How to Document Funeral Wishes for Free (and Make Them Known)


Ever wonder what your funeral will be like? It’s not uncommon or strange to think about it ahead of time. In fact, you may even want to plan your funeral when you’re still alive. If you have specific ideas for your service, reception, or burial, it will benefit you and your loved ones to document your funeral wishes. There are free resources that can help you brainstorm, document, and share your funeral wishes for free. 

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There are several things you’ll need to consider as you document your funeral wishes. Free resources like Cake provide you with end-of-life planning checklists, end-of-life planning documents, as well as education about choosing a trust or will. We’ll walk you through a variety of aspects of your service, reception, burial, and how to share your funeral wishes. 

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Funeral Wishes Checklist to Consider

When you plan your funeral, a lot of factors influence decision-making. Emotions, pressure from other family members or even funeral service professionals may abandon your wishes without meaning to.

There are ways to limit this from occurring. Consider laying out as many wishes and requests that you can think of to take additional stress off of your family members.  

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Planning and paying for the funeral

Planning and paying your final farewell may seem like the most stressful part of organizing a funeral. All of your decisions and your loved ones’ decisions will factor into the funeral costs.

Though it’s important to consider the people who will be around for your funeral and actually plan it, your funeral is about you and your wishes. The more you vocalize your wishes, the easier it will be for your loved ones to honor you. After all, they care about you and want your wishes to be honored. Ask yourself these questions:

What do you want the tone of the service to be? Though the tone or mood of your service and reception will be determined by a variety of factors, your family can have an easier time carrying out your wishes if you elaborate. Do you want it to be a celebration of life? Or do you want it to be very small and understated?

What do you want people to wear? If you want people to wear whatever they want, say so! If you’re unsure, traditional funeral attire is always acceptable, too. You can also request that people wear a certain color or even wear jeans — it’s up to you. 

Who do you want and not want in attendance? Funerals are sacred. It’s not petty or frowned upon if you request that certain people do not attend, or that you request that your family invite only your closest friends and family members. 

What charities do you want people to donate to? It’s common to ask for donations in lieu of flowers. This is a great way to help a cause significant to you even after you’re gone. Flowers are nice, but donations can make a lasting impact. 

How extravagant do you want your funeral to be? If you want your friends and family to pull out all the stops at your funeral, let them know. Though few people have preemptive “funeral funds,” your loved ones can plan to add a little extra to their savings accounts to plan for it and you’re more than welcome to set aside some of your own money.

That being said, you can also request that your friends and loved ones keep things sensible. For example, you can request peonies for the service or Mexican food for the reception. No matter what, your family will know that your wishes are granted even if they opt for just a few bouquets or an affordable caterer.

Wake, funeral service, and reception

The beauty of specifying different aspects of your service and reception is that you can make them personal. Though it may feel odd to think about these things, the more open and honest you are about them, the more likely your family can honor you the way you want to be honored. Ask yourself the following questions:

What food do you want to have served? What are your favorite foods? Enjoying a good meal is an important part of any funeral because it can bring your guests together to further reflect on your life.  

Where do you want the funeral service held? You aren’t limited to choosing a funeral home. Your family members can always deal with certain responsibilities with the funeral home on their own time.  

Where do you want the reception held? Do you love your family’s cooking? Or do you have a favorite restaurant? Let your loved ones know if you’d prefer for the reception to happen at one of your loved one’s homes or out at a restaurant. 

What décor, flowers, or extras would you like? If you’re hoping to have an ice sculpture of your face at your funeral, you should let your family know so they can account for this in the budget. Or if you want a traditional service with bouquets and a few sashes, also let them know. This is where you can request certain types of flowers or lay out a color scheme. 

What music do you want playing at your funeral? Do you want a traditional service? Live music? Or do you want your friends and family to play one of your favorite artists on a continuous loop? You can play underground hip-hop or R&B funeral songs. That’s the beauty of making your wishes known beforehand.

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There is no right or wrong answer as to what type of burial you’d prefer. In some religions, such as Hinduism, cremation is customary. There are also resources on Cake to help you decide between burial and cremation. You can weigh the pros and cons as well as cost. Think about the following:

Where do you want to be buried? If you have a family burial plot at a cemetery or even an area on your family’s land, your decision is probably an easy one. However, it may benefit you to visit cemeteries in your area to find the one that works for your price range and your family’s residence. There are also different types of burials, such as crypts or above-ground plots.  

What do you want to wear? Do you want to be buried in your favorite color? How about a favorite outfit? You can leave specific instructions for your burial clothing.

Do you want a traditional or a natural burial? You can have a traditional burial in a casket, or you can have a natural or “green” burial. Natural burials involve a biodegradable container or shroud, or no container at all. They are considered more eco-friendly due to the absence of the harsh chemicals used with embalming. 

Do you want a viewing? Though this also comes into play during your funeral service, it will also be dictated by your choice to be buried or cremated. There is also an additional cost for embalming, which you should consider. 

Do you want to be cremated and buried? Being cremated and then buried in your urn is a possibility. Some people do not like the idea of their ashes being spread, but would still prefer to be cremated. If you want to be buried in your urn, this may also dictate what type of urn your family chooses.  

Sharing Your Final Arrangements

Once you’ve determined your final wishes, give them some further consideration. Is there anything you’re forgetting? If you don’t think of anything additional at the time, the beauty of digital end-of-life planning is that you can update your preferences with just a few clicks.

Whether you decide you want your guests to wear tuxedo T-shirts or you think of a song that’s the perfect crowd-pleaser, you can add these things in as you think of them. The most important part of end-of-life planning is sharing your plan with others. Though you may not know who will carry out your final wishes when the time comes, keeping things digital makes it easy to add additional contacts.

Sharing your final wishes can also foster healthy conversations with your loved ones about your core values and beliefs. Cake makes it easy to share your funeral wishes with others securely via email.  

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Plan Ahead, Rest Easy

Documenting and planning your funeral wishes ahead of time means it’s one less thing for your loved ones to worry about — they’ll know they’re honoring you in a way that suits you. Keep your end-of-life wishes on a secure digital platform like Cake to ensure that your wishes are ready when your loved ones need them. Digital documentation also allows you to update them whenever you want to. 

You may not know what tomorrow brings, but by documenting your funeral wishes, you can enjoy the present and remove a little bit of the uncertainty of death for you and your loved ones. 


  1. Shopping for Funeral Services. Federal Trade Commission. 2012 July.

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