When a death occurs you may find yourself in the uncomfortable position of not only grieving for your loss but also to plan the funeral. Some funeral planning goes really smooth while other funerals will find the family members bickering and fighting. Funerals can often bring out the worst in people. Here are 8 tips to help you plan a funeral and help things go as smoothly as possible.
#1. Grieving Style
Everybody grieves differently. Some people will remain utterly silent and not say a word. Other people may become angry and argumentative. Your super nice relative may suddenly be yelling profanity at you if you do not follow her desires. As the main person in charge of planning the funeral you need to understand that people grieve differently. If one of your family members is silent and does not suggest anything for the funeral planning process it might be wise to ask him or her what they think. Often they will have an opinion but are too much in shock over the death to simply speak up without being asked directly.
#2. Embalming vs. Cremation
Hopefully your loved one that passed away left a specific request as to whether they wanted to be embalmed or cremated. This is often a sticking point and people will pull out their religious beliefs if you choose to have your loved one cremated. A lot of religions such as the Mormons encourage people not to be embalmed. Although they do not specifically forbid cremation a lot of people think they do. These people are under the impression that if you get cremated then it is going against what their church preaches. This is simply not true and it is up to you and the funeral director explain to them that in Countries such as Japan cremation is mandatory and the Church does not look negative on it, although they do not encourage it.
3. The Funeral Director Is There To Help You.Or Is He?
In most situations the funeral directors will act very ethically and help the family to not only plan the funeral but to help deal with the sudden death in the family. Funeral directors have done more funerals planning than anybody and know how to do this properly. There are however a small minority of funeral directors who are trying to maximize their profits and will help convince people that a more expensive funeral is necessary. If you have decided to have the deceased cremated and they funeral director is balking at this then you need to put your foot down and demand that he follows your wishes. You are technically his boss and if all else fails call up another funeral home and have them come pick up the body and prepare him for the burial ceremony.
You and the funeral director will work together and plan who should speak at the funeral. Never force anyone to speak. Make a list of people you would like to speak and then ask them if they would like to speak. The really talkative uncle may not want to speak in public at a funeral. On the other hand you might have the really quiet granddaughter who is normally very shy who asks if she can speak at the funeral service.
Some funerals are very solemn affairs. The best thing to do is to lighten up the mood. It works great when the speakers share funny stories about the person that died. May people who come to a funeral to show their respects are not sure what to say or how to act around the family. If the family greets them as they come in and say stuff like "good to see you again Uncle Rob! Remember that time we went fishing and you fell in the water?” Little stories like this help to break the ice and allow the people who are attending the funeral to feel more at ease.
6. Keep the Funeral Fairly Short
If 20 people want to speak at the funeral and you allow all 20 of them to speak then the people who attend the funeral will get very anxious and uncomfortable. Allow the speakers to speak, but keep them on track. Occasionally a speaker will get up and start rambling and will go on for 45 minutes or more. Keep the funeral fairly short. You also never want to pressure people to go out to the cemetery for the burial ceremony. Some people may be short on time and have to get back to work and should not feel pressures to attend anything beyond the funeral. Other people may not want to attend simply because it brings back sad memories of when they had to attend a funeral for a wife, son, daughter, or parent. Never pressure people to attend any aspect of the funeral and keep the funeral ceremony from becoming an all day event.
7. Opening Letters
Many people may bring cards and flowers. Do not open the cards and letters until you are in the privacy of your home. Some people may enclose a check for $100 or more while others may only be able to give $20. A person may not even be able to donate money and you do not want people being singled out for not donating as much money as somebody else. People can donate what they want and nobody needs to know how much except for the immediate family.
8. Casket and Headstone Selection
Many families struggle to come to an agreement on which casket and headstone to choose. A headstone does not need to be selected immediately. A headstone can always be picked out and put in place at the cemetery regardless of how much time has passed since the actual funeral.
If you are not having the deceased relative cremated then you and your family will need to select a casket. Some relatives will want the most expensive option while others will choose the simplest and cheapest option possible. A good way to come to an agreement is to look at ordering a casket online. You can get caskets cheaper online then buying them directly from the funeral home. The funeral director may try to pressure you into buying a casket from them but this is where you put your foot down and demand that they stop trying to sell you one of their caskets. A $1,400 casket at a funeral home will not buy you much. $1,400 spent on a casket online will get you a much fancier and nicer casket.
There are however many benefits to buying a casket directly from the funeral home. By buying a casket from the funeral home you will be able to see, touch, and smell the caskets to see which one you like most. Of course you can always find the one you like and then order a comparative casket online for less money.