How to Pre-Plan Your Own Funeral: 7 Item Checklist

Updated

Most of us don’t like to think about dying and what comes after. We know the general facts about what comes next, whether we’re buried or cremated, and how our families will honor us. Still, planning the nitty-gritty details is understandably challenging. 

That being said, planning your own funeral in advance can be a smart move. Not only does this lessen the burden on your family when the time does come, but you can also prepay in advance. With so many guides available already on how to plan a funeral for a loved one, how does this differ from pre-planning your own funeral?

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Though it can be difficult to make these decisions, it’s an important part of understanding and sharing your final wishes. Luckily, it’s never been easier to pre-plan your own funeral, no matter your specific wishes. Follow this checklist to get started. 

How Does Pre-Planning a Funeral Typically Work?

When you pre-plan your funeral, you follow a similar process as though you were planning a funeral on behalf of a loved one. Most arrangements are made through a funeral home, either a national chain or one you trust locally. 

Funeral homes understand that many wish to plan their funerals themselves, and they make it easy to do so. A funeral director can guide you through the process, showing you different packages and payment options. 

While some things can’t be planned in advance (like the date of the service), you can prepay and pre-arrange the majority of your funeral service. This means when your time does come, your family will have less confusion about what steps to take next. Everything will be arranged for them, ensuring they can focus on their grief and healing. 

Planning your own funeral also means you’re fully in control. If you have specific wishes for your funeral service, burial, or burial alternative, this is the best way to make sure they’re met after your death. As the saying goes, if you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself. 

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Planning Your Own Funeral Checklist

If you’ve decided planning your own funeral in advance is right for you, use this checklist. It’s understandable to be a bit confused and overwhelmed by the process, especially as you come to learn how much goes into each service. By planning in advance, remember you’re crafting your legacy. 

1. Choose your funeral home

The first step is to choose your funeral home. This is the provider you’ll make your funeral arrangements through. When finding the right funeral home, consider your long-term plans and your location. 

While you can’t possibly predict when you’ll die, you’ll want to be close to your chosen funeral home. If you think you might move, choosing a national funeral home is a better choice. Many funeral homes have partner locations or are run by a national company, and this gives you more flexibility. 

When you’ve chosen your funeral home, talk to them about different pricing and packages. They likely have different options depending on your wishes and how much you wish to spend. 

2. Choose your service type

The next big decision is to determine what type of service you’d like to have. Most people choose from the following, though you might choose multiple:

  • Funeral: A funeral service is what you typically think of when you consider a final sendoff. The body is present for this event, either in an open or closed casket. 
  • Graveside service: Graveside services can be held on their own, but they’re commonly included in addition to a funeral service. This is a service held at the final resting place. 
  • Memorial service: Memorial services happen after the burial or cremation, and the body is not present. 
  • Celebration of life: Lastly, a celebration of life is an upbeat, joyous event that honors someone’s life. 

There is no right or wrong choice, and you might choose a few of the options above. For example, you might request a traditional funeral followed by a graveside service. For close friends, you might ask them to hold a celebration of life in your honor. 

3. Decide on a reception, wake, etc. 

There are some additional things you might add to your funeral service. These vary depending on religion, though you’re free to choose any (or none) of the following:

  • Visitation/wake: A visitation or wake is when guests view your body, offering their final goodbyes before the funeral. 
  • Reception: A reception, also known as a repast, is an informal gathering after the service. This could be in the funeral venue, a family home, or even a family restaurant. 
  • Mourning events: If your culture has specific mourning events, you might wish to include these in your funeral pre-planning as well. 

4. Assign someone to be in charge

You’ll also want to choose someone to carry out your wishes for the funeral. If you’re going through a funeral home, one of their funeral directors will assist with the entire planning process when the time comes. 

That being said, you should designate someone in your family to be the most involved with these arrangements. This could be a partner, child, sibling, or a trusted friend. When in doubt, include a secondary planner just in case. 

5. Decide your place of service

Where do you want the funeral to take place? While most people opt for the funeral home, this isn’t your only choice. Other options are:

  • Place of worship
  • Community center
  • Garden or park
  • Cemetery
  • Family home

The most expensive option will likely be the funeral home, but they’re also the most equipped to handle these types of events. If you’re a member of a church, you can usually use the worship space in exchange for a donation. These are things to consider. 

6. Make special arrangements for the funeral

Every funeral is personalized with small accents that remind guests of the loved one they’ve lost. You’re fully in control if you pre-plan your own funeral, and there are a lot of things you can add to make this a special experience. 

Here are other optional elements to include in your funeral pre-plan:

  • Officiant: Who do you want to lead your funeral service? This could be a loved one, religious leader, or an officiant from the funeral home. 
  • Pallbearers or procession: If your funeral will have a procession, consider who you want to be included. 
  • Eulogies: Is there anyone you’d like to deliver a eulogy in your honor, like a friend or family member?
  • Prayers or readings: What would you like read at your funeral?
  • Music: There are so many best funeral songs to choose from, but you might also want your favorite artist played. 
  • Guests: Is there anyone you’d like invited to your funeral who your close friends and family might not know about?
  • Special requests: What requests would make this event feel more personal?

Like any other event, there are special touches that make the service really shine. Consider what you value most at your own funeral. The funeral is really about the living, not the dead. What can you do to make this day more meaningful for your loved ones?

7. Determine your final arrangements

Last but not least, you need to determine your final arrangements. This is usually coordinated through the funeral home, so you’ll also make these decisions when pre-planning your own funeral. 

You have more options than ever before when it comes to your final resting place. You can have a prepaid cremation or burial, a green burial, or choose an alternative like donating your body to science. 

Beyond this, consider where you’d like to be laid to rest. If you choose cremation, do you want to be in a burial plot near your parents, spouse, or children? Would you like to be brought to your hometown for burial? If you choose cremation, what do you want done with your ashes? These are key questions to ask. 

How to Share Your Plans With Loved Ones

Once you’ve pre-planned your funeral, it’s time to talk to your loved ones. It’s important that they know how to access your documents and how to act on these plans when the time comes. 

Because these conversations can be scary, be sure to walk your loved ones through why this is important to you. Not only will this open their eyes to the importance of end-of-life planning, but it’s a way to include them in this process. 

Digital sharing

The easiest way to share your plans with your loved ones is digitally. This ensures your loved ones will never lose access to your documents, plans, and wishes. 

You can make a free account with Cake to easily create and share your end-of-life plans with those you trust. The platform walks you through each step, encouraging you to make plans based on your own wishes, ideals, and values.

You can also upload important documents, like your emergency plan, important contacts, and your funeral pre-payment confirmation. From there, share your plans securely by email. 

Physical plans

If you’d prefer a physical copy of your plans, you can also print your documents and the checklist above. Keep your documents somewhere safe, and be sure to tell your trusted loved ones where to find them. 

In addition, if you’re working with a funeral home, they can keep a copy of your plan. That being said, your loved one will need to know which funeral home you’ve made your plans with in order for this to be helpful. 

Planning Your Legacy 

Your legacy is an important part of how you’re remembered. While thinking about your funeral may feel morbid to some people, it’s an essential way to be there for your family when it matters most. Making decisions about your loved one’s funeral and resting place can feel impossible, especially if you don’t know their wishes. 

By taking the proactive steps to plan your funeral in advance, you’re giving your family the ultimate gift. Though they won’t be able to thank you in person, they’re sure to appreciate it when the time comes. Your legacy starts today, so how will you make an impact?

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