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Task: Learn How To Plan a Traditional Funeral & Burial

This article on personal planning is provided by Everplans — The web's leading resource for planning and organizing your life. Create, store and share important documents that your loved ones might need. Find out more about Everplans »

traditional funeral rose on headstone

If you’re going the traditional funeral and burial route it requires the most coordination so everything goes according to plan.

If you’ve made arrangements, like you already own a plot, does your family know? Even if you’ve never considered pre-planning, these five steps are what you need to know if you want to make it happen.

Step 1

Find a funeral home you want to use and check it out.

  • If there’s a trusted funeral home for family and friends in your city or town then this could be an easy decision to make.
  • You may have attended a funeral and liked the people who worked at that home and how the place was run.
  • They could be closely affiliated with your religion or beliefs.
  • The price might be right compared to other places in the area.

Never feel beholden to a funeral home just because they may check off one or multiple boxes above. You may have a good impression of a place and feel differently after meeting with them. Shop around town until you’re comfortable with a place and get a price from each one you visit. The funeral industry can be very competitive, and you might be able to use information from one funeral home to get a better rate at another. Hey, a deal’s a deal.

Step 2

Once you find a funeral home you like, start discussing the following options with their funeral director.

  • Type of service: Will it be a traditional, religious-based ceremony, or something more secular? Will it be open to everyone, or just to family and close friends?
  • Location of service: Will it take place at a house of worship, the funeral home, or another location?
  • Burial plot: Where will your final resting place be? This also includes if you’re being cremated and want the ashes buried.

Step 3

Discuss cemetery arrangements. Typically, the funeral director will be able to help you find a cemetery or work with a cemetery you’ve already chosen.

  • Find a cemetery: Location, religion, and the environment are factors to consider when choosing a cemetery, as are vacancy and price.
  • Decide if you want multiple plots: Are you also buying plots for other family members as well? If you are, you’ll want to find plots or mausoleum spaces that are together.
  • Visit the cemetery: Take a look at the grounds and see if they’re well maintained. Inspect the plot you’re buying and take the opportunity to ask any and all questions before you sign the paperwork and put money down.

Step 4

Get price quotes from the funeral director regarding the goods and services you’ll need for the burial. It’s the law for them to provide you with a General Price List, or GPL, to inform you of all the costs. This may include

  • A Casket: These come in a variety of styles and prices, which you can purchase from the funeral home or from a mass retailer like Amazon or Walmart, which can be much cheaper.
  • An Outer Burial Container: The cemetery will likely require a grave liner (less expensive) or burial vault (more expensive), which supports the soil around the casket.
  • A Headstone or Grave Marker: This will have your name, date of birth and death, and can include personal information; there are many different types, which you can buy from a funeral home, cemetery, or retailer.
    • Be aware that cemeteries can reject headstones or markers if they violate any of their policies or guidelines; it’s best to get approval from your chosen burial site before purchasing one from somewhere else.

If you want to have a Green Burial you need to choose a cemetery specializing in eco-friendly burials, which often requires a biodegradable (or green) casket, but you won’t need an outer burial container.

Step 5

Decisions to make regarding the funeral service.

  • Choosing an officiant: If the service is held at a place of worship, the religious leader will likely lead the service. Otherwise, anyone you choose can be the one in charge.
  • Choose participants: There are many ways for friends and family to participate, either as pallbearers, a person delivering a eulogy or reading, singing songs or playing music, or offering other suitable tributes.
  • Make a guest list: You can write down the names and contact information of specific people you would like to attend so the person managing the service knows to invite them (or, if you’re really thinking ahead, make a note of it in your contacts). Otherwise, let your family know if it should be open to anyone who wants to attend or only for close friends and family.
  • Design other aspects: Let your family know how you’d like the service to look and feel. Choose flowers if you want them, music, prayers, poems, and other personal touches.
  • Photo time: You should share flattering photos of yourself -- or at least ones that you approve of -- to be used for memorialization purposes. If there are photos of yourself you don’t like, make it clear you don’t want them displayed.

You’re probably wondering about the cost. A standard funeral and burial can be around $7,000-$10,000, but that can easily be much higher depending on location and products chosen. Just like a wedding, before you realize it you’re spending double or triple the amount you thought you would. In a separate task we cover the many ways in which you can prepay, 

but for now just focus on what you want. We have this Pre-Planning A Funeral worksheet that can walk you through everything we just covered. Download it and start filling it out.

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