There are many different ways to plan a funeral. You might be tasked with planning a funeral for a loved one, or you might be taking steps to pre-plan your own funeral. Like with all things in life, there’s truly no one-size-fits-all method.
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However, you’ll quickly discover that there are many things to consider when it comes to planning a funeral. Whether you’re managing a loved one’s funeral or your own, there are a lot of decisions to make.
Because it’s hard to keep track of everything in a simple way, we’ve created a free online funeral planning guide. This checklist is designed to guide you through your process of planning a funeral for yourself or a loved one. From logistics to arranging payments, the more prepared you are in advance, the better.
Planning a funeral is always an emotional process. It’s also costly, and managing the overwhelm of it all is easier said than done. This is a time when you need to feel supported, so this free checklist is here to help.
Checklist for Pre-Planning Your Own Funeral Online
Many people take the proactive step to pre-plan their own funerals. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones. Not only will they not need to make these decisions when they’re dealing with grief, but you can also cover costs in advance to relieve the financial burden.
Items that can be arranged or ordered online
We’re lucky to live in a digital age where you can buy just about everything online, from caskets to flowers. These are the items that can be arranged in advance and ordered online.
1. Type of service
First, you should decide the type of service you’d like when your time comes. This is something you can decide in advance. Most people choose from one of the following:
- Funeral service
- Memorial service
- Graveside service
- Celebration of life
Additionally, you can decide where you’d like to have your service. You can choose a religious place of worship, a local funeral home, someplace in nature, or even your home. Once you’ve made these decisions, talk to your family about them. You can also create and share an end-of-life planning account with Cake for free.
2. Final resting place
Next, you’ll need to make decisions about your final resting place. This is also something you can arrange (and even pay for) in advance. You can choose from:
- Traditional burial
- Green burial
- Donation to science
If you decide on a traditional burial, you can pay to secure your grave plot in advance. Many families do this to ensure their family members are buried together. You can arrange to purchase a grave plot in a local cemetery by contacting them directly.
You can also prepay for any cremation or burial services in advance. You can even do this online. You’ll need to locate the service provider, whether they’re local or national. The majority of service providers have burial or cremation packages available in advance, and you can pay for things like the casket, burial vault, and preparations in advance.
3. Choose a funeral plan
Aside from paying for and planning any final resting place, you can also choose and secure a funeral plan. A pre-paid funeral is a package of funeral arrangements you make in advance with a funeral home. These can be detailed, covering everything about the service, or more flexible. It all depends on your wishes.
These plans are offered by local funeral homes, and they range in price from $10,000 to $25,000. If you have a funeral insurance policy, it could go towards this prepaid plan as well. While some funeral homes allow you to make these arrangements online, you might need to contact them for more information.
4. Write or plan your obituary
Another thing you can arrange in advance is your obituary. It’s more common than you think to write your own obituary, and this makes a great writing exercise.
If you’d rather not write your own, you can hire someone online or talk to your friends and family. Having an idea of the legacy you want to leave behind is an important thing to think about.
5. Plan your online memorial
There are many free memorial sites you can use to create an online memorial in advance. However, note that you might need to pay an ongoing hosting fee for some of these tools.
Items you’ll have to order or arrange in-person or on the phone
There are some things you can’t pre-arrange before the service online. You’ll need to make these arrangements on the phone, in person, or task loved ones with handling them.
- Flowers: It’s difficult to order flowers in advance online, but you might be able to secure a package with your funeral home or with a local florist.
- Food or catering: If you’re planning on catering at your funeral, it’s difficult for catering companies to schedule funerals too far in advance, especially if you’re not certain when your funeral will be. Leaving this to a relative or your funeral home is the best option.
- Officiant or celebrant: Because naming a date isn’t always possible, it’s also difficult to secure an officiant or celebrant in advance.
- Venue: Lastly, venues book funerals based on availability. While you might be able to pre-pay through a funeral home, this is something that will need to be secured in person or over the phone when the time comes.
The best way to make sure your wishes are honored is by talking to your loved ones. By talking to them about your budget and preferences, they’re prepared to step in to plan all of the last-minute details.
Checklist for Planning a Loved One’s Funeral
If you’re in charge of planning a loved one’s funeral, this can be an emotional process. Use the checklist below to make sure you’re on track whether you’re making arrangements online or in person.
Items that can be arranged or ordered online
Luckily, it’s easy to arrange a lot of the funeral process online. This saves you time and money down the line, and it gives you access to more resources to guide your planning. These are the things you can arrange or purchase in advance online.
It's important to remember that the FTC's Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to offer transparent pricing, much of which you can access online or over the phone. Additionally, you're free to use outside funeral products with your chosen funeral home. This can save you both time and money, so make sure you're aware of all of your options. This can be a highly personal choice, and it's a part of your loved one's legacy.
1. Funeral home
You can select your funeral home online, and this is actually encouraged. Not only should you read online reviews and shop around, but you should make sure you choose the service provider that’s the best fit for your needs.
To find a funeral home online, start with a local search. From there, read reviews, look for accreditation, and start contacting the right provider. Having access to information about funeral homes in advance is such a help, especially since this can be a seriously stressful process.
Aside from online research, consider reaching out to your community for a recommendation. Word-of-mouth references are worth their weight in gold. The right funeral home takes much of the pressure off at an already stressful time.
2. Casket or urn
Depending on how your loved one wants to be laid to rest, choose a casket or an urn. This is a process your funeral home can assist with in person, but you can also shop online. Shopping online gives you more flexibility in budget and style.
There are a number of places to buy an urn online. The same is true for caskets, and you can even find these at big-name box stores. One of the biggest ways to save money when shopping for funeral products online is by ordering an online casket. A quick online search for online caskets can be overwhelming with the sheer number of options.
When it comes to expert recommendations, our favorite is Titan Caskets. Titan is revolutionary in the funeral space, advocating for transparent pricing for consumers of all backgrounds. Though not often advertised, the FTC requires all funeral homes to accept outside caskets, like those from Titan.
With a huge selection, personalizable options, and hands-on service, Titan Caskets is hard to beat. Whether you're looking for a metal casket, a traditional wooden casket, or something entirely unique, start with Titan Casket.
3. Memorial marker or headstone
Did you know you can buy a headstone online? While you’ll need to check with your cemetery’s specific rules, it’s always an option to buy your own online to save money and find exactly what you’re looking for.
As long as your memorial marker or headstone fits your cemetery’s requirements, they should be willing to place it for you for a fee. Again, factor in any additional shipping costs and times.
While there are a lot of different options available, Legacy Headstones has been creating custom headstones since 1920. This provider starts at just $199 for custom stone, offering quite the bargain compared to in-person options. Better yet, the entire process takes place completely online.
4. Flower arrangements
Many florists now give you the option to make a purchase online. You can choose specific blooms, what’s in season, or something that was meaningful to your loved one.
While your funeral home can put you in contact with a local florist, you can also shop online at national florists like 1-800-Florals and ProFlowers. Here, you can find wreaths, baskets, bouquets, and so much more. With most offering 24-hour shipping, you should be able to get the bouquets you're looking for at an affordable price.
5. Photo or video slideshow
It’s becoming increasingly common to display a photo or video slideshow at funerals. This is something you can easily purchase online if you’d prefer to use a template. There are a lot of great video templates on Creative Market.
You can also use an online tool to create a slideshow yourself. Canva has a lot of free, easy-to-use templates, or you can use editing software. There's no reasy to splurge on a professionally created photo or video slideshow if you don't need to. As long as you're somewhat tech savvy, you can easily make this option work for you.
6. Memorial guestbook
A memorial guestbook is a printed book that guests sign at the funeral service or reception. It’s also a place to leave messages for the family, memories, and other well wishes. These are easy to find online on Amazon or on Etsy.
Another option that's even less expensive is to find an empty notebook or art book at any office or craft store. Any book can easily function as a memorial guestbook. If you're particularly crafty, you can add scrapbooking elements, custom paper, photos, and so much more.
7. Memorial website
A memorial website is a digital way to honor someone’s life and legacy. This is especially popular when not every close friend or family member can attend the service in-person.
There are a number of online memorial website providers to choose from, and these range in price. You can do the entire setup process online in advance of the funeral. For example, Cake's memorial websites are entirely free to create, and they offer unlimited sharing options to tell your loved one's story.
8. Funeral invitations
Sending formal invitations to a funeral service is completely optional. Many families choose to invite loved ones through word of mouth, text, or social media. This is a highly personal choice, and there are no right or wrong decisions.
That being said, you can purchase funeral invitations online and have them mailed on your behalf. A tool like Postable easily mails and customized invitations, but you can fully digitalise this as well. Don't underestimate the power of an e-invite for spreading the word quickly.
9. Officiant or celebrant
If you plan to have someone officiate or act as the celebrant for your loved one’s memorial service, this is also something you can do online. Many officiants have online booking tools. To find one near you, conduct an online search on Google or social media. From there, reach out via contact form or email.
Another thing to consider is whether or not your loved one was a member of any religious groups or organizations. Most relgious leaders will act as celebrants for funerals for any active member of the community. Alternatively, he or she might lead the event in exchange for a donation to the church or temple.
Finally, you don't technically need any formal training to act as an officiant. While there are certainly benefits to hiring a professional with funeral experience, you can also have a trusted loved one act as a funeral celebrant. There are many free celebrant templates online that easily guide anyone through this process, regardless of experience.
10. Funeral program
A funeral program is an order of service that’s printed and distributed to guests at a funeral. It’s also an important memento that’s worth holding onto. There are a number of free funeral program templates to choose from, and these can be created online easily.
If you want something more customizable, we have a few expert-designed funeral program templates for purchase for just a few dollars. These are easy to make into your own, and they elevate the guest experience. No tech experience or software is required, simply download and customize your template in minutes.
Additionally, you can also organize catering online. This can be done through your funeral home, but you can also reach out to local catering providers virtually. The best way to do this is via email, and being as clear as possible about your guest list and funeral date.
Many big-name restaurant chains and small businesses offer affordable catering. It's always okay to think outside the box to consider unique catering ideas. If your loved one was a fan of Mexican food, for example, why not have your local Mexican spot cater? Similarly, if he or she loved morning cups of coffee, you can grab coffee to-go from a favorite shop. These are the small touches that tell someone's life story.
12. Reception location
In many cases, it's common to hold a reception or repast after the formal funeral service. This is an informal opportunity to connect with loved ones in an intimate setting, often over a warm meal. Some ideas for reception location include:
- Funeral home in a reception space
- A local park, garden, or outdoor space
- Your family's home
- A favorite restaurant or cafe
Many of these reception ideas can be booked online. Some are included as part of other funeral packages, like in the case of a funeral reception space. The more you can arrange digitally, the less stress is put on your family during this time.
13. Memorial donation
Are you planning on creating a memorial donation or fundraiser on behalf of your loved one? Whether you're raising money to pay for the funeral service or you're honoring a worthy cause, memorial donations can be created entirely online.
An online fundraiser is easily sharable, pairs well with your memorial page, and gives your loved ones a way to support your family. There are many well-known fundraising tools to use to your advantage, as well as unique ways to boost your online memorial fundraiser.
14. Death certificate
Did you know you can also order your loved one's death certificate online? It's true, and this is usually the recommended method in most counties. While rules vary by location, a death certificate is one of the most important documents when it comes to finalizing someone's affairs. You'll use the death certificate to make final arrangements, close accounts, transfer funds, and so much more.
To order a death certificate online, check with the county's vital records office. Your funeral home will file the death certificate on your behalf, and you can request additional legal copies online for a small fee. You'll need to know key information about your loved one like his or her date of birth, place of death, and legal name. From there, you can get copies of the death certificate sent your way within the requested period of time.
Items you’ll have to order or arrange in person or on the phone
Some things are easier to plan over the phone or in person. Here’s what you’ll need to do when the time comes.
- Transportation of the body: After the death of a loved one, the first step is to secure transportation of the body. You’ll need to do this over the phone with a funeral home or coroner.
- Family transportation: If you also need transportation for friends and family to and from the service, this will need to be arranged over the phone.
- Documents: Lastly, if you need any documents in advance of the service such as the death certificate, burial permit, and so on, this is easiest when done over the phone or in person.
Taking Care of Everything
While there are a lot of different things to worry about whether you’re planning your funeral or a loved one’s funeral, this is an act of kindness. This is a final opportunity to say goodbye and honor someone’s legacy, so make sure you keep all of the above in mind during the process.
The good news is that it’s never been easier to plan in advance and to plan online. Gone are the days of driving around town searching for what you need. Planning can be as simple as going on your computer and making decisions from the comfort of your own home. And when time is of the essence, that is worth everything.