Funeral planning checklist: Things you need to know to plan a funeral

Published: 30/1/2024

In this article:

  1. Introduction
  2. The role of funeral directors
  3. When a death occurs
  4. First funeral director meeting
  5. Preparations you can make ahead of time
  6. Funeral personalisation
  7. After the arrangement meeting
  8. The day of the funeral
  9. After the funeral

1. Introduction

A funeral is a profoundly emotional event that family and friends experience following the passing of a loved one. During what is a very difficult time, it's important to choose a funeral director who understands you. Legally, however, there is no requirement for you to use a funeral director; you might instead like to organise a celebration of life or intimate gathering to scatter ashes. Regardless of your decision, we hope our guide supports you in navigating the process of planning a funeral, offering empathy and support every step of the way.

Funeral planning checklist to honour your loved one. 9 steps to help you navigate the funeral planning process.
Funeral planning checklist to honour your loved one. 9 steps to help you navigate the funeral planning process.

2. The role of funeral directors

Funeral directors play an important role in handling the practical aspects of a funeral. Whether that be coordinating the service or guiding you on the celebratory aspects of the funeral, such as the service style, music choices and personal touches that honour the life of your loved one. A good funeral planner will work together with you to coordinate and oversee all aspects of the funeral while providing empathetic support. The below section will go into this in more detail.

3. When a death occurs

This section provides an overview of what to expect when making funeral arrangements. It's a challenging time and we hope this guide helps you understand and prepare for the process.

Death can occur anywhere and at any time. Within the first 24 hours following a death, a funeral director will typically arrange for the transfer of your loved one into their care and schedule a meeting with you to discuss the funeral arrangements.

It's a legal requirement that every death in Australia must be registered with the office of Births, Deaths & Marriages. Registration results in a formal death certificate, often necessary for legal and estate matters. If you have a funeral director, they will usually collect the personal information required for this registration and organise for you. A formal death certificate typically takes 4-5 weeks to be sent to you after registration.

Funeral planning checklist
Funeral planning checklist

4. First funeral director meeting

The first meeting with a funeral director takes approximately two hours and can take place either at your home or at one of their branches. During this meeting, the funeral director will assist you in making practical and celebratory decisions about the funeral. Various legal forms will also need to be completed. Practical and celebratory aspects to consider:

  • Determine the date and location for the funeral
  • Decide if any vehicles will be needed
  • Consider whether there will be a viewing i.e. will your loved one be embalmed?
  • Choose if you will bury, scatter or keep the ashes in an urn.
  • Choose an urn.
  • Plan for music to be included in the service
  • Decide on the presence of an audio or video presentation
  • Consider whether you'd like to advertise the death and funeral in the newspaper or online with My Tributes. Begin your tribute notice here 
  • Decide if there will be a gathering or reception following the service

RELATED ARTICLE: Questions to ask a funeral director  

During the meeting, funeral directors will document the choices you make in a contract and provide you with a cost estimate for the funeral.

The funeral planner will also ask you to provide clothing for your loved one. However, if you're unsure, and this feels too difficult at the time, you can always discuss this at a later time.

5. Preparations you can make ahead of time

  • Given the time between death and the arrangement meeting, there are some things you can prepare ahead of time  
  • Consider whether you prefer a burial or cremation for the funeral
  • Choose photos of your loved one that you'd like for the service book
  • Select a key photo to display on the coffin or memorial table
  • Gather the clothing you'd like your loved one to be dressed in
  • Contemplate the personal messages you'd like to include in newspaper notices
  • Organise who will write and deliver the eulogy  

6. Funeral personalisation

Funeral personalisation offers families an opportunity to celebrate their loved one's life in a way that truly reflects their uniqueness. By making thoughtful choices, such as selecting a coffin or casket that resonates with your loved one, incorporating personalised floral tributes and considering special items and services, you can create a meaningful and heartfelt farewell. These personalised elements not only honour the individual's life but also provide comfort and lasting memories for family and all those who gather to pay their respects.

RELATED ARTICLE: Funerals, memorials and wakes. What's the difference?

Funeral planning checklist to help you understand the process of planning a meaningful farewell.
Funeral planning checklist to help you understand the process of planning a meaningful farewell.

7. After the funeral arrangement meeting

Following the initial arrangement meeting, a funeral director will follow through on the various decisions you made together. The time spent planning and behind-the-scenes preparations will ensure the funeral they plan aligns with your wishes. Funeral Directors will likely give you follow-up phone calls to confirm or clarify any outstanding details and a general check-in to see how you are feeling.

8. The day of the funeral

On the day of the funeral, you will meet with an experienced funeral director, responsible for coordinating all aspects of the service. The director's primary focus is to ensure the service runs smoothly and provides comfort to you and your family.

9. After the Funeral  

Following the funeral, a funeral director may extend their support through a range of after-care services. Understanding that losing your loved one has been a life-changing experience, they will be empathetic and may offer an open invitation for you to contact them should you need any further assistance. An invoice for your account is normally sent to you anywhere from 7-14 days after the service.

This comprehensive guide is designed to assist grieving families in a time of emotional and practical need. We hope it helps support you during this difficult time.

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