How to organise a funeral

In this guide

Organising the funeral

The nature of the occasion and the circumstances, turn the funeral planning process into a challenging and emotionally charged undertaking. It is a race against time which leaves no room for mistakes to organise an event which is a celebration of life and a goodbye ceremony for family and friends to pay their final respects to the deceased person. 

In this article, we show you how to organise a funeral in three easy to follow steps:

Honouring their wishes 

If the deceased person left any instructions, your Funeral Director will help you honour their wishes and deliver the funeral they wanted. 

Type of funeral

If there are no instructions, one of the first decisions you need to make is with regard to the funeral type. Please consider the following when choosing between a burial or cremation. 

Burial 

    • Do you need to purchase a new grave or is there an existing one? 
    • What type of coffin or casket would you like? 
    • Where would you hold the funeral service – local church or the cemetery chapel?
      Some cemeteries charge for the purchase of new graves and there’s often a fee for opening existing ones.

If you would like to make changes to existing headstones, the cemetery may charge a fee for that too.

You need to consider whether or not you wish to honour the memory of the deceased person with a headstone or other memorial. Your Funeral Director will be able to offer information and guidance to help you with that. 

Cremation 

    • Where would you hold the funeral ceremony – local church or the crematorium chapel? 
    • What type of urn would you like?

Most crematoria operate a strict time schedule. You can arrange a longer service at an extra cost. 

You need to consider whether you would like to keep the ashes in an urn, bury or scatter them. 

The funeral service

The funeral service combines a variety of different elements which complement one another and work together to tell the story of the deceased person and to honour their memory. It’s an occasion where family and friends gather to pay their respects to that person and bid their goodbyes. 

The following information is designed to introduce the main components of the Funeral Service and to help you make decisions that are right for you: 

Funeral officiant, minister, celebrant 

The funeral service is lead by a person who is in charge of the itinerary to make sure that it features all music choices, speeches, poems, hymns, readings etc. They are also responsible for meeting and greeting the family as well as making sure that the ceremony runs smoothly and within the time schedule. 

That person can be a religious or non-religious minster, a celebrant, the funeral director, friend or relative. It depends on the type of service and your preference. 

Eulogies 

The funeral service often includes readings, prayers, poems or short speeches about the deceased person from family or friends. You can liaise with the person who is leading the service to make sure they are on board with your decisions and that they allow time for these special tributes.

Funeral music 

Including some of the deceased person’s favourite music pieces and/or hymns is a good way of personalising the service. The music can be provided on a CD or chosen from a library of popular songs and hymns. Some people hire an organist or other live performers to play the person’s favourite music. The decision is yours and your Funeral Director is there to help. 

Order of service 

A booklet with a personalised itinerary of the funeral service which includes poems, hymns, songs, readings and any other information about the deceased person helps mourners to follow the service. You can also send it to the people who cannot attend so that they have a memory of the day. 

Funeral flowers 

The funeral flowers are often chosen to feature the deceased person’s favourite blooms and colours. They can be assembled in a variety of arrangements to depict a particular part of their life, an interest, a hobby, their role in society or in the family etc.

Donations 

It is also acceptable to ask for donations to a charity or another organisation which is close to the deceased person. In those cases, there are family flowers only. 

Please note that funeral flowers can help the person who sends them to heal the pain of their loss. If you feel that you may deny them that opportunity by not allowing flowers, you can give them a choice between flowers, donations or both. 

Funeral transport 

The funeral procession (cortege) refers to the hearse and any other vehicles that follow it en route to the service. You need to decide whether the procession begins at the funeral home, at the home of the deceased person or elsewhere. 

There are no strict rules about the procession. Some people prefer to go straight to the service while others like to have close family in chauffeur driven limousines behind the hearse. You can also make use of your own transport. 

Obituaries 

Most people still like to have a newspaper announcement about the death. It’s a way of reaching the wider community and notifying them about the funeral arrangements. 

You can also include a poem, a quote or prepare a short text as a tribute to the deceased person. 

The funeral reception

Although it’s not part of the funeral service, most families elect to hold a reception after the funeral. It is an opportunity to connect with relatives, friends and share stories to remember the life of the deceased person. 

The funeral reception is an informal affair and if you are planning to hold one, it may help to consider the following: 

    • Who will be in charge of organising it? 
    • Where will the reception be held – at home, at a club, pub, hotel or another venue?
    • When will the reception be held?
    • What type of food and drinks will be served? 
    • Will you personalise the event to commemorate the life of the deceased person? 

Can you think of anything else that needs to be taken into account when organising a funeral?

Help us keep this grief resource complete and up to date. Share your thoughts and advice in the comments sections below so that newly bereaved readers can benefit from your experience.

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