At a time of distress, finding a good funeral director can make a world of difference.
A funeral director's primary function is to assist you with the logistics involved with a loved one passing away in a role that blends counselling, planning, and medical practices.
Regardless of what you have experienced in the past with funeral directors, it is essential to have an updated understanding of how a funeral director can help you.
In case you're not sure about which funeral director or company to choose, this article will walk through some of the things to look for and where to find the most suitable home. Looking for funeral services in Melbourne? Look no further, Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals is here.
Funeral Director's Role
The simplest way to think of a funeral director is an expert in the memorial process.
Not only do they know all the available funeral plans, but they can help you navigate the best options for your family.
Typically there are several different functions that every funeral director will have.
A funeral director can often assist you in the following areas, from the start of loved ones passing until the memorial service is complete:
- Giving care and advice throughout the whole process.
- Arranging the transportation of the deceased to the funeral home.
- Working with the cemetery or crematorium that is chosen.
- Partner with any spiritual figures and worship locations you pick.
- Organising all legal documents needed for the departed.
- Preparation of your loved one for viewing, if required.
- Press and media releases will be needed for announcements.
- Collaborating with florists, caterers, musicians and other staff at the service.
How to Choose a Funeral Director
Whether you are planning or finding yourself in the position of quickly making arrangements upon a loved one's passing, one of the first decisions you will need to make when planning a funeral is which funeral director to choose.
Since this vital decision has many flow-on effects in terms of your finances, your sense of wellbeing during a difficult time and ultimately your last memories of your loved one, we've put together this guide to walk you through the process while also giving you some ideas for what to consider when choosing a funeral director.
Take Your Time and Plan Ahead
You don't have to settle on a funeral director right away. Instead, take some time to plan the funeral, research quotes, prices and reviews before deciding on a shortlist of around two to five.
Planning a funeral (before contacting a funeral director) can save you time, money and unnecessary grief.
By specifying your funeral needs and budget, you will get the sort of funeral you would like for your loved one, and you are empowered to make informed decisions. You're in total control.
Shop Around and Get Quotes
Although it may be emotionally challenging for you to 'shop around for a funeral director, it just makes sense that you should use the same techniques you use with any other major purchase.
Consumer surveys show that most people don't shop around for a funeral — they pick the funeral director closest to them or the one their family has always used.
Neither of these criteria tells you whether you're getting good value.
Our research also shows that when customers decide to shop around for a funeral director, they are not aware that several funeral directors may be associated with the one parent company.
As a consequence, customers are often soliciting quotes from branches of the same company without their knowledge.
Don't Be Fooled by Mass Media Marketing by Funeral Homes.
Recommendations from friends and family members can guide you to the top Independent funeral directors.
Don't be deceived by family brand names advertised on a billboard, in the newspaper, on the radio or in the media – it does not necessarily mean they are an independent funeral director.
Independent funeral homes don't have the marketing budgets of the public companies.
Often, large publicly listed companies will use family brand names on their signs because they know customers will be more inclined to trust them, and they often use the reputation of the family name.
It is pretty standard for these publicly listed companies to operate under old family names and not change the look of the premises after the funeral home changes hands.
Make Sure They Offer the Services You Need
Can the funeral director provide the type of funeral you're looking for?
Some funeral directors specialise in eco-friendly natural burials, traditional funeral services and alternative contemporary options.
Embalming and viewings need certain facilities onsite. So when you're choosing a funeral home, make sure to ask if there are specific things that you want or any personal preferences you'd like them to accommodate.
Choose Someone Who Makes You Feel Comfortable
This is an essential thing to think about when you're choosing a funeral director.
A good funeral director will be someone you're happy to have to conduct the funeral. They will respect your wishes and won't 'up-sell or push you to make confident choices.
Agree Upon a Funeral Budget
Many of the decisions your family will face as you prepare to farewell your loved one will be very much based on your emotions.
That's why we recommend that you and your family discuss and set financial limits upfront.
Most funeral homes will require payment before or immediately following the funeral so they can pay suppliers etc., on your behalf.
Your first financial decision is often to sort out which family members are best placed to make those payments.
This is, of course, on the understanding that they will be able to seek reimbursement from the estate later (the bank will allow them to release these funds from the deceased's bank accounts upon presentation of a funeral invoice).
Many people (unfortunately) accept the quoted price when selecting a funeral director, not realising that they may have other options.
Sadly, this often results in families finding themselves struggling to pay the bill at an already emotional and challenging time.
Knowing exactly how much your family can afford to invest in a funeral service not only prevents this kind of financial hardship it also helps you choose the proper funeral home for your family;
If a funeral company offers to help you find ways to fulfil your family's wishes while also staying within your budget, that's a perfect sign. Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals will always find creative ways to pull costs in line with your budget.
Bonus tip: Before you approach a funeral home, be sure to ask around the family and check all documentation and written instructions left by the departed.
If they have prepaid arrangements with a particular funeral company or have purchased a burial plot etc., then you'll want to be able to factor these into your plans.
We've heard stories where families didn't know that a funeral was already paid for, only to discover this much later in the process – something to avoid if you can!
To give you an idea of pricing for a basic funeral, see our blog on how much a funeral is likely to cost.
Make a List of What Is Important to Your Family
Once you've got your finances in order, it is a good idea to consult with the close family about the style of funeral service you would like to arrange.
This will often be a combination of any wishes your loved one has expressed verbally or in a formal written document, as well as cultural, religious, or family traditions that will bring comfort to those who gather to pay their respects.
When listing your family's must-haves for your funeral service, you may wish to consider factors such as:
- Location – you may want to consider choosing a funeral director that is either conveniently located or one who is happy to travel to your home during the planning stages. Fortunately, many will be willing to come and meet you to make arrangements.
- Access and facilities – if you need to accommodate a large number of guests or make provision for those with mobility issues or special dietary requirements, be sure to list these amongst your priorities. It is crucial that everyone can participate in your loved one's life celebration with ease and comfort.
- Your values and traditions – if your family has particular needs associated with your religious or cultural background, using a funeral director willing and able to accommodate these wishes makes the best sense. If, for example, you would like to involve your family in dressing the deceased
Research Your Options and Compare Pricing
Once you have your list of priorities in hand, you can start looking at what options are available.
Since most funeral homes have a website, you should be able to find out essential information about:
- The services offered – not all funeral homes offer a full range of funeral services. If, for example, you would like to hold your memorial in an onsite chapel, include a remembrance video in your commemoration or live stream the service for those who cannot attend. You will need to find a funeral director who can accommodate these requirements.
- Assurance of expertise – things like accreditations and certifications can offer an additional level of assurance that your loved one will be treated with the utmost respect, dignity and care. For example, members of the Australian Funeral Directors Association (AFDA) must demonstrate compliance with strict guidelines around ethical obligations, maintenance of equipment and vehicles and commit to ongoing professional development. (You can download the AFDA brochure for more information around the assurances that an AFDA accreditation affords.)
- How the funeral company invests their profits – Bethel is unique because we are a not-for-profit funeral home. We find purpose in supporting various local and global community programs, offering the opportunity to create a legacy for your loved one that lives on. Other funeral homes may be family-run, while others direct their profits to shareholders. If this is important to you and your family, it may be worth narrowing your options on this basis.
- Social proof from friends or satisfied customers – word of mouth, reviews and testimonials can offer a lot of insight into what a funeral home is prepared to provide the families they care for.
Look for comments like 'they went above and beyond' or specific examples where a funeral director has made special arrangements that are truly touching and memorable. There's nothing like a recommendation to help you feel like you are making the right choice.
Create Your Shortlist
You may end up with several options that appear to satisfy your family's needs.
At this point, try to narrow down the list to two or three that seem to offer the right balance of services, reputation and pricing options.
As much as you can read up on the features a funeral company offers, there is only so much you can find out through research – which takes us to the next step…
Visit in Person
At this point, you will already have gathered a lot of information about each funeral home on your list.
Having a tour of the facilities allows you an opportunity to get a feel for less tangible things like your personal connection with the funeral directors themselves; do they put you at ease?
Do they explain things clearly and fully? Are they friendly and professional? Do they actively listen to your questions and happily address your concerns?
Some other things to look out for and ask about include:
- Flexibility around customising/personalising your funeral arrangements – some funeral companies are more accommodating than others when fulfilling family requests.
We've been known to allow people to dress their loved ones themselves or even bring much-loved pets along to a private viewing. It's often these very personal touches that make your final farewell more meaningful, so you'll want to know that every effort will be made to honour your family's wishes.
- Treatment of the deceased – you should have absolute transparency around how your loved one will be treated and cared for by your funeral director. Don't be afraid to ask detailed questions about how they will be prepared for the funeral (will they be washed, clothed etc.).
You should also be reassured about the qualifications of specialist service providers (e.g. embalmers, mortuary care staff etc.).
Note that some funeral homes offering very low-priced funeral packages may not have proper mortuary facilities, so they can't necessarily make guarantees around the dignified and careful treatment of the deceased.
Make Your Decision With Confidence
By this step, your decision should be relatively easy to make.
You have gathered all the information and reassurance you need to satisfy yourself that your loved one's funeral will reflect and honour their legacy and that you will be treated with compassion and empathy.
If all else fails, go with your instincts – there are worse ways to find a funeral director than by choosing the one that makes you and your family feel cared for, safe and secure.
Questions Worth Asking
Anything outside the typical spectrum of what your funeral director might normally do should be asked about, as the costs could go over your budget.
In any case, a good funeral director should be able to answer all of your questions and have plenty of information for you to review.
When deciding on the most suitable funeral director, it's a good idea to be mindful of these questions:
- What's included: Will the funeral director provide an itemised quote? All providers should be upfront and transparent about their pricing and services.
- Services offered: Does the funeral director offer all the services you're interested in choosing for the function?
- Budget: Are the costs of the funeral home within your budget? Is it a fair and reasonable price compared to other funeral directors?
- Religious and cultural factors: Is the funeral home in line with your spiritual and cultural values?
Searching for a Funeral Home
If you're living in an urban location, there should be quite a few funeral providers to have a look at.
To get an idea about services and pricing, it's a good idea to have a look at two or three different places. There are several ways you can do this, both online and offline.
- Company websites: Search Google to see what funeral homes are located in your area. Most places will have a website with enough information to do some thorough research.
- Directories: You might find reputable funeral directors on online directory sites like the Yellow pages or other specific funeral directories like the Australian Funeral Directors Association.
- Walk-in: If you know the physical location of a few funeral homes, go in and speak with a director.
- Word of mouth: If you have friends and family that have dealt with a provider before, get a recommendation from them.
What Do You Need to Consider Before Selecting a Funeral Director?
We recommend that you ask yourself the following key questions before making your choice:
- Who owns the funeral home you are considering?
- Are they family-owned and independent, OR does a publicly listed company hold them?
- Does the funeral director work for you and your family or shareholders of publicly listed companies?
- Have you met or heard about the funeral director in your community?
- Do you know their personal and professional reputation?
- How long have they been serving their community?
- What has been the experience of relatives, friends and neighbours?
- Does the funeral director provide a full-service facility, and can they handle all of your needs (chapel, viewing room, reception and catering facilities, parking, etc.)?
Within Australia, several organisations have been created to maintain high professional standards within the industry.
These organisations have created their own rules of conduct that members need to follow. Most funeral homes are usually affiliated with at least one, but it's always a good idea to check for peace of mind.
Need help in arranging a funeral for your loved one? Worry no more, Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals Melbourne has you covered.