Organising a funeral can be a very sad and stressful time for loved ones of the deceased. Sometimes individuals will leave instructions for their funerals in their wills which means that reviewing the will is the first thing anyone attempting to organise a funeral should do. If there are no instructions present in the will, or no will exists, then there are many decisions that will need to be made regarding the funeral. Working with a member of the clergy or a professional funeral director will help you organise the details, though the final decisions are usually left to the loved ones.
The date of your loved one s funeral will likely need to take into account several different time frames. Legally you must wait until a death has been registered to then consider a funeral, and if the death involves the coroner then there is usually a longer delay. Depending upon the religion of the deceased there may be delays due to when a church/temple/synagogue/mosque can host the ceremony and there may also be religious rules regarding the days on which funerals are allowed and prohibited. Personally you will also want to decide how long it will take for family and friends to travel for the funeral. While it is not always possible to wait until everyone can congregate, usually there will be a time at which most people can attend. Deciding what will happen to the deceased s body until the funeral will also be important.
Unfortunately holding a funeral can become very expensive, so many decisions will need to be made in accordance with your budget. It may be that the deceased has pre-paid for a funeral or has set aside money for this particular use, so be sure to review the will to discover if anything has already been arranged. If you need to fund the funeral on your own, do not allow overwhelming emotions to guide your budgeting. Look at what you can afford, and work within this amount.
Aspects of a funeral service will differ according to particular religions, so consult with a member of the deceased s clergy to discover exactly what is required and the order of the ceremony. A few things that are part of many ceremonies, and that you will likely need to decide, include:
- Flowers – Will you have them? Which type? How many? In what kind of arrangements? Will others bring or donate flowers? What will happen to the flowers after the funeral?
- Music – Which songs would you like played? Vocals or instrumentals? Where you will find singers and/or musicians? Will there be music at the cemetery?
- Invitations – What will they say? How will they be designed? What type of card or paper will they be printed on? How will you deliver them?
- Cards – Will you need Mass cards or other cards for the ceremony?
- Transportation – both for the deceased and the mourners. Will there be a procession? Will the vehicle transporting the coffin be allowed into the cemetery?
- Pall bearers – Will you need pall bearers? Will four suffice or will you need six? Do you have volunteers for this or will you need to hire pall bearers?
Once a funeral has concluded many families host a reception so that everyone in attendance can be together for a little while longer. By no means must a reception be a formal event, in fact most are usually hosted at a family home. If you are planning to host a reception, be sure to let others know. Likewise if you are only inviting family members back to the house then this should be made known as well. While food and drink is usually served at a reception, what types of food and drink will be served is up to you. Having the affair catered, asking others to bring food or putting together a buffet yourself are probably the three most common options.
Organising a funeral is not an easy task. The above issues are only the basic decisions that will need to be made. For further information on the legalities of organising a funeral, visit your local benefits office and ask for a copy of The Department of Work and Pensions What to Do After a Death booklet (D49 in England and Wales, D49s in Scotland), or contact the National Association of Funeral Directors.