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Planning a Funeral Service

Planning a Funeral Service - what you need to know.

Last updated: 19 January 2024

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Planning a Funeral

When you are planning a funeral, there are lots of things to consider which can feel overwhelming. Don't worry, this is a completely normal feeling, and help is available. Before meeting with your funeral director for the planning meeting, there are some things that you should think about and have an idea of what you want.

  1. Will the funeral service be a cremation or a burial?
  2. How do you want to personalise the service?
  3. Will the funeral be religious?
  4. What kind of music would you like at the service?
  5. What is your budget for the funeral?

You can always change your mind about the details of the service, up to the day itself, so don’t worry if you haven’t made up your mind about all of the details yet. Your funeral director will also be able to help guide you through the decisions.

Some elements of a funeral are very practical, while the funeral service itself is an opportunity to honour someone’s life, values and beliefs. It can be an occasion for grieving, thanksgiving, reflection and celebrating someone’s life.

Funeral directors are experts at handling the paperwork, logistics and practical elements involved in arranging a funeral to ensure that everything runs smoothly and happens when it is supposed to.

Funeral Invitations

It’s unusual to directly invite people to a funeral, although people often let their loved ones know the details, or post the arrangements on social media. Most people find out about the venue and time through a death notice or online obituary.

Technology is enabling families from further away to play a part in someone’s funeral when they cannot be there in person. Many funeral homes can arrange for funeral services to be live-streamed so that people can pay their respects across the distance.

Find out more about funeral invitations, including some examples of how to word them.

Personalising the Funeral

An online obituary also provides the opportunity for the family to request that mourners follow a specific dress code at the funeral, or wear a meaningful emblem. A popular request is for people to wear bright colours in somebody’s memory.

If someone was in a particular service or profession, colleagues or comrades may wear a uniform, provide a formal or informal guard of honour or perform other ceremonial gestures of respect.

Close friends or family members may be asked to be pallbearers at the funeral. Usually, the pallbearers will carry the coffin from the hearse to where the service is being held.

Who can lead a funeral service?

Funeral services are typically led by an official - often a religious figure or funeral celebrant - who will guide and speak at the service. You can also choose to lead the funeral yourself, or have a family member or friend do it.

Read more about funeral celebrants and who can lead a funeral service.

Writing the order of service

If you are planning a religious funeral, you may be aware that some religions have guidelines for the order of service. Some more devout religious branches may require certain prayers or ceremonies to be included in the order of service and the funeral home can liaise with your religious minister about this.

Many religions, though, are quite flexible about what can be included in a funeral service and are happy to discuss special requests. If you or your loved one did not regularly attend a place of worship, but you’d like faith to be a part of the funeral service, your funeral home should be able to arrange this with a local minister of the faith.

Choosing funeral music

Music is often considered a key part of a funeral, used to reflect the personality of the person who has passed away. Choices vary widely, from religious organ music to chart hits, classic rock and even tongue-in-cheek choices with a touch of humour.

It’s usual to have a piece of music played as the coffin is carried into the venue when the service is being held, and a different piece of music as the coffin is carried out. Songs or hymns may also be played during the service, with people encouraged to sing along.

For some inspirstion, you could look at some popular funeral songs, or browse our extensive collection of funeral hymns. Alternatively, you could consider classical music for a funeral or even funeral rock songs.

Choosing readings and poems for the funeral

Funeral readings and poems are usually relatively short. They often convey thoughts about life, death and loss, or may be chosen for the special meaning associated with the person who has died. Incorporating readings and poems into the order of service for the funeral you are planning may allow friends and family members to play a part.

For religious funerals, readings may be taken from religious scripture. These readings usually highlight that religion’s beliefs about death and the afterlife. You can read some popular bible verses for funerals for inspiration, or for a more secular funeral you could look at some Shakespeare verses that can be used. Our extenisve collection of funeral poems could help you to choose what to include in the service when you are planning a funeral.

Funeral eulogies

The eulogy is a speech given at a funeral honouring the life of the person who has died. While a religious minister or celebrant will address mourners with words about them, personal eulogies are also usually written and given by a close friend or family member.

Writing and delivering a eulogy can be a daunting prospect. Read our guide to preparing, writing and delivering a eulogy for some ideas and examples of what you could say.

Organising the wake or funeral reception

Most funeral services conclude with a reception, funeral tea or wake after the ceremony. If the person who has died is being buried, it may be close family and very close family members only who attend the graveside committal, while other mourners and sympathisers await them at the funeral reception venue. We have a full guide to wakes that you might want to read through for some extra information.

If you are visiting this page because someone close to you has died, we are sorry for your loss. We hope that these steps will have given you all of the information that you need to get started on arranging and organising your loved one’s funeral.

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