Making funeral arrangements can be hard, whether you’re planning a funeral or memorial service for someone close to you or just planning your own funeral ahead of time. There are a lot of decisions to make, and a lot of things to set up.

Don’t worry. This article is here to guide you through the process from beginning to end, with suggested timings to help if you’re arranging a funeral after a death. Take your time to work your way through the steps below – and feel free to call us for help if you need to: 020 8629 1600.

 

How to plan a funeral step-by-step

The funeral planning checklist below should be taken as a gentle guide, rather than instructions – just as every family is different, every funeral is different as well.

 

Week 1:

1) Find a funeral director to plan the funeral with you

You don’t need a funeral director to plan a funeral, but many people find them a great help. If you don’t already have someone in mind, it’s a good idea to compare a few different funeral directors on price, reviews and whether they offer the services you’ll need.

You can use Beyond’s online directory to compare and contact funeral directors for free, with no obligation.

Remember: you can plan a funeral with a funeral director before someone dies, but the death needs to be registered before they can start actively arranging the service.

 

2) Planning a funeral for a loved one? Check their will for any plans

If you’re not sure how to plan a funeral for a loved one, it’s worth consulting their will (if there is one) for instructions. You can also ask family members about their funeral wishes. Here’s how to find a will.

 

3) Plan the funeral with your chosen funeral director

Once you’ve chosen a funeral director, they will set up a meeting with you to discuss all the different things to plan for a funeral. You can expect this to take one or two hours.

Most funeral directors will be happy to come to your home to plan the funeral with you, which can make the conversation easier. You can see whether a funeral director offers home visits on their Beyond profile.

At this point, you can expect to answer a few questions:

Would you like to arrange a cremation or a burial?

Cremation is the more popular option, with 70% of people in the UK preferring it to burial. This may be due to cost: overall, a standard cremation is about £1,000 less expensive than burial, and a direct cremation (cremation without a service) is thought to be the least expensive option in the UK.

While most burials take place in cemeteries owned by local authorities, eco-friendly “natural” burials are on the rise, and most funeral directors are now able to accommodate them.

Less-usual options are private burial (at home, for example) and burial at sea. If you’re planning your funeral in advance, you could also consider donating your body to a local medical school.

Which coffin or urn would you prefer?

There are many different kinds of coffin and urn to choose from, and it can be a little overwhelming. You might find these guides helpful:

Remember: if you find a coffin or urn you like online, it’s okay to ask your funeral director to order it for you.

Would you like to visit your loved one at the funeral home?

Some families find it helpful to come and see the person who has died during their time in the funeral home. This is sometimes called a “visitation” or a “viewing”.

Many funeral homes have small, peaceful rooms (often called “Chapels of Rest”) for this, where families and close friends can grieve in private.

Would you like the body to be embalmed?

All funeral directors perform “last offices”: washing, dressing and preparing the body of the person who has died so that they look neat and peaceful.

Some funeral directors also offer embalming, or “hygienic treatment”, where the body is carefully treated with chemicals to preserve it for longer. This is often suggested when the body is to be repatriated from abroad.

Remember: natural burial grounds won’t usually accept bodies that have been embalmed, as the chemicals used in the process are considered to be harmful to the environment.

What should the person who has died wear?

While some religions require particular burial or cremation clothes, it’s otherwise very much an individual decision. Some people might like to be buried in their favourite clothes, while others might want a fresh, new outfit.

Remember: if the person who has died is going to be cremated, it’s important to remove any metal jewellery first, as this can melt.

Would you like any funeral transportation?

The funeral director will ask you if you’d like them to hire any vehicles to transport funeral guests to and from the funeral, and if so, what kind. Some funeral homes provide special hearses and transportation on request.

While this can be nice, it’s okay (and more affordable) to use your own cars. Find out more about funeral transport here.

Where and when would you like the funeral service to be?

There are a few things to consider when choosing the time and date of a funeral. One is avoiding family birthdays and other special occasions. Another is cost: much like weddings, funerals held on weekends can be more expensive. We have a few tips on finding the right time here.

You’ll also need to choose somewhere for the service – and the reception or “wake”, if you’re having one.

Would you like flowers and/or a donation set up?

Funeral flowers can be arranged either through the funeral director or independently. Some families ask funeral guests to donate money to a favourite charitable cause instead of sending flowers, as well. You can find out more about both options here.

 

4) Plan the funeral service with a celebrant or religious representative

Anyone can officiate a funeral, so if you’re not religious, you can ask a friend or hire someone to do it. It can help to go with a professional celebrant if you’re not sure how to plan a funeral service.

When you meet to discuss arrange the funeral service, it can help to bring pictures and prepare some personal stories to tell them. They’re also likely to ask you:

 

5) Start creating the eulogy and death notice

The eulogy is the main speech given at the funeral, while the death notice is an (optional) official notification in a newspaper – it’s best to give whoever is going to create these plenty of time to prepare. If you’re planning your own funeral, you can gather information ahead of time to help your family when the time comes.

 

Organising your own funeral? The rest of this funeral planning guide is designed to help families after a death. For now, it’s enough to store your funeral wishes somewhere safe and let your family know where they are – you can even add them to your will, if you’d like.

If you’re interested in paying for most of your funeral ahead of time, you might also consider setting up a pre-paid funeral plan. Find out more about Beyond’s Open Funeral Plan here.

 

Week 2:

6) Share the time, location and date of the funeral service and wake

Once you’ve finished planning the funeral service, it’s time to make calls to tell friends and family about your arrangements. You can post a death notice in the local paper.

Why not ask friends and family to share photos and memories of your loved one for the funeral and wake?

 

7) Organise the flowers and catering

If you’re organising your own flowers or catering for the wake, now is the time to make the arrangements. They will likely need between two and seven days’ notice. As with the funeral director, it helps to shop around and compare reviews and prices.

In the run up to the funeral, people will often ask you how they can help. One good option is to ask them to make a cake or a dish for the wake.

 

8) Create the order of service

The order of service is a basic schedule for the funeral guests, but many families see it as an opportunity to express their loved one’s personality, too. Usually, the order of service will include biographical information and pictures of the person who has died, along with all of the readings, prayers and songs to be included in the funeral service.

 

9) Confirm the funeral plans

It’s worth sitting down with the funeral director a day or two before the funeral to make sure everything is in place. If they aren’t organising the wake, catering and flowers, now is also a good time to make calls to confirm these things are on track.

 

10) Spend time with loved ones

Almost there: spend time with your family and friends the day before the funeral.

 

Week 3:

11) Attend the funeral

People grieve in very different ways; it’s important to know that there’s no right or wrong way to feel at a funeral. Do what you need to to get to the end of the day, and remember to lean on the support of friends and family.

If you’ve not attended a funeral before, you might find it useful to read our guide to funeral etiquette.

 

12) Send thank you notes and donate the flowers

You don’t have to send thank you notes to those who attended the funeral or sent you cards, but you can if you wish. Another thing to consider is the flowers guests may have sent or brought to the service. While you might like to keep some of the flowers in your home, you can donate any you don’t want to prevent them from going to waste. We have some guidelines on things to do with funeral flowers here.

Remember: it’s perfectly normal to ask someone else to write thank you notes for you if you need support.

 

13) Pick up the ashes

If your loved one was cremated, you or the funeral director should be able to pick up the ashes from the crematorium two days after the service. Here are some ideas for things you can do with ashes.

 

14) Start thinking about the headstone

Choosing a memorial stone is a very personal thing, but there is no hurry – it will be six months before it can be added to a grave.

 

15) Reach out for bereavement support, if you need to

Losing someone close to you can be overwhelmingly difficult. If you find that you need some support after you’ve finished planning the funeral of a loved one – either a sympathetic ear or practical advice – there are organisations that can help you:

  • Cruse Bereavement Care: call 0808 808 1677 any time between 9.30-5 for practical and emotional support with grief.
  • Samaritans: call 116 123 any time of day or night to speak confidentially to a friendly volunteer.

You can also ask your GP to recommend bereavement support services in your area.

 

What happens after you’ve planned the funeral?

After the funeral, the next step is to begin probate: the process of settling the estate of the person who has died. If you need help with this, you can call us on 0800 044 9568 to discuss our probate service, or read our probate guides to find out more about the process.

 

Do you have advice you’d like to see added to this funeral planning guide? Share your thoughts below – we’d love to hear from you.

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