Checklist for planning a funeral

Funeral Celebrant

Planning a funeral for a loved one can be even more stressful if you don’t know where to start. You are grieving, you are planning your last goodbye and you want it to be perfect.  One experienced funeral celebrant has collated a step by step checklist to help guide you through this difficult time and support you to plan a funeral.

How do I start planning a funeral?

The daunting prospect of planning a funeral for a loved one at one of the most difficult times in your life breaks down into a simple checklist taking you through everything from selecting someone to officiate the memorial to choosing readings and considering transportation for the mourners.

Before you start planning, read through this checklist first to ensure you have everything to hand. There is no rush, get a cup of tea, take a deep breath, and make yourself comfortable.  Take half an hour to sit and read it through, take one step at a time.

How do I register the death of a loved one?

Before you start planning a funeral or celebration of life, you will need a death certificate. This will be supplied by the hospital or the doctor attending at place of death.  Once you have this you will need to register the death at the local Register Office.  You will need to make an appointment.

At the time of registering the death you will be able to obtain copies of the death certificate, do it at this time, it is cheaper and you will need them!  The registrar will give you the paperwork required for the funeral director to collect the body.

How do I select a Funeral Director?

It may be that your loved-one had a pre-paid funeral plan and therefore, the choice of Funeral Director may already have been made – time to check!  If not, ask friends and relatives for personal recommendations of local funeral companies.

Think about your preferred funeral date and time, how much you would like the Funeral Director to be involved and the type of funeral service you would like.

How do I decide on the type of funeral I want?

Now is the time to think about what type of funeral you want to organise. Will it be a cremation, a green burial or a traditional burial for example?
Depending on the area you live in, the cost may be the deciding factor on the type of funeral.  In the UK the average cost of a burial plot is between £750 and £950; whereas an ash plot is £450.

What do I need to consider when selecting a casket or cremation urn?

There are many caskets to choose from, wooden, willow, bamboo, wool and so on, costing from  £300 up to £9,000.

Cremation urns come in all shapes, sizes and materials; they can be plain or ornate. Your decision may depend on whether you are scattering, burying or keeping them!

How do I choose a location for the interment?

Your decision of where to have your loved one interred will depend on whether you have a traditional burial in your local graveyard, a woodland burial or something else.  You will find below some resources to help you source a location for your loved-one.  Whatever you choose is as it should be – it is just that, your choice.

What type of funeral service options are there?

There are a number of different types of funeral service available to you including religious, spiritual, humanist and military. Your decision as to the type of ceremony you would like will lead to further choices e.g. if a military service is appropriate, do you need to contact the regiment and will a bugler place the last post?

Your choice of type of ceremony will also lead to the type of officiant you would like to lead the service e.g. an independent Celebrant is the best choice for a Celebration of Life at the crematorium with a little nod to religion out of respect to certain mourners.

What clothes should the deceased wear?

You may want to choose a special set of clothes for your loved one or you may decide you want them to be dressed in a silk or cotton shroud.  If you choose a woodland burial you will need clothes made from natural fibres.

What are the options of Funeral Officiant?

If you have a religious service you will have the relevant religious minister lead the service and should contact them for their availability.

You also have the option of a Humanist or an Independent Celebrant who will write a uniquely personalised service and attend at your choice of location to lead the service for you.

We have them listed in our directory for you to select from.

What music should I play at the funeral?

Music will largely depend on the person who you are commemorating and the type of funeral ceremony you are planning for them.

If it is a church burial, the minister may now allow “The Rolling Stones” for example, whereas if it’s a celebrant-led service, any kind of funeral music goes!  Speak to your officiant leading the service and they will best advise you.

How do I prepare a Eulogy?

At the heart of a funeral ceremony is the personal story of the person who is being commemorated. A eulogy can include a loving and respectful recognition of their achievements, the effect they had on the lives of others and what they will be most remembered for. The tone of the eulogy is totally up to you and should be written with the guidance of your celebrant or minister.

There are so many beautiful readings and poems suitable for a funeral or Celebration of Life, but the most important thing is to make them appropriate to the person you are saying goodbye to.

You may wish to write your own poem, read lyrics from your loved one’s favourite song or share some funny memories with the other mourners. No two funerals are the same.

Who should speak at the funeral?

You or family members may decide you want to do a reading at the service. A funeral can be an overwhelming occasion, so share the wording with your officiant who will be ready to take over should emotion render you unable to continue.

So I print order of services for the funeral?

Your Funeral Director will be able to arrange to print orders of service for you.  Should you want to type your own orders of service and have them printed, then this is perfectly fine too. Some people like to include a photo of their loved one, so now is the time to think about what image you would like to share.

How do I choose photos for display at the funeral?

Whilst looking for a photo for the order of service, you might also like to share with the mourners some images showing the person’s life from childhood to present day.   These are generally also placed next to the flowers at the end of the service for everyone to view.

What Funeral transportation should I arrange?

There are two types of funeral transportation to consider – that of your loved one and that of the chief mourners.

As well as a motor hearse, you may have the option of a horse-drawn carriage to transport the casket.

Will you ask the Funeral Director to provide official cars to take you to the ceremony, or will you and your family make your own way to the service location?

Should I choose a florist or charity for donations?

Increasingly people choose to make donations to a charity, however flowers are still an important part of the service.  Be it traditional or contemporary, you have what you want and ensure you communicate your decision to all attending the service.

How do I decide on a gravestone or marker & inscription?

If you need a gravestone, check with the graveyard what is allowed, some have restrictions on stone colour and wording.  Prices for gravestones and memorial plaques differ, these are not placed on the day of internment so you can take time to shop around.

Who should I choose to be pallbearers?

There may be offers from family members, and in the case of a military funeral the pallbearers might be decided fro you, but as an experienced funeral celebrant, I would always suggest you leave this to the professionals so that all runs smoothly on the day.

What should I prepare for after funeral refreshments?

Will you have a get together after to share memories and raise a glass to your loved-one? If so, remember to add this at the end of your order of service or ask your celebrant to announce it at the start.

This is not an exhaustive list to planning a funeral, but the most important thing is that you have now made a start.

Remember, there is no wrong or right way to commemorate your loved one, whatever feels comfortable to you IS the correct way. Just as no two people are the same, so the service that remembers them is different too.

Further information on green burials please see:

The Good Funeral Guide

The Woodland Burial Trust

Natural Endings

Dying Matters Coping with Bereavement

Death and Dying Abroad

Come over and read our ultimate guide to a celebrant led funeral here.


drop us your email and we'll send you beautiful ideas to inspire your perfect celebration

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Please check the required field.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

If you enjoyed this, check these out...

Should You Take Young Children to Funerals?
Deciding whether to take young children to funerals can be a difficult choice for many parents and guardians. This decision involves considering the child's emotional well-being, their understanding of death,...
Read more > about Should You Take Young Children to Funerals?
How To Recognise Missing Relatives In Your Ceremony
Missing relatives can leave a huge hole in your ceremony plans. Whether it be that they just can't make it for a number of reasons or that they are no...
Read more > about How To Recognise Missing Relatives In Your Ceremony
Funeral Reading Ideas: Watching For The Kingfisher by Ann Lewin
Our funeral reading ideas are here to help you choose a loving way to say goodbye and to help personalise your ceremonies. Today's reading has been chosen by celebrant Fiona...
Read more > about Funeral Reading Ideas: Watching For The Kingfisher by Ann Lewin