advances”.

Examples of third party services and products are:

  • Honorariums/fees for the services of clergy.
  • Honorariums/fees to religous organizations for use of their sanctuaries for funeral services.
  • Fees for the services of musicians and vocalists.
  • Floral arrangements. For more, see Etiquette — Flowers
  • Clothing for the deceased.
  • Food and beverages for luncheons and other receptions.
  • Newspaper obituaries. See Writing Obituaries
  • Internet memorials.
  • Certified copies of death certificates. For information on obtaining copies, see Death Certificates.

See related topics:

What You Need to Do When Someone Dies
First Calls
Deceased Transportation
Cemetery Arrangements
Funeral and Memorial Products
Estate, Financial and Administrative Matters