Making funeral arrangements can seem overwhelming, and is stressful enough.  On top of this, you may well be struggling under the weight of your grief.  Here are some suggestions and guidelines to help make things easier, let you know your options, and break things down into manageable stages.

Choosing a Funeral Director

The Funeral Director who initially has your loved-one at their premises is not the one that you have to use.  Remember that you will need to visit the Funeral Directors premises in person at least once, so somewhere accessible for you is important.  Prices do vary, so get quotes from a few (there are also websites that can do this for you, such as ‘Beyond’, and ‘Funeral Choice’) and get a feel of the staff member and the style.  For instance, you may like traditional, you may favour modern.  You are the customer and it is your decision who you go with.  Almost all Funeral Directors genuinely care about the families they look after, and are trustworthy, caring and compassionate.  Find the one who is the right fit for you.


Vehicles & Accompaniments

If the traditional black hearse is not suitable for your loved-one, you might want to go for a different coloured hearse (silver, pink, or rainbow for instance), a horse-drawn carriage, a motorbike ‘sidecar’, a camper van, or even Del Boy’s iconic three-wheeled van!  There are many options available.  There can also be bagpipers, marching bands, flag bearers, choirs, singers, the last post, cheerleaders, or anything else that meant something to the person you are honouring.  If you have a preference (or think your loved-one would) for either a male or female Funeral Conductor, Celebrant, and Bearers, this is your choice, and you can ask your Funeral Director.  You might want family members or friends to help carry your loved-one.  There are many options, and many ways to make the ceremony unique and personal.


Choosing a Celebrant

You may have seen a Celebrant you liked at another ceremony, or you may have been recommended someone, or found them online.  Celebrants are self-employed, and are not bound to any particular Funeral Directors, Crematorium, or area.  They will also be a great source of help and support with all aspects of planning the ceremony.  The Celebrant will meet up with you in person at a time and place convenient to you to go through everything, learn all about your loved-one, usually send you a draft of the script beforehand for approval, and be on hand to offer help, guidance and advice right up until the ceremony.  If there is a specific Celebrant that you’d like to conduct the Funeral, then it is important to ask your Funeral Director to get in touch with them before making the booking, to ensure they are available to take the ceremony on that time and date.  You can also contact the Celebrant yourself beforehand, or ask the Funeral Directors to call them during your meeting, before they secure the funeral booking.  If a Funeral Director tells you that they have their own local Celebrant that they use, or that your preferred one does not cover that area, then they are mistaken, and you are within your rights to tell them that you will arrange your own Celebrant, or that you will ask the Celebrant which Funeral Directors that they recommend.


Making the Booking

Your Funeral Arranger will liaise with you about the available times and dates for the funeral service.  You will need to consider if your chosen venue for afterwards is also available on the day, and whether special relatives or friends are able to attend.  What day and time is best for you?  You may also like to think about the various funeral locations.  If you are having a cremation, it is worth considering the different crematoriums in the area.  How much content do you want in the ceremony?  Different crematoriums offer differing amounts of chapel time.  At some you get 25 minutes, while at others, it’s 45 minutes, or an hour.  Worth thinking about.  If you are having a Burial, you may want to have the funeral service somewhere else beforehand, before going on to the plot.  Or you could have a direct or private cremation, and then hold the funeral at any location, such as the venue for the refreshments, a local pub, hall, social club, care home, garden (weather permitting) or private residence.  This will also allow more time for the ceremony, and ensure that those attending are comfortable.  You could even have the cremation or burial first, followed by the ceremony somewhere else, to have all the time that you need for it.  If you want a choir or singer at the funeral, this is something else to consider the planning and logistics of.


Letting people know

As well as going through the address book and contacts of your loved-one, some people like to place a notice in the local paper, and ask local places where the person was known to put notices up and inform others.  If appropriate, you may also want to place the information on Social Media, or create an online Event Page.  If you would like those who knew your loved-one to get in touch with stories about them, you can ask them this and leave contact details so that they know how to pass them on.  They could be your details, those of a helpful friend or family member, or the Celebrant who will be taking the service.  If you have people around you that want to help, ask them to spread the word, pass on the details and give you a rough idea of how many to expect on the day.  People want to help, so let them.


Planning the Ceremony

Along with whether to have any religious or spiritual content or not, you will have choices about music, poetry, donations to a charity or charities, flowers, giving personal eulogies or tributes, and others who may wish to speak or read.  Your Celebrant can always read something out on their behalf, if they have written or chosen it, but don’t feel able to come up and speak.  Once everything has been planned, you may want to have Orders of Service printed.  The Funeral Directors can do this for you, and will receive the relevant information from your Celebrant.  Or you can choose a nearby printers, or maybe you know someone who can print them out for you.  Again, your Celebrant can help with what details need to be included, as well as the proofreading.  At the ceremony itself, you may want to display a photograph of the person, and/or have something relevant and personal to them put on display, either on the casket or nearby.  This could be anything from a hat, football scarf, vinyl records, handbag or knitting, favourite ornament, or even a boardgame, pint glass, teapot, mug, or bottle of their favourite drink.  There are further options; if you’d like the curtains to close around the casket or stay open at the committal (if a cremation) or if you’d like to throw dirt on the casket, or use petals, rosemary, flowers, or nothing, if it’s a burial.  You may want to be the first to leave the chapel, or go out last, so that you can say a private goodbye.  You might want children to feel involved and have a role or input in the ceremony – whether they attend in person or not, and this can be discussed with your Celebrant.  You could even end the ceremony with a sing-song, a toast and a drink, or some other special and personal farewell.  Each ceremony should capture and reflect the personality and style of the one they are for.


Support During the Ceremony

It is a good idea to plan support for yourself and those who will be most upset. Consider other friends and relatives who are less affected directly, and can accompany others to care for them, remain by their side, and be a shoulder to lean on for the day.  You will want to bring tissues, possibly drinks in the car such as bottles of water or even flasks of tea (or something stronger!) and maybe even snacks or medication if it might be needed.  The ceremony itself should never last more than an hour, but if you also take travelling time into account, and arriving early to allow for traffic, get parked, pop to the loo etc. then it’s worth considering.  Your Celebrant and Funeral Conductor, as well as the Chapel Assistant, will also be there to look after everybody, so do let them know if anyone attending might need extra support or assistance.


Photos and Videos

As well as the options for Orders of Service, which often contain one or two photos, there are professionals who specialise in funeral photography and videography.  Your Celebrant will be able to recommend some local ones if you’d like.  It is also perfectly acceptable to take your own photos and videos during the day.  You may want to remember the flowers, cars, any memory boards of photos or other displayed items, as well as those who attended.  Sometimes, it is a reunion; as families and friends come together who have not seen each other in a while.  There will be other people who may be unable to attend due to travel, living too far away, being poorly, or other reasons.  They may wish to see photos and/or a video of the day.  Your Celebrant should also be able to send them a full copy of the ceremony script, so that they can read every word that was said, as well as knowing the poems and music choices.  Some crematoriums give you the option of screening a photo montage during the ceremony, or you may want to arrange one yourself at the venue for afterwards.  Again, this is something you can delegate to those offering to help, if you feel overwhelmed.  We take photos and videos at all the other types ceremonies, so why wouldn’t we do it at Funerals, too?  There can be a lot to take in on the day, and even for those who were there, photos and videos can be very special to look back on, afterwards and in the future.  They can also capture some things that would otherwise be missed.


Other organisations

Other organisations and professionals can also help you with the options, planning and decisions surrounding a funeral.  For example, ‘The Good Funeral Guide’, ‘The Natural Death Centre’, and other relevant charities, agencies and professionals will be able to help and advise.  Find out your options, look around, and ask trusted friends and relatives for support and assistance.  Good luck.  You will plan a fitting farewell, full of meaning for your loved-one.  Give them a heartfelt and beautiful goodbye.  Blessings.


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