From pre-planning your own funeral to quick answers to pressing questions, we have all the resources you need right here.
Let's celebrate your loved one's life, memory, and legacy.
What Papers Do You Need When Someone Dies?
There are a lot of documents involved when planning a funeral and wrapping up a loved one's affairs. Here's a quick guide to help you gather the important papers.
34 Creative Memorial Service Ideas
The memorial service is a time to honor the unique life and legacy of a beloved individual. The ways that you can do this are as unique and varied as your loved one. Here's some creative inspiration.
What Are Cremated Ashes Like?
Cremated ashes, also known as cremated remains, are the bone matter that is left once the cremation process is complete. Many people would like to know, What are cremated ashes like? Let’s find out.
Popular Funeral Resources
Dress for the Funeral
As is a tale, so is a life: Not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
- Matthew 11:28
Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
- Henry Scott Holland
I lift up my eyes to the hills;
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.
- A Prayer from Psalm 121
Here's how to plan a funeral:
- Choose a funeral home
- Decide on the disposition method (funeral vs cremation, etc)
- Choose a final resting place (cemetery burial, scattering of ashes, etc)
- Consider what type of service you want to hold
- Outline the actual service (readings, prayers, eulogies, open mic, etc)
- Plan a reception after the service
You can plan more or less, but this is a fairly typical outline. Funeral planning is a big topic, so there's a lot more you might want to consider. Thankfully we’ve distilled it into a helpful Funeral Planning Guide.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost for a funeral is around $6,500.
Other estimates put the costs in the range of $5,000 up to about $12,000. The low end of the scale will often involve direct cremation, minimal add-ons, and a small, intimate service. The higher end of the scale might include full body burial, a nice casket, and a large memorial service with catered reception.
Depending on your location in the country, these costs can be higher or lower. The best way to find out the true costs in your area is to call around to several funeral homes for quotes.
There are many ways to save when planning a funeral. Here are 50 tips to plan a funeral on a budget; you can implement as many of these as you like to bring the costs down.
Here are some best practices to save on funeral expenses:
- Educate yourself
- Shop around and ask for price lists
- Bring a friend with you (this will help keep you from emotional impulse decisions)
- Pre-plan as much as possible
- Find things you can do yourself
When choosing a funeral home, here are some things to look for:
- Friendly staff
- Attractive facilities
- A good location
- Services that are priced right and a good fit for your family’s needs
You will want to narrow down your selection by looking at a map, then calling a couple to compare prices. As you do, you can easily avoid the ones that provide poor customer service over the phone.
Finally, visit your top 1-3 choices to make sure it's the right fit, to see the facilities and grounds for yourself, and meet in person with the funeral director.
Find more details plus specific questions to ask here: How to Choose a Funeral Home.
Here are some of the more common types of funeral services and memorial events:
- Traditional funeral service
- Graveside or committal service
- Direct burial
- Direct cremation
- Memorial service
- Celebration of life
- Scattering ceremony
Learn more about each of these here: 10 Types of Funeral Services, Ceremonies, and Events
A funeral is a ceremony that commemorates and honors the dead, typically in connection with the final disposition of their body.
A memorial service is nearly identical to a funeral, with the exception that the body is not present.
This means that there will be no casket, pallbearers, or viewing. Sometimes, if the decedent was cremated, the cremated remains or "ashes" will be there in a cremation urn.
A life celebration or celebration of life is a memorial event that focuses on the life and legacy of a loved one, rather than the sadness and grief of their passing.
If you took a funeral and turned it into a party or celebration, well, a life celebration is what would happen.
A wake is a time for close friends and family members to gather together, mourn, visit, express condolences, and say their goodbyes to the departed loved one. This is a separate event from the funeral. The body is typically present at a wake. Read more here.
A viewing is essentially the same thing as a visitation, but with the body present. While it is indeed a time to “visit” with family and friends, it is primarily a time to “view” the decedent and say your final goodbyes before the funeral (or if the funeral is closed-casket).
A visitation is much like a wake - a time for family and friends to visit, mourn, and remember together the life and legacy of the departed loved one. Separate from and prior to the funeral, this is a smaller, more intimate gathering. Often, the body is not present at a visitation. Read more here.
A cremation ceremony is a brief service or observance at the time of cremation. It might include:
- Close friends and family members
- A pastor, funeral director, or family member who leads the ceremony
- Dressing up for the occasion
- Flowers and/or a photo to display
- A brief eulogy
- Sharing stories, a favorite quote, or poem
- Singing a song (a hymn, a silly song, or the decedent’s favorite)
- Playing a song (bring portable speakers)
- Saying a prayer (here are some good ones)
Other types of cremation ceremonies might refer to a funeral with the cremated remains present, a ceremony at the time of inurnment or scattering of ashes.
Read more: Cremation Ceremonies: Where, When, & How
A committal is a graveside service that occurs at the cemetery, where family and friends pay their final respects before the casket is lowered into the ground for burial.
Learn more about committals here.
A scattering ceremony happens when a family chooses to scatter the cremated remains of their loved one, rather than keep or bury them. Usually, the family scatters the ashes into the wind, at a location that was especially important to the deceased.
The ceremony itself can be as simple or ornate as you want. Most often, people say a few words about their loved one, read a quote, say a prayer, or sing a song.
Funeral participants will depend on what you choose to do in the service itself, as well as who is willing to be involved and what ways they want to participate.
If the ceremony is kept simple and minimalist, you may only require an officiant. Or you can have as many people involved as you want.
- Officiant (family member, close friend, clergy, or funeral director)
- Pallbearers (family members and close friends)
- Musicians and singers (hired professionals, church members, or family members)
- Readers (often family members and friends)
- Prayer (clergy, church members, family, or friends)
- Eulogy or memorial speech (family member or friend)
- Candle lighters (anyone you choose or who volunteers)
- Event planner (family member, friend, or professional)
- Decorator/florist (friends, family members, or professionals)
- Caterer for reception (anyone from professional caterers to everyone bringing a potluck dish)
The receiving line order can vary a bit depending on each person's age and family structure at the time of death.
Typically, the spouse is first, accompanied by children. Parents and siblings would be next, followed by extended family in relatively descending order of age (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc).
Learn more: Funeral Etiquette for Immediate Family
No, you should not tip the funeral director or the funeral home staff. It is neither customary nor expected.
However, it is customary to tip several others, including the florist, caterer, musicians, drivers, and pallbearers (if hired).
See more info here. That article includes ways to show your appreciation to the funeral home staff plus a tipping cheat sheet.
Yes. Some ministers, priests, or other types of clergy and/or funeral officiants may charge a modest fee. Often, if you are a member of a congregation, the minister or pastor will do the funeral service free of charge. Even still, it is appropriate to give the minister an honorarium. This should be around $100-300, perhaps more or less depending on your situation.
Read more here: Funeral Gratuities Explained
Most families choose a song that the individual loved, or one that has special meaning to them.
For inspiration, here are The Best Funeral Songs of All Time. There, you'll find songs ideal for Dad, Mom, spouse, grandparents, and so on, plus songs sorted by genre (country, rock, Christian, etc) and mood (happy, sad, uplifting, etc).
The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and Psalm 23 are two prayers ideal for a Christian funeral service.
Here are 10 Biblical Funeral Prayers
Traditional funeral Bible readings include:
- Psalm 23
- Matthew 11:28-30
- John 14:1-3
- I Corinthians 15:51-57
- I Thessalonians 4:14-18
You may also want to read the decedent's favorite verse or passage.
We've put together a comprehensive list of the best and most beloved funeral scriptures here.
A eulogy is a speech, delivered at a funeral, commemorating the life of the individual who has died.
Typically, the eulogy will include a brief overview of their life, their relationships, and some special memories. It can admit their faults but will focus on their strengths. A eulogy might mention their spouse, children, hobbies and interest, work and accomplishments, religion, and community involvement.
Learn more here.
The eulogy can be delivered by anyone the family chooses to ask. Most often the eulogy is given by a close friend or family member, sometimes a religious minister or professional associate.
Rarely, because it is such an emotional time, the spouse can give the eulogy. The funeral director can also sometimes read the eulogy for you if asked.
Learn more: How to Deliver a Eulogy
We have some tips, but ultimately, don't worry about crying. If you cry at your loved one's funeral, no one will think badly of you. Just like you wouldn't judge anyone for crying at a funeral, no one will judge you.
Still, you want to deliver the eulogy well. Here are some helpful tips to avoid breaking down:
- Practice the eulogy
- Get a support person
- Eat beforehand
- Practice breathing
- Think deeply about your desire to honor your loved one in how you tell their story
- Use humor as appropriate
Read more: How to Deliver a Eulogy Without Crying
Yes. If you are tasked with delivering the eulogy, you don't necessarily have to write it yourself. You can ask a friend or family member to write it - this is a great option if you have a gifted but reclusive writer in the family - or you can hire a professional to write it for you.
One of our staff writers is also a top-rated professional eulogy writer with very reasonable rates. Check out Eulogies by Aubrey.
Livestreaming the service is always a good idea. There will often be people who can't make it who would like to watch.
Here's how to set up a good livestream.
Often, families will give out a small token or keepsake - "funeral favors" - to those who attend a funeral service. This might be a bookmark or pin with the individual's photo, a personalized stone or memorial coin, or a prayer card.
See here for a list of popular funeral favors.
In addition to the typical funeral arrangements, which we cover here, when planning a funeral in advance you should also:
- Plan ahead to cover the expenses
- Write down you wishes and share them with your family so they know what you want
- Make a will and organize your personal and financial documents (here's a list)
- Figure out what to do about all your passwords when you die
Arranging a funeral ahead of time is smart.
- Write it down (apart from your will, which is often only looked at after the funeral)
- Let your family know what you want and how to access your funeral plan
- Pay for the funeral ahead of time
- Create an advance directive
- Assign durable power of attorney
Learn more here: 5 Steps to Make Sure Your Funeral Plans Are Followed
Including the cremation or burial costs, a funeral will typically cost somewhere in the range of $5,000 to $12,000. You can certainly spend more, and there are also ways to be frugal and spend less, but those are fairly typical figures when all the costs are factored in.
Learn how to save here: 50 Tips for Planning a Funeral on a Budget
To pay for the funeral, you can
- Save money in a bank or investment account
- Purchase a pre-paid funeral plan
- Get some form of burial insurance
There are other options, and variations on each of the three listed above as well.
Here are some ways to save on funeral costs:
- Start saving and planning now
- Write down your wishes (this will help keep your family from making emotional "impulse buys")
- Purchase what you can in advance (you'll get what you want, plus protect against inflation)
There are several important steps to take when a loved one dies. You'll want to start by contacting people - not only close family, but especially medical professionals, EMTs, hospice care workers, funeral directors, and others as the situation calls for.
Absolutely. There are:
- Pastors and clergy members for your spiritual health
- Counselors for your mental and emotional health
- Hospice and palliative caregivers for your physical health
One newer but increasingly popular type of caregiver is the end of life doula. Like a birth doula, who provides holistic personal care and aid at the beginning of life, the end of life doula provides holistic care and advice at the end of life.
Learn more here: What is a "Death Doula" (or "End of Life Doula")?
When you die, you will undoubtedly have a plethora of accounts that will need to be transferred, closed, or cancelled. From financial accounts to utilities, from Netflix to Costco, from recurring deliveries of supplies to that hobby site you subscribed to, there are plenty of loose ends to wrap up.
Beyond just the practical things like planning (and paying) for your funeral, your will, and so on, it's important to also think about more philosophical things like:
- What will my legacy be?
- How do I want to be remembered?
- What will I regret not doing?
- How should I prepare for dying?
- Am I afraid of death?
Thinking about "the big questions" will often help guide you as you are dealing with the more practical aspects of estate and funeral planning.