How to Plan a Funeral in 5 Steps (Printable Worksheets)

Candles at a funeral

Whether you're doing some pre-planning for your funeral or making arrangements for a loved one, you'll need to gather some basic information to help you through the process. Use this planning guide to begin putting everything in order. If you need help downloading the printables, check out these helpful tips.

1. Notify Friends and Family

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When there's a death, it's important to notify family and friends right away so they hear about the sad news in the kindest way possible. Make a list of all the people that need to be notified, including the names and phone numbers for immediate family, extended family members, close friends, and the deceased's employer (if applicable at time of death.)

It can be difficult to stay organized during times of stress, so be sure to check off each person as they are notified so you don't accidentally call someone twice. This is especially important if someone else will be helping you make these calls. It will be easy to see where one person left off and the other needs to begin.

2. Choose a Funeral Home and Burial Preferences

After notifying friends and family, it's time to call a funeral home where the director will assist you with all the arrangements. Whether or not you choose to use the funeral home for the actual memorial, you may at least want to use this establishment's service to prepare the body prior to burial and coordinate with the cemetery.

Organize your preferences by creating a list that includes:

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  • The name of the preferred funeral home
  • The address
  • The phone number
  • The name of the funeral director
  • Whether burial or cremation is preferred
  • Preferred type of casket or urn, as applies
  • Location for internment of body or cremains
  • Location for scattering cremains (If this is preferred over internment)
  • Who will receive the ashes if they won't be interned or scattered
  • Choosing which clothes the deceased will wear
  • Whether any jewelry will be buried with the deceased or removed before burial

3. Provide Death Certificate and Obituary Info

When you meet with the funeral director, he or she will ask for certain information in order to complete the death certificate and write an obituary. Although the director will ask for this info all at one time, it will be divided and included into the appropriate documents. This is also the time to let the funeral director know if there's any special information you'd like to have included in the obituary.

This info typically includes:

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  • Deceased's full legal name
  • Residence at time of death
  • Gender
  • Social security number
  • Date and location of birth
  • Date and location of death
  • Full names of the deceased's parents
  • Marriage/family info
  • Deceased's religious affiliation and place of worship (If applicable)
  • Main occupation and workplace
  • Education info
  • Military service info
  • The final resting place of the deceased's remains
  • Whether a donation to a specific fund or charity is preferred in lieu of flowers

4. Plan the Service

This is the heart of the funeral and the part where the majority of mourners participate. You can choose to hold a service right at the funeral home, at the deceased's house of worship, or both if that seems appropriate. You have a lot of leeway in planning the order of the service and which kinds of memorials will take place, but there are some basic elements that are common in most services.

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You'll need to decide:

  • Who will preside over the service
  • The location, time and date of the funeral
  • Opening prayer or remarks
  • Which readings to include (These might be religious readings, poems, or other readings that hold special meaning.)
  • Which songs to include
  • Who will give the eulogy
  • If individual mourners will be offered the opportunity to share memories
  • Who will be the pallbearers

5. Consider Whether You Want to Hold a Wake

A wake is optional, but bringing everyone together for a meal and some fellowship can really comfort those who are grieving. There are many ways to hold a wake.

  • You could hold the wake at your home or a church hall.
  • Friends might like to help by providing dishes to share, or you might choose to hire a caterer for convenience.
  • You might also consider booking a private room in a local restaurant and asking everyone to meet there when the service is over.

Rely on Your Funeral Director for Help

Planning a funeral can be overwhelming, so understanding what kind of information is needed and gathering it before you begin making arrangements can make the process go much smoother. A professional funeral director can walk you through the entire process to make sure all of your needs are covered, and you won't have to handle everything by yourself. Next, learn about the average time between a death and a funeral.

How to Plan a Funeral in 5 Steps (Printable Worksheets)