How to Plan a Funeral

Checklist for Planning a Funeral or Memorial Service
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Up to a week or more before the service

Decide whether to hold a funeral or a less formal memorial service.

Set a date and time for the gathering, usually a weekend or weekday evening.

Arrange for a place to hold the event -- a church or anywhere that feels right.

Contact a pastor, priest, minister, rabbi, or other religious official to officiate, if desired.

Appoint someone to officiate at the service, to welcome those who attend, introduce speakers, indicate prayers and songs, and direct periods of silence.

Several days before the service

Designate speakers, including those who will deliver the eulogies.

Choose music and songs.

Decide who should be invited to attend.

Write and print programs or memorial notices.

Arrange for flowers.

Order or arrange for food and beverages.

Arrange photographs or other memorabilia for display.

Get a guestbook for signatures and comments.

Arrange to have the service photographed, recorded, or videotaped.

Barbara Kate Repa

Barbara Kate Repa, a lawyer and journalist, has devoted her career to editing and writing about legal issues for consumers. See full bio

over 1 year, said...

Thank you so much for this detailed list on how to prepare for a memorial service. This is such a difficult thing to deal with--I'm so glad there are such helpful articles like this to assist those in this situation. It's good that choosing music and songs is mentioned because I feel that music is the best way to uplift and bring hope.

over 1 year, said...

over 1 year, said...

We have a library of free resources at US Funerals Online that can help families to plan a funeral. Including funeral-planning guides for each state (as funeral legislation differs by state). Check our articles revelant to your funeral plans here: Hope this helps!

over 1 year, said...

My dad is trying to plan his funeral and needs some help. Thanks for the advice about appointing someone to officiate over the service. I'll have to let my dad know and hope that he finds a good funeral home to host us.

almost 3 years, said...

Barbara, you bring up a lot of great points and ideas to help plan for a funeral. One that stood out to me was to have food and beverages. This seems like it would add a lot to the experience. Do most people arrange for food and drinks at a funeral?

about 5 years, said...

The great thing with planning and arranging your own funeral or memorial service, is that not only can you make it very personal, you can save significantly on the costs. Here is an useful guide to how to create your own memorial tribute. Save money and do something extra-special at the same time!

almost 6 years, said...

If the deceased is military or former military, you will need to locate his/her DD-214, a form issued by the US Government indicating the service member's date of service and special commendations such as service medals. This form is required if the family wishes to honor the loved one's military service through a military-provided graveside ritual which includes the folding of the American flag that drapes the deceased coffin and its presentation to a family member, along with the 21-gun salute and playing of Taps. At the time of my father's death, the military service was provided at no charge to the family. I don't remember much of the details of my father's funeral service, even though I arranged it with the funeral home, but I will never forget the burial military ritual. It was truly a powerful, solemn and respected tradition and honor.

almost 7 years, said...

If it's a funeral you're planning (for someone else), you should have them use a service such as - where they can answer a simple questionnaire and their wishes can be used in the service itself.