How to Place an Obituary

The 5 steps to take to memorialize the death of a loved one

Placing an obituary: steps 1 and 2

The traditional media outlet for publishing an obituary is a newspaper, though there are a growing number of specialized obituary and memorial tribute websites.

Step 1: What you need to know before you start

  • Newspapers almost always charge for publishing obituaries, based on length, and the costs vary considerably from paper to paper.

  • Newspapers usually provide style and formatting guidelines. If you haven't written your obituary yet, it's helpful to know these in advance, plus other suggestions for writing an obituary.

  • Newspapers almost always edit obituaries for spelling, grammar, and style.

  • Funeral homes will write and place obituaries for a fee.

  • Some newspapers may want to see a death certificate or confirm details with a funeral home before placing an obituary.

  • There are differences between a death notification, a standard obituary, and a news or feature obituary. What follows is information that applies to a standard obituary.

Step 2: How to choose where to place the obituary

  • Newspapers. You can publish the obituary in as many newspapers as you choose. Many people publish in newspapers where their loved one spent any significant amount of time (hometown, a regular vacation location, place of birth) to inform people in each location of the death. Find newspapers on the Internet, searching with the name of the paper. Most have online instructions for placing an obituary, or you can do it over the phone -- or even in person.
  • Online newspaper sites.The world of online obituaries can be confusing because options vary from publication to publication. Many newspapers automatically print obituaries online if you pay for placement in the print edition. Some may charge extra for the online version. Larger papers may only publish an obituary online, not in print. In addition, many newspapers have affiliations with specialized, privately run obituary websites. You'll need to clarify your options with the publications you choose.
  • Obituary websites. A growing number of commercial websites specialize in obituaries and death tributes. Most offer a variety of services, such as photo tributes and online guest books. They're easy to find with a search using the terms obituaries or memorial tributes.

Placing an obituary: steps 3, 4, 5

Step 3: Key things to know when placing an obituary

  • Deadlines. If you're planning to use the obituary to invite people to a memorial or burial service, ask about obituary deadlines.
  • Pricing. Most newspapers and websites charge by length. Ask about pricing, so you'll have a sense of how much it will cost to place your obituary. You can usually pay online, over the phone, or with a check.
  • Editing. Ask if the obituary will be edited for spelling and grammar. This is usually a standard service, but just in case it's not, you may want to ask if they'll help with this.
  • Double-checking. Ask to see an edited version of the obituary before it runs, so you can double-check the information.
  • Duration. Ask how long the obituary will run for the basic fee, or how long it will remain online. You may prefer to pay for it to run longer.

Step 4: Extras to ask about

  • Special services. Many newspapers and websites offer enhanced obituary services for an extra charge, such as adding photographs, personal messages or poems, fancy graphics, or online guest books where the public can leave memorial comments.
  • Linking to private obituary websites. Some newspapers link their obituaries to specialized obituary websites (separate businesses) for a fee. Check out such websites before signing on, to make sure they're something you like and want. The newspaper will provide you with the links.

Step 5: Making the obituary a keepsake

  • Preservation. Obituaries can be wonderful, lasting tributes to a loved one, and many people like to save them to share for generations. Newspaper yellows and dries with age, but with a little care it can endure time amazingly well. To help preserve newspaper obituaries, keep clippings in a dark, dry place, such as a file drawer, cardboard box, or even inside a heavy book. Place them in a plastic folder or good-quality ziplock bag first. Even better, place the clipping between sheets of acid-free paper or art board. As the clippings get older, handle them carefully.
  • Future availability. Online obituaries can last forever. Ask newspapers and websites how they archive their obituaries and how long they'll be available to you and the public. To play it safe, print out or download online copies into your own computer file so you can share with others whenever you wish.


Kate Rauch

Kate Rauch has spent more than two decades writing about health for websites and print media, including WebMD, Drugstore, the Washington Post health section, and Newsday, as well as HMOs such as Kaiser Permanente (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and Group Health (in Seattle). See full bio