Funerals & Farewells > Checklist for planning a funeral

Checklist for planning a funeral

When arranging a funeral, there are numerous things to consider from emotional, logistical and legal perspectives. Unfortunately, many of these decisions will often need to be made quickly. This can be overwhelming for even the calmest and most organised of people.

The first thing to remember is that it is ok not to be ok, and that you don’t need all the answers straight away; your trusted funeral director is always there to help you with every aspect of the funeral process, at the appropriate level of support.

Keep this checklist handy to help guide you through what you’ll have to consider when organising a funeral. You can do this by saving this page to your browser favourites, emailing it to yourself, or printing it out for safekeeping.

According to world-renowned grief expert Alan Wolfelt:

People who take the time and make the effort to create meaningful funeral arrangements when someone loved dies often end up making new arrangements in their own lives. They remember and reconnect with what is most meaningful to them in life… strengthen bonds with family members and friends. They emerge changed, more authentic and purposeful. The best funerals remind us how we should live.

He is encouraging us to treat each farewell with care, and with consideration of both those who have died and those still with us. When arranging a funeral, it’s valuable to remember what kind of person your loved one was, as various elements of the funeral service can reflect the sense of their personality and the life they lived.

Arranging a funeral service

• Budget for the farewell – a funeral costs money, so it is important to think about your budget. If you’re considering your own farewell in the future, pre-planning may be able to give you an idea of what is possible, with the option to pre-pay at today’s prices.

• Choosing a funeral director – Your trusted funeral director will help you throughout the entire process of arranging the funeral. This includes any legal requirements, statutory documentation, and transporting the deceased into their care. They are there to answer any questions or concerns you may have, and using a local funeral director in this way can take the pressure off you and your loved ones.

• Burial or Cremation – Religious beliefs, personal preferences, environmental concerns and finances can all influence one’s decision to opt for a burial or cremation. Consider these factors when planning a service, and also whether you would like a coffin or a casket for the service. Both can be used for burials and cremations, however some older burial plots will have size restrictions.

• Choosing a funeral celebrant – Depending on your religious beliefs, some families will select a priest, minister or funeral celebrant to lead the service. Even though anyone can conduct a funeral ceremony, it’s helpful to choose a person with experience in leading a service. Your funeral director will likely have a list of preferred celebrants that they know are professional and suitable for your family.

• Selecting a venue – There are many types of venues for the farewell, such as the chapel of a crematorium for a funeral home, a church or synagogue, or even more contemporary settings like a beach or garden. Your funeral director will be familiar with most venue choices in the surrounding area.

• Floral arrangements – Funeral flowers can help reflect the deceased’s personality, which can comfort grieving friends and family members. Some families will have their loved one’s favourite flowers displayed at the service. The in-house florist at your trusted funeral home will help provide and customise floral arrangements to fulfil your wishes.

• Selecting funeral music – Having music at the service can be a uniting experience for all attendees, and help friends and family connect with the life of the deceased. If your loved one liked classical music, you may wish to have a pianist or violinist play at the funeral.

• Eulogies – A reading or eulogy can be a therapeutic way to say goodbye, and help attendees reminisce over the fond memories they shared. You will need to decide on who will be reading the eulogies as early as possible, in order to allow time for preparation.

Other considerations to make when arranging a funeral:

• Think about what you want people to wear and set a dress code
• Mourning vehicles to take you to and from the service
• Audiovisual tributes or memorabilia for display at the service
• Memorial book for attendees to sign
• Catering options for an after-service gathering

The information on this website is for general information only and are not (and nor are they intended to be) a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, nor is it used for diagnosis and treatment. You, or anyone you are concerned about, are encouraged to seek professional medical or mental health advice and treatment from suitably qualified medical and clinical practitioners and providers. 

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If you are in crisis or think you may have an emergency, immediately call Emergency 000. If you're having thoughts of self-harm or harm to others call Lifeline on 13 11 23 to talk to a skilled, trained counsellor. If you are located outside Australia, contact your local emergency line directly.


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