Funeral Arrangement Responsibilities

17 December 2019 • Funeral Planning

A funeral is a sorrowful event, but it can also be a very stressful time for the living. This is especially true for the person coordinating and organizing the funeral arangements. Even if you're simply assisting the person in charge of funeral arrangements, such as the dearly departed's spouse or next of kin, you will still face many challenges. 

It is worth keeping in mind that in funeral terminology, the term "funeral service" is used when the body is present, such as a wake or service preceding the burial. People often misuse the term "memorial service" to mean the funeral service. A memorial service is when the body of the dearly departed is not present. Please read our article on that subject to get a more in-depth understanding. 

In this introductory article, we've outlined the responsibilities that are typically part of the funeral arrangement process. Keep in mind, that every funeral is unique, so some may apply to your situation while others will not. In any case, we hope that this mini-guide can help you get started. 

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1. Writing a Death Notice and Posting an Obituary

One of the first steps to honoring your departed loved one is by writing a death notice and posting an obituary. Remember, a tribute notice is usually written by a family member of the departed, whilst an obituary is typically written by a reporter in your local newspaper. You can also have an obituary published online to be viewable worldwide. 

Normally, the death notice will contain your dearly departed's name and details of the funeral or memorial service, as well as where donations can be made, if this is an option you would like to include. 

2. Selecting Casket or Urn

Talk with a funeral director regarding the types of caskets or urns they offer. A funeral home will usually offer a package plan for a funeral service, which may include a casket or urn. Keep in mind that the casket will most likely be the most expensive part of the funeral arrangement. Alternatively, you can purchase your own casket outside of the funeral home, which may be less costly. In the United States, there is a federal law that prevents a funeral home from charging you for providing your own casket or handling one from a third-party source. 

3. Selecting the Headstone and Designing the Inscription

Another important responsibility is to choose the type and design of your loved one's grave marker, also known as a headstone, as well as the inscription. If your loved one specified the type of grave marker they prefer, or what they want inscribed on it, be sure to send these details to the headstone maker. 

If your loved one did not specify this in their will, or if they didn't have a will at all, it is up to you to select the materials, design and inscription for your loved one. You can search online for ideas and examples. Don't be afraid to be humorous or creative with the inscription, especially if it fits with your loved one's personality. However, remember that gravestones will last for centuries. Whatever you choose, keep materials costs and other fees in mind. The headstone maker will be more than happy to accommodate your budget and customization details. 

4. Choose the Cemetery

If your loved one specified in a will the general area where they want to be interred, contact the cemeteries around that location. Choosing a cemetery is more complicated than it seems. For instance, people who immigrated to the country where they passed away might want to be buried in their homeland. Likewise, a parent who passes away might have mentioned, whether informally in a conversation or legally through a will, that they want to be buried near where their children live. 

It is important to research prospective cemeteries, such as their customer reviews, as well as services they provide and costs. 

5. Location of the Funeral Service

The location of the funeral service is something that will be detailed in a death notice. The funeral service can take place at a funeral home or a house of worship. A traditional funeral service in a church, mosque or temple is more somber in mood, but can be an important aspect of the funeral for the family, especially if the dearly departed was a person of faith.

If the funeral service will be held in a place of worship, the funeral home will usually be the ones who'll coordinate with the church. If the loved on who passed away and the surviving family are not religious, a funeral home or a private space is usually chosen for the service. 

6. Communicating with the Funeral Director About the Service

Once you've chosen a funeral home, reserve time to have an initial meeting with the funeral director, so that you can discuss possible funeral service packages that they offer. The funeral director will tell you what is included and what will be considered additional sercies, along with their fees. If your loved one outlined how they want their funeral service conducted in their will, be sure to communicate this accurately to the funeral director. 

7. Hiring a Florist 

Typically, a third-party florist is hired for the funeral service. They can help you tactfully decorate various events in the funeral process, such as a wake, the funeral service itself, the burial site at the cemetery, and even the post-funeral reception. However, keep in mind that funeral directors tend to have standards and procedures regarding floral arrangements, so be sure that your florist communicates with the funeral director before beginning their work. 

8. Organizing Food and Refreshments for the Post-Funeral Reception

If you plan to serve food, light snacks and refreshments at a funeral service (assuming it is not being held inside a church or other house of worship), be sure to coordinate this in advance. This way you can set aside a portion of your budget for purchasing the items. In many Christian denominations, like Roman Catholicism, week-long wakes are common, especially in particular countries. It is customary to provide a table filled with snacks, refreshments, and coffee and/or tea. 

If you plan to have a post-funeral reception, which is usually held at a family member's home, or the home of your dearly departed, be sure to arrange the space to accommodate your guests. Caterers are not usually needed for such intimate and small-circle events, but family members and friends of the departed will offer to help cook any planned meals for guests. 

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