Funeral Planning Checklist: How to Make Funeral Arrangements

Making funeral or cremation arrangements is a unique process that can stretch the emotional resilience of people coping with the loss of a loved one. During such a tough time, the person responsible for planning the funeral must make important decisions regarding the last wishes of the deceased—and the wishes of various family members—regarding the type of service, disposition, degree of formality, and special requirements. You can customize the funeral arrangements to reflect the life of the deceased.

Here is a funeral planning checklist to help you make informed decisions in your family’s time of need:

Be sure to compare funeral homes and cremation service providers to find the one that’s right for you. Search for and connect with funeral homes and cremation service providers on, which shows you all of your options, helps you compare, and can even save you money if you select a Funeralocity Excellence Program member.

Before you meet with a funeral director to make funeral arrangements for your loved one:

Check to see if the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan (also known as a preneed policy or funeral insurance)

Find out if the deceased provided any instructions on their funeral arrangements

Consider whether your loved one would want a religious ceremony, a memorial celebration, military burial, a green burial, a themed-celebration that honors a loved one’s hobbies or passions, etc. Information on these services may be found on

Determine what types of additional funeral services, such as a therapy dog, will be important for the family

Find out if the deceased owned a cemetery plot for interment and where the deed is kept

After you’ve selected a funeral home, you will sit down with the funeral director and discuss funeral arrangements for your loved one. At the meeting, called a funeral arrangement conference, you’ll be asked to:

Decide whether your loved one will be buried or cremated

Select the type of casket and/or urn you will use

Determine the type of funeral service you will hold and whether it will be traditional or informal gathering. (Funeral services are available whether you opt for burial or cremation and play an important role in the grieving process.) Choose the location where the funeral service will be held—at a church, funeral home or another suitable location

Choose and purchase a cemetery plot if no cemetery plot has been purchased and you’ve decided on a burial service or you’d like to bury the deceased’s cremated remains

Choose and purchase a cemetery plot, if no cemetery plot has been purchased, if you’ve decided on a burial service or you’d like to bury the deceased’s cremated remains

Decide whether there will be a viewing or visitation before the service, and where it will be held

Choose a time, date and location for the services selected

Determine family funeral service transportation requirements

You will also need to:

Make a list of people who should be notified of the funeral services and contact them

Choose ushers and pallbearers for the funeral service and ask if they will serve

Select readings for the funeral service and arrange for readers

Decide who will deliver (a) eulogy(ies)

 Select music, and if desired, make arrangements for musicians and/or singers

Locate biographical information about the deceased and write an obituary

If you choose to have a viewing or wake:

Choose clothing and jewelry for burying the deceased

Find a good photo of the deceased that is an accurate reflection of their style for the stylist to use when grooming the deceased’s body

Select photographs and videos for a video tribute for your loved one

Think about where distant relatives and friends will stay and what transportation/lodging requirements they might have if they live out of town/are traveling to attend the services

Decide whether you’d like funeral guests to wear certain attire (specific colors, team jerseys, customized t-shirts, etc.) to the services

In addition to basic funeral arrangements, the funeral director can help you with:

Placing the obituary

Ordering flowers

Choosing a location for the service, wake, or other gathering

Offering you access to caterers

Selecting music and making arrangements for musicians and/or singers

Choosing a celebrant or facilitator for the funeral service

Understanding funeral expenses (as noted above, be sure to find out if any pre-paid funeral plans exist)

Printing programs or memorial cards

Choosing a guest book

Understanding veterans’ funerals benefits and planning military funeral honors

Remember, whether a funeral service is planned for a church or a funeral home chapel, the funeral director is an important partner and resource in taking care of all of the details. Funerals are valuable rituals that allow us to celebrate a loved one’s life, while helping others accept the reality of their passing. They allow family and friends to openly mourn and share their grief with others who also want to pay their respect.

Download and print your funeral planning checklist.

Download and print your funeral planning checklist.

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