Guest post by Jasmine Tanguay
Legacy Facilitator and Funeral Celebrant
With nearly 20,000 funeral homes in the US, choosing one can be a daunting task. It’s important to do your homework in order to find a match that meets your unique needs at a reasonable price. Comparison shopping can be difficult, however, since few funeral homes list prices online. This article will help you find trustworthy guidance, understand pricing, and approach the selection process with confidence.
- What services does a funeral home provide?
- Do all funerals require a funeral home?
- What is a funeral director?
- How do I find local funeral homes?
- How can I make sure I’m an informed consumer?
- Can I shop around?
- How does funeral pricing work?
- Questions to consider
- Sharing funeral wishes
What services does a funeral home provide?
Funeral homes provide a comprehensive set of services that can be purchased in packages or a la carte. They generally (among other things) provide transportation of the deceased, perform embalming and casketing, host wakes/viewings and memorial services, oversee necessary paperwork, place obituaries in newspapers, coordinate flowers, manage graveside services, arrange cremations and take care of additional details surrounding funeral services and after-death care.
Do all funerals require a funeral home?
No. In most states, families can choose not to use a funeral home and work directly with cemeteries or crematories and provide their own transportation of the deceased. Funeral ceremonies, if desired, can be performed by clergy, celebrants, or friends and family.
What is a funeral director?
Also known as a mortician or undertaker, a funeral director is a person who supervises or conducts the preparation of the dead for burial and directs or arranges funerals. Funeral directors must have specialized training and are licensed by states. For many funeral directors, their role also includes providing support to the bereaved during initial stages of grief and helping them adapt to changes in their lives following a death.
How do I find local funeral homes?
In addition to word-of-mouth recommendations and Google searches, you can find information about local funeral homes at several online directories. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) maintains a searchable nationwide directory of funeral homes (addresses and phone numbers only). It’s good to remember that in some cases (for example, direct cremation) the location of the provider may not be as important and searching farther from home may allow access to more options.
How can I make sure I’m an informed consumer?
Unfortunately, funeral homes are often in a position to take advantage of grieving families, who often don’t have the time or ability to compare options when a death occurs. Customers can’t determine a competitive price and can be persuaded by emotional sales pitches to purchase goods and services far beyond their budget.
Fortunately, there are public and nonprofit resources that aim to protect consumers from funeral home price gouging. The Federal Trade Commission makes rules and provides guidance to consumers regarding the funeral industry. The nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) advocates for and provides resources to those in need of funeral service providers.
Can I shop around?
Absolutely, but it may take some footwork. Funeral homes are required to provide a “General Price List” that lists the costs for its services. If prices for such things as caskets and urns aren’t on that list, request a list of those prices as well. Local chapters of FCA often conduct price surveys of funeral homes in their region which may help you with comparison shopping. If you would prefer to be contacted by providers, the website Funeral Decisions allows users to solicit price quotes for the specific services they are shopping for from funeral homes in a given area.
How does funeral pricing work?
Thanks to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, you have the right to select only the goods and services you want. The Funeral Consumers Alliance has a brochure with guidance on making sense of the price list. Funeral homes will typically have a base fee that includes overhead and professional services – generally from about $1,000 to $3,500 – which includes, among other things, consulting with you on arrangements, coordinating with the church and/or cemetery, and preparation of official documents. They will likely offer a range of common packages and also individual a la carte items. Be sure to ask if the listed prices include fees from outside providers (such as crematories, clergy etc.).
Questions to consider when choosing a funeral home
Once you have a sense of local options and have gleaned any available information about cost, make an appointment to visit those funeral homes if possible. It’s always smart to bring a list of questions and a friend or family member who is less emotionally invested in the funeral than you are. Ask the funeral home for their General Price List and have them review it with you. Make sure you are comfortable with the funeral director and the facility. Here are some additional questions to help you determine a good fit:
- Do they offer the customization options that I want? Not every funeral home can provide options such as a “green” funeral, for example.
- Can I get what I want without paying for what I don’t? Don’t get pressured into a package that is more than you need. Also, by law, you have the right to purchase items such as a casket or urn from another vendor and use them at no additional charge, and the funeral director should be amenable to this.
- Do you feel like the funeral director understands your vision and is committed to helping make it happen? Work with someone who supports your needs and wishes. You deserve to feel completely comfortable with the director and the premises.
- Does the funeral home have experience with your religious or cultural needs? Make sure the provider is sensitive to your values, culture and/or religion (if applicable). Certain religious customs may dictate a specific facility or other needs, so be sure in advance that those can be met.
- Do you like the look and feel of the facilities? If you are having
a viewingor service at the funeral home, you may be seeking a certain type of environment for that event.
- Does the funeral home have the type of amenities you need? For example, do you need handicapped access, refrigeration (if you prefer to forego embalming), or informal gathering space?
- Is the funeral home part of a chain? You may wish to ask whether the funeral home is locally owned. Independent funeral homes are often family owned and may have been in business for several generations. In many cases, chain ownership won’t be visible (the funeral home’s appearance, the name, and the personnel often remain the same) and you should know the reputation of the owning company.
- Will the funeral home be available when the need arises? If you aren’t seeking their services immediately, be sure that they will be available when you need them. Confirm when staff will be on call. Avoid prepaying in most situations--your circumstances (and theirs) can change.
Sharing your funeral wishes with Cake
There are countless decisions to be made when it comes to funeral arrangements. If you're in the process of planning for an ill or recently deceased loved one, our heart goes out to you. We know this process isn't easy.
Knowing our loved ones final wishes can make these decisions far more manageable.
Jasmine Tanguay, Legacy Facilitator & Funeral Celebrant
Jasmine is a funeral celebrant and life-cycle sustainability strategist, currently crafting a green legacy blueprint course called Completing My Circle. She is the founder of A Sustainable Legacy, working to help folks align their final outcomes with their deepest values and greatest gifts. She advises clients and conducts workshops on a variety of DIY legacy and deathcare topics. Jasmine also curates the website FullCircleLife.org which examines the connected cycles of life and