How to plan a funeral step-by-step guide

26 March 2015

Here, we take you through a simple step-by-step guide to understand all the things you need to consider and put in place when organising a funeral after a loved one’s death.

Couple arranging a funeral

Let people know

Make some calls to let people know what has happened and inform the necessary parties. If the death was unattended or due to unknown circumstances then the local police should be notified.

Let members of family know what has happened and discover whether there is a pre-paid funeral plan in place, if there is then contact the plan provider to see how you should now proceed with arrangements (a plan will usually have a pre-selected funeral director). If there is no plan in place then you’ll need to contact a funeral home to transfer the body.

We recommend funeral directors who are members of a registered trade association, such as the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) or The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).

Meet a funeral director

Find a funeral home or director that you’re happy with to help you arrange the funeral. You may have a preferred family funeral director which you can now contact to help with proceedings. If not, you may want to contact several different homes to discuss the services they provide and how much it will cost.

Funeral directors will help you with some or all aspects of the funeral that you are planning. They will help you to plan the ceremony and co-ordinate with the cemetery if that is what is required. They will also deal with the care of the deceased, preparing them for open casket viewing, again if this is something that is requested.

Funeral homes will be equipped to help you and your family with every aspect of the funeral. They will be able to guide you on any queries you may have.

Purchasing the essentials

After meeting with your funeral director there are certain purchases you will have to think about.

If you have decided on a burial then you will need to buy a casket/coffin and also an outer burial container which is often required by cemeteries.

If you have opted for a cremation then you may want to purchase an urn to keep the ashes in, the crematorium will only provide a simple temporary solution such as a bag or cardboard box.

You may also want to buy a grave marker or headstone to commemorate your loved one’s place of burial, check for any regulations on these from your cemetery. You may also want to purchase a guest book for the day of the funeral so that you can see everyone who attended.

Consider a burial location or place for the ashes to be scattered

You will need to consider a final resting place for your loved one, whether you’re burying ashes or a casket. A cemetery will offer different sized plots at different prices. At this point it’s best to check whether your loved one had any previous wishes for where they wished to be buried and also whether they had pre-purchased a plot. Once you have decided on a plot inform the funeral director and they will help make future arrangements for the day of the funeral.

If you opt for a cremation you don’t have to decide on the location for the ashes to be scattered right away. You may wish to consult with family but remember that there are rules and regulations on where you can scatter ashes.

Financial matters after funeral

Be prepared for a lot of work post funeral. You may want to send notes of thanks to those who attended, or those who sent any donations. You may be involved in helping to deal with the deceased’s estate and will, you can hire legal help for this.

You may also have to help in cancelling any accounts the deceased held, such as bank accounts and household bills and organising payment for any outstanding debts.