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How to Guide for Making Funeral Arrangements

Preparing for a funeral may seem intimidating, but making your plans and wishes in advance allows you to decide on the specific items you want and need. Because funeral expenses can place a financial burden on families, comparing prices for services and products ahead of time can significantly reduce the burden on your loved ones.

Given time, your friends and family will eventually forget their sorrow and come to value all of the fond memories they have of you. But before they attain this peace of mind, they will have to make dozens – perhaps hundreds – of decisions about your funeral, many of which will add to your overall funeral costs. These costs can add up quickly, and your loved ones may not have the necessary funds to cover all of the expenses.

You can plan your funeral down to the last detail as a way of taking the burden off your family after you’re gone. One of the ways to preplan your funeral is to work with a funeral home. Once you’ve selected your funeral home, sit down with the funeral director, and talk to them about what kind of funeral you want. They will help you select the type of service and burial you want, plus all of the personal details such as music and decorations.

Once you’ve designed your funeral, the funeral director will add up the expenses and tell you the cost. You can either pay it in a lump sum or make payments over a period of time. Keep in mind that if the funeral home goes out of business, your money may be lost. Also, if you die out of state or in another city, the funeral home may not honour your arrangement or transfer any funds you’ve paid. Check out our extensive list of Melbourne Funeral Services to help you arrange a funeral for your loved one.

Why Should I Plan My Own Funeral Arrangements?

Preplanning your funeral is a thoughtful decision that will help your family through a tough time. It can lift an otherwise large burden off of your loved ones by preventing unnecessary stress and confusion over what you would have wanted. In particular, handling your own funeral arrangements clarifies your wishes so your loved ones can begin coping with your loss.

There are also many personal advantages to taking care of your own funeral plans. It gives you direct control over your memorial service, what you would like done with your remains, and how much you want to spend.

How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

If left with the burden of paying for your funeral, loved ones can succumb to emotional overspending because they feel overwhelmed and want to give you the celebration they feel you deserve.

To lessen this hardship, you can set money aside in a trust or bank account for your funeral expenses. Just make sure to let your executor know where these funds are located and that they have access to these accounts when the time comes.

Another option is to take care of some of these expenses yourself ahead of time. That way, you have control over how much you want to spend and in what proportions.

There are many costs you will want to think about when budgeting for your funeral, including:

  • Transportation costs
  • Casket or urn
  • Cemetery plot, grave marker/monument, vault, and grave opening and closing
  • Crematorium or scattering services
  • Memorial service and flowers
  • Obituary

Estimating costs for your funeral gives you direct control over the budget and saves your loved ones from overspending once you are gone.

Who Do I Want to Be in Charge of My Arrangements?

Although you may take care of your own funeral planning using an End-of-Life Plan or another similar planning document, you will still need a personal representative to carry out your arrangements—someone to inform loved ones and government officials of your death and to see to the proper dispersal of your estate. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.

The person in charge of your estate is referred to as your executor. They are essentially responsible for wrapping up all of your financial accounts, assets, debts and following the instructions included in your Last Will or End-of-Life Plan.

You may have more than one executor if you prefer. It is important to choose someone trustworthy and who knows you well. Many people find spouses to be the best choice, while others select siblings, children, or close friends to be their executors.

Once you have chosen an executor or appointed co-executors, make sure that they are comfortable with the responsibility. Also, you should keep them informed of your funeral and estate plans and let them know where they can find your estate documents, such as your Last Will and Testament and End-of-Life Plan. Your executor(s) should also be aware of any changes in your funeral or estate plans, so they know exactly what to expect and can make decisions in your best interests.

What Kind of Memorial Service Do I Want?

A memorial service is typically held in a funeral home, community hall, or church to honour the deceased and celebrate their life.

Memorial services come in all shapes and sizes. The type of service you want may depend on your culture, beliefs, budget, and family.

Your service may include one or all of the following:

  • Awake: family and friends gather to pay tribute to you and share memories in a family member’s home or a hall.
  • Viewing: family and friends come together to view your body.
  • Ceremony or funeral: a formal or informal ceremony is held in a place of your choosing (funeral home, church, community hall, outside). This type of service may include prayers, a slideshow, eulogies, music, or a sermon.

When planning your memorial service, consider your friends and family. While this is a celebration of your life, it’s also intended to comfort your loved ones so they can begin grieving. If there are any special traditions, music, or prayers that are dear to you and your family, consider including these in your End-of-Life Plan.

Additionally, if you are preplanning a service, you may also want to specify:

  • Who will be your pallbearers
  • If you want specific people informed of your death and/or funeral service
  • Who will deliver eulogies or facilitate the service
  • Where you would like guests to forward their donations

10 Tips for Saving Funeral 

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS AND TELL YOUR FAMILY

Do you want to be buried or cremated, embalmed, viewed? Where do you want to be buried or scattered? Put your wishes in writing and share them with your likely survivors. If you say you want something “simple” and your survivors aren’t sure what you meant, they may end up spending a lot more than you would have wanted. Or, if you tell them what kind of a funeral you want, without sufficient education, you might burden them with expenses far beyond what you thought it would cost. Don’t put your wishes in a will or a safe deposit box; they likely won’t be seen until long after other arrangements have been made. Put all your important papers in one place—order the “Before I Go” kit from our website. Need help in planning a funeral service? Check out Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals in Melbourne.

SHOP AROUND

You wouldn’t walk into the closest dealer and buy whatever car and options the salesperson recommended, but that’s how most people buy funeral goods and services. Most people assume they have to use a nearby funeral home, or they use one they’ve used in the past (even if they weren’t happy). If you are not using a funeral home for a viewing or service, you don’t need to use a local facility, and the one in a neighbouring town might be half the price. Federal law requires funeral homes to give you prices over the phone and hand you an itemized price list when you start talking about arrangements in person (see our article “How to Read a General Price List”). Shopping around can save thousands of dollars.

BUY ONLY WHAT YOU WANT

When funeral shopping, take a sensible friend with you—someone who will help you stick to your plans. Some people think that how much they spend is a demonstration of how much they loved the person and may buy more than they intended out of guilt. Some less scrupulous salespeople will imply that doing anything other than the “traditional” is inappropriate. A unique and personalized memorial observance will be more meaningful to friends and family than one that looks just like every other. For the cremation of the author of The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford’s family spent under $500. Later, they hosted a grand memorial gathering. It was very much in keeping with Jessica’s disdain of lavish funeral merchandise but a love of a good party.

BUY ONLINE OR MAKE YOUR OWN

You can find caskets and kits online for a fraction of the price charged by some funeral homes. Mortuaries are required by law to accept a casket from an outside vendor and cannot charge you a fee for doing so. There are a variety of less expensive caskets available: wood veneer, cardboard printed with wood grain or a wide variety of patterns and pictures, and cloth-covered. If you use plain cardboard, it can be especially meaningful when guests, including children, are allowed to paint, draw and write personal goodbye messages on it. You can also choose the “minimum container” and cover it with a quilt, flag, or other attractive material. Don’t buy a “sealer” casket; it’s ineffective and more expensive.

CONSIDER DIRECT CREMATION OR IMMEDIATE BURIAL

Federal law requires that these packages be listed on every funeral home’s price list. For cremation, you can use any funeral home, even one far from where you live, which can save thousands of dollars. They arrange for the cremation and mail or deliver the ashes to you. An alternative container is included in the package price, and there is no need for embalming. Cemetery space for cremated remains is generally less expensive than for a body burial, and cremated remains can be buried or scattered almost anywhere.

If you prefer burial, the Direct Burial package is similar to Jewish, Muslim and Bahá’í tradition in that the body is generally buried shortly after death, without embalming or viewing. You can usually add on a graveside service for a reasonable charge as long as you keep things simple. You can upgrade the casket if you wish, using techniques from tip #4.

PLAN A MEMORIAL SERVICE

Without the body present, there is no need for embalming or refrigeration, a fancy casket, or transporting the body to the funeral home, religious institution, and gravesite. Private visitation and goodbyes can occur in the home or other place of death before you even call the funeral director. Without the time pressure of preserving the body, you have the flexibility to hold the service whenever it’s convenient. Have a formal or informal service at a religious institution, home, park, club, or community centre, and there is no need to hire funeral home staff. Again, depending on where you live, you might save a lot of money by using a funeral home in another town.

SKIP EMBALMING

Embalming is an invasive procedure that is rarely required by law. While there are situations where it can be useful (for example, a long period between death and viewing), in no state is it required when burial or cremation is planned within two days, and in most states, refrigeration is a viable alternative.

CONSIDER DONATION

Some medical schools cover all costs, and many only require the family to pay for transporting the body. Cremated remains are generally returned to the family within two years.

ELIMINATE THE VAULT

Some cemeteries may require a vault, but no state law does, so see if you can find one that doesn’t. Green cemeteries will allow burial without a vault, for example. Several religious groups eschew the use of a vault, and if burial in a shroud is allowed, a liner may not be required. In theory, the “outer burial container” keeps the ground flat and intact under a load of commercial mowing equipment. But it also slows the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” return of the body to the earth. In any case, buy the least expensive option, usually called a “grave liner,” and if you like the idea of returning to nature, ask to have it installed upside down and without a lid. And be sure to shop around; remember that with prices similar to those for caskets, the vault is still just a box-for-the-box, which gets quickly covered by the cemetery lawn.

DO IT YOURSELF!

Most people don’t know that in the majority of states, an individual, family, community or religious group can handle a death without hiring a funeral director. Families can do everything on their own or hire a home funeral consultant, death midwife or funeral director to assist. The book Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death is a great resource for state-specific practical information, and the PBS documentary, A Family Undertaking, follows several families who choose this option and illustrates how extraordinarily moving and therapeutic home viewings and funerals are. Both are invaluable resources for anyone choosing this meaningful way to say goodbye.

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