It’s not something we like to think about, but planning for a funeral is one of the most responsible things we can do. By arranging for our death during our life, we can ensure that our loved ones won’t have to make difficult decisions in the most painful stages of grief. Whether you’re planning for yourself or helping a relative in assisted living, there are many things to consider when planning a funeral.

Decide How You Will Handle the Remains

Once a loved one passes, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is how you will handle the remains. The most common choices are cremation and burial, but more options are available.


Cremation is often less expensive than a traditional burial and can be done relatively quickly, but some religions and customs do not allow cremation. After the body is cremated, the next of kin can choose whether to keep the ashes, bury them, or scatter them.

Traditional Burial

Some people feel it is important to bury their loved ones in a cemetery. If you choose burial, you will need to purchase a casket and arrange for a plot or mausoleum space. You will also need to select a gravestone or liner, and you may want to consider purchasing a grave liner or burial vault. 

Alternative Options

In recent years, alternative burial options have become increasingly popular. Some examples include:

  • Green burials: replace traditional caskets with a biodegradable coffin or burial shroud, allowing a more eco-friendly return to the earth.
  • Tree pod cremation: the body is cremated, and the ashes are encased in a tree pod. 
  • Physical uses: the ashes are placed in a piece of jewelry or tattoo ink and given to a family member. 
  • Donation: the body or organs are donated to a research facility, university, or medical facility for studying or organ donation purposes.

Decide How You Want the Service

Funerals are an opportunity to pay tribute to a life that has been lived and offer comfort to those who are grieving. There are many ways to approach funeral planning, and it is essential to decide what type of service will best suit the needs of your loved ones. 

If you are unsure where to start, you may want to consider the following factors: 

  • Prior arrangements: You will need to decide whether you want to have a wake or visitation before the funeral service. 
  • Private or public: Public funerals are open to all, which can be a good option for a deceased person who was well-known but more complicated to plan. A private funeral only allows those who were invited to attend.
  • Religious or secular: Someone who closely follows a religion may want to adhere to their faith’s rituals or traditions surrounding death. Those who are not religious might prefer a secular service.
  • Length of time: Funeral services can be long or short. 
  • Focus on remembrance or remains: Services can be dedicated to remembering the one who passed, to interring the remains, or both.
  • Tone of the funeral: Some funerals focus on loss, grief, and respect for the deceased person. Others, while sad, are focused on celebrating the deceased’s life.

If your loved one had any last wishes for their send-off, the service may be an appropriate time to honor those wishes.

Make Service Arrangements

Losing a loved one is never easy. In addition to grieving, you must make many decisions about the funeral service. Here are some tips for making service arrangements to help make the process easier. 

Choose an Officiant

The funeral officiant will organize the service and be able to provide comfort and guidance. It’s common to choose spiritual leaders or funeral home directors to officiate the service, but anyone can officiate a funeral.

Decide on Fitting Tributes

Many funeral services contain material that was meaningful to the deceased, ensuring that the funeral service is a beautiful and fitting tribute. Here are some ideas of what to select and share:

  • Readings
  • Songs
  • Rituals
  • Memories of the deceased
  • Eulogies from friends and loved ones

If you want loved ones to speak at the service, you must decide who will speak. 

Select Pallbearers

If the service contains a burial, you must select pallbearers to carry the casket to the burial plot. They must be physically strong enough to lift the casket.

Pallbearers are not necessary for other types of interment, like cremation, but somebody will need to carry the urn. 

Make Arrangements for Virtual Attendees

Unfortunately, not everyone can attend a service in person. Recently, some people have chosen to livestream the funeral service so that loved ones can attend virtually. If you wish to livestream the service, make arrangements with the funeral home in advance. 

Make After-Service Arrangements

Some people choose to host a reception after the funeral. If you do so, you will need to select a caterer, make restaurant reservations, or make other arrangements for what will be done after the service.

Flowers or Donations

Traditionally, flowers have been a central part of funerals, providing both a visual display of grief and a tangible reminder of the life that has been lost. For many, sending or receiving flowers is an important way to express their condolences. 

However, in recent years, an increasing number of people have begun to opt for charity donations in lieu of flowers. While this may seem like a small change, it can be quite significant. Donations allow people to direct their money toward a cause important to the deceased or to a charity they may have benefited from during their life. Additionally, donations are often tax-deductible, providing some financial relief for grieving families. 

Ultimately, whether to request flowers or donations is a personal decision. Some may find comfort in the beauty of flowers, while others may prefer the lasting impact of a charitable contribution. You can pick what you or your loved one would have wanted, but don’t fret over the decision. There is no right or wrong answer.

Consider How You Will Pay

Although it is not a pleasant subject, everyone should consider how they will pay for their funeral before they die. This will ensure that your loved ones are not burdened with figuring out how to finance your send-off. 

Several options are available for funding a funeral, including savings, insurance, credit cards, and financing through the provider. You should take some time to research each option and determine which one is best for you. 

Funerals can be expensive. Exploring your payment options will ensure that you or your loved ones are not left with an unbearable financial burden.


It is never easy to lose a loved one, and the process of planning a funeral can be overwhelming. Planning and making your final wishes known ensures your loved ones have some guidance during this difficult time. By considering your options and making decisions ahead of time, you can create a funeral service that truly honors you or your loved one’s life.