1. Review the estate planning documents, forms, and other important records of the deceased to determine if he or she had a memorial preferences planner outlining his or her wishes regarding any memorial, funeral, or burial service or appointing an agent to handle the disposition of remains.
2. Choose one person to be the designated contact with the funeral home and clergy regarding all arrangements and decisions relating to the services.
3. Choose a date, time, and location which permit most family members and friends of the deceased to attend. If some family members or close friends cannot attend, ask the funeral home about funeral webcasts or online funeral options.
4. Consult with clergy and ensure the clergy member of your choice is available during the time selected for the memorial service, funeral, and burial.
5. Discuss all services in detail with the funeral home director in advance to ensure the services are carried out according to your instructions.6. If there will be a viewing, choose clothing, shoes, and jewelry for the deceased to wear that is consistent with how the deceased liked to be dressed in public.7. Contact the individuals that may be able to serve as pallbearers for the casket if there will be a burial. View Burial Options.8. If the clergy member scheduled to speak at the service did not know the deceased, provide the clergy member with a written biography of your loved one so he or she can speak eloquently about the deceased.9. Choose one or more family members or friends to speak about the deceased during the service and discuss with the speakers in advance what they plan to say. Because most people will be very emotional at a funeral, it is helpful to write a eulogy in advance and discuss it with someone close to you. Failure to thoroughly arrange who will speak at a funeral or memorial service can result in the event being a disappointment to those who attend, as well as awkward moments.10. Gather photos or other family memorabilia of the deceased and display them at the service.11. If music or funeral songs will be played during the service, gather musical recordings the deceased might have chosen.
12. Arrange a meal or refreshments to be provided at a separate location after the service so friends and family can gather to comfort one another.
13. Contact all family members and friends of the deceased to provide directions to the location of the memorial, funeral, and burial service if necessary.
This is something no one wants to think about. There are so many things we would all rather do. Nevertheless, as we get older, there are more and more reasons to ponder our last wishes.If you have experienced the loss of a loved one and been through planning a funeral for someone else, you may decide you want to take the reins of your own final arrangements. There are some compelling reasons to do so that you may not have considered. See reasons to plan your funeral.
Types of Funeral Services
Viewing, Visitation or Wake: A viewing, also called a visitation or wake is a type of service offered at a funeral home in which the body of the deceased may be viewed in an open casket. If the body of the deceased has suffered severe trauma, injury or decomposition, the visitation may occur with a closed casket so the body of the deceased is not visible but family, friends and other individuals who knew the deceased may pay their respects prior to the funeral.
A viewing is a way for friends and family of the deceased to say goodbye, share memories of their friend or loved one, and begin grieving. Experts suggest attending a viewing helps people accept the death of a loved one. A viewing typically occurs on the day or days before the funeral but it can occur the day of the funeral or burial service. A viewing can be public or private. A public viewing is open to the public whereas a private viewing is reserved for immediate family only. In almost all cases, the body of the deceased will be embalmed before any viewing occurs. A viewing can be part of the services even if the deceased will be cremated.
The traditional Irish wake was held in the home of the family of the deceased. Friends of the deceased would bring food and drink to the wake to comfort the family.
Memorial Service: A memorial service is an event held to honor and remember the deceased. However, unlike a funeral, the body of the deceased usually is not present at a memorial service. Also, the final disposition of remains usually does not occur immediately following a memorial service. A memorial service is often held in lieu of a funeral when the timing of the service needs to be delayed or held at a later date than when a funeral would typically occur. If the deceased was cremated, an urn containing the deceasedís ashes may be present at the memorial service. While a memorial service can be held at a mortuary, it can also be held at any other location, such as a place of worship, park, or any other location that seems appropriate to family and friends of the deceased. A photo or photos of the deceased may be displayed at a memorial service.
Funeral: A funeral is a service held immediately prior to the final disposition of remains, such as cremation or burial. A funeral is a more formal event than a wake, visitation or viewing. At a funeral, speakers may go to a podium and speak about the deceased in a certain order. A minister, pastor or other member of the clergy may also speak, give a blessing or perform a religious ritual. A funeral is typically held in a funeral home or church, but other venues may be chosen as well. The body of the deceased is present at a funeral, either in an open or closed casket. A funeral can be held even if the body of the deceased will be cremated.
Graveside Service: A graveside service is held at the cemetery near the burial plot for the deceased. If the deceased was religious, a member of the clergy will usually read religious passages, say a prayer or give a blessing. Mourners may place flowers or mementos on the casket or in the burial plot. A graveside service can be held in addition to a viewing and a funeral service or it can be held alone, without any other services.
Planning Your Own Funeral
If you are planning your own funeral or would like to write down your last wishes regarding the final arrangements you want made after your passing, print a free memorial preferences planner on our last wishes page. If you are considering pre-arranging or prepaying for your funeral, burial or cremation, see funeral prepaying.