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Planning your funeral or memorial service: what to know

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Most of us don’t really think about dying and all the details that will need to be arranged upon our death. We end up leaving the decisions to our family members after we pass away because we don’t plan out our funeral or memorial service. But you can begin making funeral arrangements whenever you want — even when you’re young and healthy.

Planning your own funeral can give you some peace of mind. It allows you to design your final arrangements, including all the things you would like to represent you. It also eliminates some of the stress often placed on your grieving loved ones who’ll have to make the decisions when you’re gone. 

If you’re considering planning your own memorial, check out the ideas below for guidance.


Planning your own funeral or memorial service: what to know

Death is often a taboo topic, but you might be surprised that planning your own memorial or funeral can actually give you a sense of peace and comfort. You may even feel relief knowing you’ve outlined all your preferences and taken some of the burden off your loved ones. 

Can you plan your own funeral?

Yes, anyone can plan their own funeral or memorial. 

Is it weird to plan your own funeral?

While it might feel strange at first, it’s not weird at all. In fact, it’s quite common for people to begin thinking ahead and making plans. 

At what age should you start planning your funeral? 

You can begin planning your own funeral at any age, but many start thinking about arrangements once they reach their 30s. But remember, any time is a good time to plan for your memorial service.

Why should you plan your own funeral?

Planning your own funeral can be a big help to those who are grieving. If you don’t make prior arrangements, your loved ones will be faced with many decisions while still processing their loss, which can cause added stress. Without a detailed plan from you, they may worry about covering the costs or stress over what kind of funeral you would have liked. 

However, if you’ve already sorted out all the details, they can follow your plans with confidence, knowing they are fulfilling your final wishes. Your instructions will take the guesswork out of everything, giving your loved ones the space to grieve and focus on celebrating your life. 

How to plan your own funeral service

The beauty of planning your own funeral is that, aside from the actual funeral date, you can arrange practically every detail in advance, from the cost of your final resting place to the prayers read at your service. 

When you’re ready to begin making these decisions, follow the steps below for guidance. 

1. Select your type of service

Give some special thought to the kind of service you’d like to have. 

Are you picturing a funeral in your local church or a private graveside ceremony? Or, are you interested in not having a funeral at all? Maybe you’d rather have a memorial service without your body present or a celebration of life in which your loved ones spread your ashes. 

What is the difference between these types of services?

  • Funeral – typically held at a place of worship or funeral home with the body present
  • Memorial service – a less formal affair and the body is usually not present
  • Celebration of life – an informal event that focuses on the person’s life and has a more upbeat tone
  • Ash spreading ceremony – when a body is cremated, the ash-spreading ceremony can take place anywhere (just remember to get any special permission required for the location)

How you envision this is entirely up to you, but it’s important that you convey your wishes in detail. 

Read more: Memorial service vs. celebration of life: differences and definitions

2. Choose your ceremony preferences

Once you have an idea of what you’d like for your funeral service or ceremony, you can begin thinking through the details of the event. Ask yourself some of the following questions, and try your best to answer them fully. 

Remember, the more information you provide, the easier it will be for your loved ones to carry out your wishes. Don’t forget to consider any religious beliefs or rituals you might like to incorporate in your ceremony.

1. Where do you want the ceremony to take place?

2. Who would you like to oversee your ceremony? 

3. Would you like special readings, poems, or prayers read? 

4. Who would you like to give speeches?

5. Who do you want to deliver your eulogy? 

6. Are there special guests you’d like to attend?

7. Is there specific music you would like played?

8. Do you have flower preferences?

9. Do you have suggestions for pallbearers?

10. Would you like a funeral procession?

11. Do you have any other special requests?

Read more: Costs of memorial trees vs. traditional options

3. Consider visitation and viewing options

Would you like your loved ones to have the opportunity for a viewing or visitation? If so, determine where you’d like it to occur, such as the funeral home or your place of worship. Then, decide if it will occur before or after the ceremony. Also, be sure to include specific information as to whether you’d like an open or closed casket. 

This is also your opportunity to address any special mourning events that may align with your religion. Give detailed instructions, so your friends and family can honor them. 

4. Determine final arrangements

Decide if you want a ground burial or cremation, and then choose how and where you’d like to be laid to rest. If you already have a specific location in mind, you can begin making arrangements and even pay for them in advance.

Some options include:

  • In-ground burial – in a casket at a cemetery
  • Interment in a mausoleum – a structure for burial of remains above ground, typically located at a cemetery
  • Cremation – ashes can be buried in a burial plot, mausoleum, or columbarium, or spread in a memorial forest or other outdoor location
  • Human composting – although not available in all states, this option is also known as natural organic reduction (NOR)

Read more: The rise of green funerals and cremation: the options you need to know

5. Research prepaid plans

Paying for your final arrangements is one way to help relieve your loved ones of financial stress during this emotional time. That said, it’s certainly not required for you to pay in advance. 

If you are looking to cover the expenses, there are several avenues you can take. For instance, you can work with your funeral home to determine a prepaid plan or consult with a memorial forest to purchase a custom package. 

You might be wondering, what is the cheapest way to plan a funeral? And the truth is, the cost of your funeral will vary based on a number of factors. For example, cremation traditionally tends to be cheaper than a full funeral and burial service. Shop around until you find a plan that aligns with your budget and preferences. 

Read more: The cost of a traditional burial vs. ashes in a memorial forest

6. Consider consulting with a funeral professional

If this all feels a bit overwhelming, consider consulting with a funeral director for additional help and guidance. A professional can help you navigate planning your own memorial or funeral service and ensure you don’t overlook any important details. 

7. Inform your loved ones

Once you’ve made these decisions, write them down and keep them in a safe place. Next, convey this information to those who will be in charge of overseeing your arrangements. During this conversation, explain your preferences and let them know where they can find these details when the time comes. 

Planning your own funeral can be an empowering experience. It allows you to have a say in your final wishes and provides your loved ones with some solace as they honor your preferences. While it can sometimes be difficult and emotional to consider these topics, don’t shy away from the chance to reflect on how you’d like your life to be honored. 

Read more: 16 end-of-life questions to ask yourself and your loved ones

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