How to Plan a Funeral: A Guide for Making Funeral Arrangements

    September 19, 2012 2 Comments

A Guide to Making Funeral Arrangements

Our best advice for those making funeral arrangements: try to make funeral decisions just as you would any other large purchases. Do your research, compare prices, and ask questions!

When you have to plan a funeral, expect dozens and dozens of decisions

It’s not easy to plan a funeral service. In addition to the expenses and emotions involved, there’s just so many decisions to make! That’s exactly why we’re providing funeral planners with the following comprehensive guide for making funeral arrangements. Our hope is to help you as you begin the funeral planning process.

Funeral Arrangements Guide

Put together your loved one’s personal information
Compile your loved one’s personal information, including full name, social security number, ethnicity, religion, residence, and birth and death information. You may also want to record the deceased’s family member information, education, military record, employment information, and accomplishments. Having this on-hand will be useful as you plan the service, take care of paperwork, prepare a eulogy, and write an obituary.

Select a funeral home for the funeral service
For as important a life event as a funeral is, and for as much as you will pay to ensure your loved one gets the care they deserve, it’s important to pick the funeral home that will best meet your needs. Finding and selecting a funeral home may be simple if you have a relationship with a specific funeral director. But if you don’t know what the funeral homes in your area offer or charge, and if you’re unsure of their service quality, consider comparing your local funeral homes for free on You may also consider asking trusted friends or advisers for recommendations or calling funeral homes regarding their prices (funeral homes are required to provide you with an itemized price list of their services over the phone as well as in-person – just ask for their “general price list”).

Specify the final disposition of the deceased
Decide whether your loved one will be buried, entombed, or cremated. Over the past few years, as the average cost of a funeral service has increased, many have opted for a cremation or direct funeral service, as those are typically less expensive than traditional burial services.

Choose a type of funeral service
A direct funeral service, whether a direct cremation or a direct burial, includes the basic funeral home and staff services (like filing death certificates, obtaining proper permits, coordinating plans with the cemetery or crematory, and filing for relevant benefits), transportation of the body, and a casket or urn.

A traditional funeral service includes the products and services of a direct funeral service with the addition of embalming and professional preparation of the body, an outer burial container (to keep the grave from sinking), a funeral ceremony (with or without the casket or urn present), and the use of a hearse. If you are opting for a cremation, or even if you are planning a burial, you may not need or want each of the services included in the traditional funeral service – talk with your funeral director about the services that make the most sense for you and your family.

A traditional-plus funeral service includes the products and services of a traditional funeral with the addition of a public visitation in which the deceased is present in an open or closed casket.

A memorial service is often added to funeral services to give family members and friends the opportunity to honor the deceased and celebrate the life of their loved one. And some families choose to hold a graveside service, often in lieu of a funeral ceremony.

As you think about the funeral service, you may want to consider cost.  For a rough sense of the funeral costs you may incur, see the breakdown of average prices below, which eFuneral calculated from over 1,000 funeral home surveys in 2012.

The average cost of a burial service:

Non-declinable basic services fee $2,205
Embalming $722
Other preparation of the body $241
Use of facilities/staff for viewing $474
Use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony $544
Hearse $325
Limousine $312
Metal casket (average charge for the most frequently purchased item) $2,295
Vault (average charge for the most frequently purchased item) $1,195
Total average cost of a funeral  $8,565


The average cost of a cremation service:

Non-declinable basic services fee $2,205
Professional Care $252
Use of facilities/staff for viewing $474
Use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony $544
Urn (average charge for the most frequently purchased item) $250
Total average cost of a funeral  $3,725


Keep in mind, the average cost of a funeral as calculated above does not include the costs associated with the purchase of a cemetery plot, a monument or headstone, or cremations. Additionally, this information does not include the costs associated with cash advance items – goods and services funeral homes buy from third-party vendors on behalf of funeral planners – that you may want for the funeral service. Cash advance items that you may select include death certificates, clergy and celebrant honorarium and/or gratuities, floral arrangements, obituaries, and musicians, among others.

Additionally, as you decide on the type of funeral service you would like, think about whether or not you would prefer an open or closed casket present during any portion of the service – this may help in your decision regarding embalming and other preparation of the body. And then think about whether or not you’d like to hold the funeral ceremony, visitation, and/or memorial service at the funeral home or at another location, like a religious institution. You should also consider the schedule of the funeral service and the type of transportation you would prefer, both for the deceased and family members. Would you prefer that the deceased be transported in a hearse or funeral van? Would you prefer that family ride together in a limousine or sedan or that they ride separately?

Select the individuals who will be part of the funeral service
If you are planning a religious ceremony, decide who will preside over the funeral service. Next, decide which other individuals may be part of the funeral service as pallbearers, readers, performers, etc. And make sure to choose someone to deliver the eulogy.

Decide what products or services you will need for the funeral service
You will need to make decisions around products and services ranging from caskets and urns to outer burial containers (which some cemeteries require) and floral arrangements. Keep in mind that you can make these purchases either directly from the funeral home or from third-parties. Ask to see all your options, as these products can range widely on their prices. For instance, an average casket costs slightly more than $2,000, but some mahogany, bronze, or copper caskets sell for as much as $10,000.

Have questions about how to plan a funeral service?

If you have any questions about this guide for making funeral arrangements or general funeral planning questions, please don’t hesitate to contact any eFuneral team member. Each of us is here to guide you every step of the way. And in case you’re wondering, all of our services are free. We will never ask you for a penny!

You can find more articles, videos, and tips relating to funeral planning at

Leah Yomtovian Roush is the Senior Manager of Strategic Development for Cleveland, Ohio-based eFuneral, a comprehensive and free online resource that enables those thinking about end-of-life to research, plan, and arrange a wide variety of funeral-related services. Leah is the editor of eFuneral's Online Resource Center, and she manages the company's marketing efforts and develops strategies for company growth. Leah also serves on the Boards of multiple non-profit organizations, helping them expand their reaches and increase their impacts.

  • neil

    I love you website! You are doing a great job of helping improve our profession. Bravo!

  • eFuneral

    Thanks for your feedback Neil! We’re always focused on helping families and individuals plan with confidence.

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