How to Plan a Funeral For a Loved One or Yourself

A funeral is a farewell event celebrating the life of a person by family and friends. It is a time to pay respects and say goodbye. Grieving loved ones can  come together to comfort each other allowing them to appreciate the deceased and thank them. Funeral readings help to pay a fitting tribute. Arranging a funeral can be overwhelming and it is advisable to use some kind of funeral pre-planning guide, even when organizing an immediate funeral. This will help you make informed decisions when under an emotional strain.

Most people turn to a funeral home to assist with their funeral plans however, many people use poor judgement when choosing the funeral home. The top reasons they pick is that they’ve used it before or it’s close to their home. If you’ve never shopped around, you may be paying an inflated price. Knowing how to plan a funeral for a loved one before you contact the funeral home may well save you thousands of dollars.

How to plan a funeral for a loved one

There’s no question that people end up paying for services that they don’t need to pay for when arranging a funeral. If an individual knew their consumer rights they might handle the whole process differently. The fact you can have a simple funeral, but a good celebration afterwards is something people should think about.


Before you arrange a funeral, I recommend you use the following funeral pre-planning guide:

  • Read: How Much Does A funeral Cost? This article will help you decide what services you require at the funeral and where you can save money.
  • Once you have an idea of what services you would like, call several funeral homes and obtain comparable quotes using our funeral cost breakdown check list. The checklist is part of our funeral pre-planning guide for providing a cost comparison of funeral homes – there can be a big variation! By law, funeral homes have to give price information over the telephone and offer every service individually.
  • When you decide on a funeral home, the funeral director can help you confirm the services you have already chosen and make funeral plans according to your wishes. You will avoid emotional overspending at the funeral home.
  • If you don’t require an immediate funeral (i.e. you are planning for funeral insurance or bonds) you will know how much your desired funeral will cost and this will make it easier to plan what sort of savings you will require.
When purchasing a funeral your consumer rights are protected by ‘The Funeral Rule’ (Federal Trade Commission).


How to plan a funeral for a loved one
How to plan a funeral for a loved one – main areas of costs:

There are 3 main areas of costs to consider when arranging a funeral:

1. The basic services fee:  Funeral pre-plannning guide

Includes costs which are common to all funerals such as; transfer of the deceased person into the care of the funeral director, mortuary care, arranging and conducting a funeral service, a copy of the death certificate etc.

2. Charges for other services and merchandise:  Funeral pre-plannning guide

Includes costs for optional goods and services; such as embalming and other preparation; use of the funeral home for the viewing, ceremony or memorial service; use of equipment and staff for a graveside service; use of a hearse or limousine; a coffin or casket, outer burial container or alternate container; and cremation or interment.

3. Disbursements or cash advances:  Funeral pre-plannning guide

Fees charged by the funeral home for goods and services they buy from outside vendors on your behalf. This includes the cost of burial or cremation. The cost of purchasing a grave site varies widely between cemeteries. Disbursements also include: clergy costs, a copy of the death certificate and administration fee.

Examples of optional funeral planning expenses:
  • Rosary
  • Organist/vocalist
  • Funeral flowers
  • Death notice or obituary
  • Funeral notice
  • Additional limousine
  • Reception room hire
  • Catering for the reception
  • Memorial

How to plan a funeral for a loved one

How to plan a funeral for a loved one – funerals can take many forms:
  • A conventional funeral with all the traditional fan fare.
  • A memorial service where the deceased person is not present (usually after a direct cremation or burial).
  • A family organized farewell event with or without the ashes present. You can hold this anywhere you want such as at home or a special place. This can be at any time you choose.
  • A private funeral to which only certain people are invited.
  • A conventional funeral on which you set your mark. For example; an alternative hearse, colorful coffin, dress code (may be the wearing of a certain color), a theme etc.
  • No funeral (involves direct cremation or burial).
 Pre-arranged plans: Funeral pre-planning guide

A pre-arranged funeral plan lets you talk about what you want with a funeral home director. This service is often free of charge and he or she will probably give you a copy of the funeral plan which you can pass on to your loved ones.

A pre-arranged funeral is not a  formal agreement. When the time comes, your family, or the person with this responsibility will still need to arrange and pay for your funeral.

Pre-paid plans: Funeral pre-planning guide

A pre-paid funeral plan lets you organize and pay for your funeral in advance. You can pay for it in full or make a deposit and pay installments over a fixed period. Only some pre-paid plans offer a refund if you cancel so check this before committing. Before you decide on a pre-paid funeral plan, make sure you know exactly how much your funeral will cost and the services you require. Compare the costs with other funeral homes to know you are getting the best deal (you can use my funeral cost breakdown checklist to do this) .

Pros of pre-paid plans
  • Costs are fixed in today’s dollars even if your funeral is not for many years
  • You can control funeral arrangements if you want to (such as casket, flowers etc)
  • You can pay in installments over time
  • Can be a lot cheaper than a funeral bond or funeral insurance if you live for another 5-10 years
Cons of pre-paid plans
  • Can be inflexible if you move interstate to live with family. Some pre-paid funeral home plans are transferable to different providers
  • If you change your mind about a pre-paid funeral you may not be able to get your money back. Check the terms and conditions.
  • You may not be protected if the firm you dealt with goes out of business.
  • You need to be clear what are you are paying for. Are you buying only merchandise, like a casket and vault, or are you purchasing funeral services as well?
Options like funeral bonds and insurance can be expensive funeral planning options, so look into these carefully.


Learning how to plan a funeral for your loved one or yourself is emotionally difficult. Funeral plans are best handled in advance and my funeral pre-planning guide will assist you in this process. Know how you can save costs before contacting funeral homes, and be aware that your consumer rights are protected. A simple, inexpensive ceremony can be just as beautiful and meaningful, but not as draining on the resources of those that must start a new life.