funeral director

What Does a Funeral Director Do?

Funeral directors are the people who help families in their time of need. They work hard to ensure that the funeral service is a dignified and respectful event for everyone involved. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.

What Is a Funeral Director?

A funeral director (called a mortician or undertaker in the past) manages a funeral home and arranges the details of a funeral. 

Funeral directors work primarily in funeral homes and crematories. The funeral industry is by no means an easy career option. However, it can be very fulfilling and rewarding.

Funeral practices and rites vary significantly among cultures and religions. 

However, funeral practices usually share some common elements—removing the deceased to a mortuary, preparing the remains, performing a ceremony that honours the dead, addressing the family's spiritual needs, and carrying out the deceased's final disposition. 

Funeral directors arrange and direct these tasks for grieving families, taking great pride in their ability to provide comfort to family and friends of the deceased and in providing appropriate services.

Funeral directors, also called morticians and undertakers, arrange the details and handle the logistics of funerals, taking into account the wishes of the deceased and family members. 

Together with the family, funeral directors establish the location, dates, and times of wakes, memorial services, and burials. 

They arrange for a hearse to carry the body to the funeral home or mortuary.

Funeral directors prepare obituary notices and have them placed in newspapers, arrange for pallbearers and clergy, schedule the opening and closing of a grave with a representative of the cemetery, decorate and prepare the sites of all services, and provide transportation for the deceased, mourners, and flowers between sites. 

They also direct the preparation and shipment of bodies for out-of-state burial.

Most funeral directors also are trained, licensed, and practising embalmers. Embalming is a sanitary, cosmetic, and preservative process through which the body is prepared for interment. 

If more than 24 hours elapse between death and interment, State laws usually require that the remains be refrigerated or embalmed.

When embalming a body, funeral directors wash the body with germicidal soap and replace the blood with embalming fluid to preserve the tissues. 

They may reshape and reconstruct bodies using materials such as clay, cotton, plaster of Paris, and wax. 

They also may apply cosmetics to provide a natural appearance, dress the body, and place it in a casket. 

Funeral directors maintain records such as embalming reports and itemised lists of clothing or valuables delivered with the body. 

In large funeral homes, an embalming staff of two or more, plus several apprentices, may be employed.

Funeral services may occur in a home, house of worship, funeral home, or gravesite or crematory. 

Some services are not religious, but many are. Funeral directors must be familiar with the funeral and burial customs of many faiths, ethnic groups, and fraternal organisations. 

For example, members of some religions seldom have the deceased embalmed or cremated.

Burial in a casket is the most common method of disposing remains in the United States, although entombment also occurs. 

Cremation, which is the burning of the body in a special furnace, is increasingly selected because it can be less expensive and allows for the memorial service to be held at a more convenient time in the future when relatives and friends can come together. 

A funeral service followed by cremation need not be any different from a funeral service followed by a burial. 

Usually, cremated remains are placed in some permanent receptacle or urn before being committed to a final resting place. 

The urn may be buried, placed in an indoor or outdoor mausoleum or columbarium, or interred in a unique urn garden that many cemeteries provide for cremated remains.

Funeral directors handle the paperwork involved with the person's death, including submitting papers to state authorities so that a formal death certificate may be issued and copies distributed to the heirs. 

They may help family members apply for veterans' burial benefits or notify the Social Security Administration of the death. Also, funeral directors may use it for transferring any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.

Funeral directors also work with those who want to plan their funerals. This ensures that the client's wishes will be taken care of to their satisfaction.

Most funeral homes are small, family-run businesses and many funeral directors are owner-operators or employees with managerial responsibilities. 

Funeral directors, therefore, are responsible for the success and the profitability of their businesses. 

Directors must keep records of expenses, purchases, and services rendered; prepare and send invoices for services; and file all required state and Federal employment reports and tax forms. 

Funeral directors increasingly use computers for billing, bookkeeping, and marketing. 

Some are beginning to use the Internet to communicate with clients planning their funerals or assisting them by developing electronic obituaries and guest books. 

Directors strive to foster a cooperative spirit and friendly attitude among employees and a compassionate demeanour toward the families. 

Increasingly, funeral directors also help individuals adapt to changes in their lives following a death through aftercare services and support groups.

The Role of a Funeral Director

how to plan a funeral (2)

Choosing a funeral director can be difficult and emotional, particularly given that most of us have minimal experience organising funerals.

As you navigate these unchartered waters, it can help to know what to look for in a funeral director.

Things to Look for in a Funeral Director

Use the below list as a guide to making sure that the funeral home you choose is right for your family.

They Should Help You Realise Any Know Wishes

If the deceased has previously spoken about their wishes, then your funeral director should do all they can to support you in making these wishes a reality. 

Their job is to make anything possible (within reason, of course). If they are not able to help, then they should refer you to someone who can.

They Should Guide You Through the Process

If the deceased's funeral has not been pre-planned, then your funeral director can guide you through the details of organising a funeral. 

They will help you make all the decisions, big or small, including those you didn't know you had to make.

These decisions may include:

  • Whether to choose burial or cremation
  • The day, time and venue of the service
  • Who should lead the ceremony – this might be a celebrant, a family member, a friend or a member of your faith.
  • Where to hold the service – this could be in a church, a park, on the beach, or anywhere you want

Your funeral director should provide you with as much support or guidance as you need. 

They can make arrangements on your behalf if needed, and they can help you coordinate with a memorial park or cemetery regarding the cremation or burial.

They Should Help You Personalise the Ceremony

A funeral can be a celebration of a remarkable life that has been lived. Your funeral director should work with you to ensure that the service is a fitting reflection of your loved one's life.

They may ask you questions about the deceased's music preferences, hobbies, favourite books and more – and then help you weave these passions into a beautiful ceremony. 

It could be a quiet, traditional funeral held at a local church; or a bright and colourful event where everyone wears their sports team's colours. 

Nearly anything is possible, and your funeral director should help you make it happen. Your funeral director can also provide support and direction in writing eulogies if needed. 

They Can Help You Arrange an Event After the Service

Funeral directors can help you organise an event following the service, often called awake. 

They can either arrange this under your direction or help connect you with caterers, venues or other professionals to make sure that it runs as smoothly as can be.

Some funeral homes also have the facilities to host a wake for you. They can organise it all, so you don't need to worry about a thing.

If cremation occurs, your funeral director can contact a memorial park or crematorium to organise a fitting memorial in a beautiful park or garden.

They Should Take Care of All the Logistics on Your Behalf

As well as helping you create the perfect funeral service, your funeral director can take care of all the little things, so you don't have to worry about them. It's up to you how much your funeral director takes on.

There are some standard services that every funeral director will take care of:

  • Transfer of the deceased to the funeral home
  • Registration of death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • Collection of medical certificates and registration of death       

Then, you have the option of getting your funeral director to help with the following services, too:

  • Liaising with cemeteries or crematoria of your choice
  • Arrangements with the church, chapel or a venue you choose
  • Consulting with clergy or celebrant
  • Advice on wording and placement of death notices
  • Help writing a eulogy
  • Arranging and preparing a viewing of the deceased
  • Supply of a hearse and other funeral vehicles
  • Organising floral arrangements
  • Organising music
  • Embalming by qualified personnel (if required)
  • Mourning stationery such as thank-you cards and orders of service
  • Video recording or live streaming for those unable to attend
  • Referral to grief support

As this list shows, your funeral director can help you with as much (or as little) as you like. 

Unlike most of us – who have not had to organise a funeral before – they know what needs to be done. 

And they are there to share their expert knowledge with you in a caring and compassionate way.  

Funeral Director Responsibilities

Those who choose a career as a funeral director will coordinate and perform the fundamental requirements for a funeral. 

They work with the deceased's family to arrange the whole funeral from the beginning to the end. 

These duties include organising the funeral performance, the officiant (a clergy member or other selected person), and how and where the remains will ultimately be placed. 

In some cases, the deceased may have left detailed instructions for his or her funeral. 

The funeral director will respect these wishes and organise any other logistics such as transporting the body, arranging times and dates, and performing the services.

Additionally, Funeral directors have many other responsibilities, including preparing obituary notices and distributing them to media outlets according to the family's wishes. 

They will also arrange for clergy and pallbearers, schedule the opening and closing of a grave with a representative of the cemetery, prepare and decorate the sites of all services, and ensure transportation for the remains, mourners, and flowers between sites. 

Funeral directors are also responsible for overseeing the preparation and transportation of the remains for out-of-state burials, following the laws and regulations. Visit Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals to know more about our prepaid funeral service and find the best funeral option for your unique situation.

Funeral Service Director Tasks

how to plan a funeral

Among the funeral service director's key task areas:

  • Consult with families or friends of the deceased to arrange funeral details, such as obituary notice wording, casket selection, or plans for services.
  • Direct and supervise embalmers, funeral attendants, death certificate clerks, cosmetologists, or other staff.
  • Monitor funeral service operations to ensure that they comply with applicable policies, regulations, and laws.
  • Negotiate contracts for prearranged funeral services.
  • Offer counsel and comfort to families and friends of the deceased.
  • Plan and implement changes to service offerings to meet community needs or increase funeral home revenues.
  • Plan and implement sales promotions or other marketing strategies and activities for funeral home operations.
  • Schedule funerals, burials, or cremations.
  • Sell funeral services, products, or merchandise to clients.
  • Complete and maintain records such as state-required documents, tracking documents, or product inventories.
  • Identify skill development needs for funeral home staff.

Funeral Director Services Provided

  • Embalming
  • Cremation
  • Respecting Customs and Requests
  • Customer Service
  • Administrative Responsibilities

Embalming

Funeral directors, most of whom are trained, licensed and practising embalmers, generally handle embalming. 

At larger funeral homes, two or more embalmers will be employed along with several apprentices. 

Like refrigeration, embalming is a sanitary and cosmetic process by which a body is preserved and prepared for burial, required by most states if more than 24 hours pass between death and the funeral.

Embalmers begin by cleaning the body with germicidal soap and replacing the blood with embalming fluid to preserve the tissues.

When there is disfiguration or maiming, an embalmer may use clay, cotton, plaster of Paris, and wax to reshape or reconstruct the body. 

To give the body a natural appearance, they also may apply cosmetics. Finally, they dress the body and place it in a casket. 

Funeral directors and embalmers keep embalming reports, itemised lists of clothing and valuables accompanying the body, and other relevant records.

Cremation

Although entombment does frequently take place, burial in a casket is a typical funeral practice. 

Cremation, the incineration of a body in a special furnace, has gained popularity in recent years, partially due to its lower overall expense and convenience.

With cremation, funeral services can occur anywhere, at any time, and even months later for all relatives and friends to attend.

Even when cremation takes place, many families still choose to hold memorial services. A funeral service held for cremation is not different from one that precedes a traditional burial.

Cremated remains are commonly put in an urn, a permanent receptacle like a vase, and then given a final resting place. 

The family may bury the container, place it in a mausoleum or columbarium, or be buried in a cemetery or garden.

Respecting Customs and Requests

The site of the funeral services depends entirely on the family or loved one's wishes. Funeral services usually occur in a home, worship, funeral home, gravesite, or crematory. 

While some services are nonreligious, many choose to reflect their family's beliefs. 

Funeral directors must be aware of the different funeral and burial customs of many faiths, ethnic groups, and fraternal organisations.

Prearranged funerals are an increasingly popular service. Many people desire peace of mind and the time to grieve during this period. 

Funeral directors are responsible for arranging every aspect of the services in a way that will do justice to both the deceased person and their remaining family members and friends.

Aside from these services, funeral directors also take care of the paperwork involved with a person's death. 

States rely on funeral directors to file the appropriate forms to issue a formal certificate of death.

In some cases, funeral directors assist family members with further formalities such as requesting veterans' burial benefits, informing the Social Security Administration of the death, or applying for transferring any pensions, insurance policies, or annuities on behalf of survivors.

Customer Service

Most funeral homes are small, family businesses where the funeral director is either an owner-operator or an employee. 

Consequently, the businesses' prosperity depends directly on funeral directors. 

Running a successful funeral home involves effective and efficient customer service. Funeral directors do their best to cultivate a friendly environment for their employees and a compassionate demeanour towards the families. 

More and more funeral directors extend their traditional roles by offering aftercare services or support group activities to assist individuals in adapting to life following a death.

Administrative Responsibilities

The administrative duties of funeral directors include:

Keeping records of expenses, purchases, and services provided.

Preparing and sending invoices.

We are preparing and submitting reports for unemployment insurance.

  • Preparing Federal, State, and local tax forms.
  • Preparing itemised bills for customers.

Funeral directors must also maintain any electronic files related to the funeral, such as online obituaries and guest books.

As for the physical facilities, most funeral homes have a chapel, at least one viewing room, a casket-selection room, and a preparation room. 

Funeral homes usually offer a selection of caskets and urns for families to purchase or rent. Hearses, flower cars, limousines, and other vehicles are generally available as well.

What Is the Workplace of a Funeral Director Like?

Funeral directors work primarily in funeral homes and crematories. 

The work environment for a funeral director can be both physically and emotionally challenging and sometimes stressful. 

They have to arrange the many details of a funeral within 24 to 72 hours of death. 

They also may be responsible for more than one funeral on the same day. Although funeral directors handle corpses, the health risk is minimal. 

Still, they must follow safety and health regulations. Funeral directors work irregular hours, including evenings and weekends. Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs.

They are often on call and need to be available when their clients need them. 

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