While the thought of planning a funeral or memorial service often brings to mind movie scenes of a family dressed in black, the truth is that a funeral service doesn’t have to be a somber event. This gathering is your opportunity to show your love and connection with the deceased. It can be a celebration of their life and a healing opportunity as you walk down memory lane with family and friends.


A search online will bring up countless recommendations so you can learn how to plan a funeral. While you can benefit from the suggestions offered by funeral directors and event planners, don’t underestimate the importance of personalized funeral plans.


If you’re planning a funeral or memorial now and you’d like a lot more guidance, support, and inspiration, check out our Farewelling PlanningToolkit. It was created and curated by our team of experts and editors, with helpful tips, customizable checklists, suggested event programs, a budget tool, ideas for music and readings, and answers when you need them from our angels in customer service. 


Think outside the box. Look for unique details that can be woven into the funeral service to create an unforgettable gathering that truly honors the human experience. Your loved one lived life to the fullest, and this funeral service can be a way to help others live in the moment as well.


Common Question about Funeral Planning

As you are taking the first step to begin funeral arrangements, what questions are coming to mind? It is common to have questions about the logistics of planning a funeral, as well as other custom service details that are important to your family. Here are answers to some of your most common funeral questions:


What is a Memorial Service vs. Funeral?

When you get into the details of funeral terminology, there is one notable difference between memorial vs. funeral: whether the body of the person is present at the event. Traditionally, a funeral ceremony has the casket on display during the event. On the other hand, holding a memorial service to honor the person without their body present – often occurring after cremation or burial.


The presentation, traditions, and activities planned for the event can be the same for both a funeral and memorial. You can design a tribute that is customized based on the preferences and personality of your loved one.


How Long After Death is a Funeral?

Since the body is present at a funeral, It’s best to coordinate services as soon as possible after a person has died. Typically, the event takes place within 3 – 7 days, but the exact timing of the event depends on family travel schedules, funeral home availability, and more.


In some cultures and religions, the funeral happens within a day or two after a person dies. For example, Catholics have a traditional two-day wake, followed by the funeral service on the third day. On the other hand, Jewish tradition encourages a funeral service as quickly as possible, with burial happening within 24 hours for Orthodox Jews.


On the other hand, if you are planning a memorial service, then you have more flexibility when it comes to the timeline of the event. If it’s convenient for your family to gather in a few weeks, then the body can be laid to rest right away – with a memorial service planned in the future.


How Long Do Funerals Last?

How long are funerals? The length of a funeral is another detail that should match your traditions and family preferences. The short answer is that most funeral services are about an hour. But it is common to plan a longer reception or life celebration where family and friends can mingle.


How to Plan a Funeral: Step-by-Step

The simplest solution for planning a funeral is to work with an event planner or funeral director who can walk you through this process step-by-step. Years of experience have optimized the planning process, making it easy for you to follow a funeral service outline to work through the details of the gathering.


When a person has died, the “first calls” start the communication with a funeral director, immediate family members, and any other parties. If your family preplanned the event, then the funeral home staff can follow the predetermined plan. Or, this first call initiates the funeral planning process so you can evaluate available options for the event.


Here are a few details you need to keep in mind for some of the most important aspects of funeral planning:


Funeral Planning Checklist

You are coordinating many details when planning a funeral, which is why it can be helpful to follow a funeral planning checklist. Use this detailed checklist that encompasses everything from the first steps to funeral planning to paperwork, notifications, practicalities, and legacy.


This funeral planning process falls into several categories:


  • Disposition: What is the resting place of choice for your loved one? This final disposition can be a burial, with options for either a traditional service or a green burial. Or you might choose something unique such as scattering cremated ashes, planting a memorial garden with a burial urn, or alkaline hydrolysis.
  • Honor and Celebration: Next, you need to consider how to remember or celebrate the memory of your loved one. For example, you might plan a funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life. Design an event that brings family and friends together in a way that honors the unique personality traits of your loved one. A meaningful service is a wonderful opportunity to find healing amidst grief. You can include music, life sketches, activities, food, and any other desired personal touches to make it a beautiful gathering.
  • Administrative: The paperwork is unavoidable when a loved one has died. Your funeral director can assist with details such as death certificate coordination, ship-in or ship-out services, insurance documents, and more. Other important steps you should address after the funeral, such as filing a tax return, executing the last will and testament, distributing assets, settling credit accounts, and closing financial accounts.


Personalized Approach for Funeral Planning

The most important thing you need to remember when learning how to plan a funeral is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to design an occasion for your loved one. Planning a funeral is a journey of sharing memories, honoring a life well-lived, and connecting with the people that you love. So, you should absolutely take liberties in creating a memorable, unique event


Hosting a personalized tribute can seem daunting, because the details are important. Let us help you honor their values with substance and style. Our Farewelling Planning Toolkit guides you with inspirations, advice from experts, and answers from our customer service team when you need them--even suggested playlists and a budget tool to help you know where to spend and where to save.