Two white roses laying beside a small box of candles in a funeral home

How To Plan A Funeral: The Complete Guide

By: Team Earth

Jan 15, 2024 | End-of-life Logistics

8 min read

Whether you’re planning your own funeral or arranging one for a loved one, the process can be highly emotional and involves many considerations.

We’ve compiled this complete guide to simplify these decisions.

Why is Funeral Planning Important?

Nobody wants to think about funeral planning, but it is essential for a respectful farewell and closure. Planning ahead offers several benefits:

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits in planning a funeral ahead of time:

  • Emotional Relief: Preparing in advance allows loved ones to focus on the grieving process and final goodbyes, free from the burden of making arrangements during a difficult time.
  • Meeting Your Wishes: Whether it’s a burial, cremation, or a green funeral, pre-planning ensures your preferences are respected.
  • Avoiding Conflict: Clear plans minimize conflicts and disputes between family members.
  • Financial Planning: Planning ahead can ensure the funeral aligns with your budget and reduces the financial stress on your loved ones.

Choosing a funeral method

A field of purple lavenders

While traditional funeral methods are still popular, people now understand the severe environmental issues they cause.

As environmental concerns grow, green funerals are becoming a sought-after alternative to traditional methods. These eco-friendly options offer a natural farewell while benefiting the environment.

Natural burial

In contrast to traditional burial, a natural burial uses no embalming chemicals. Embalming fluids use formaldehyde, which can be toxic to the environment, while standard caskets use natural resources. In natural burials, shrouds or biodegradable caskets are usually used in place of traditional caskets.

Human composting

An increasingly popular choice, human composting is an eco-friendly process that gently transforms a body into nutrient-rich soil. This soil can be used for scattering or planting, or for conservation purposes, providing a meaningful, life-affirming memorial for loved ones.

When selecting a funeral method, consider both the environmental impacts your funeral will have and the alignment with your own personal values.

Paperwork and Other Legal Aspects of Funeral Arrangements

Once you know the type of funeral you want, it’s time to consider legalities and get your paperwork in order. Doing this in advance ensures your loved ones can fulfill your final wishes and focus on celebrating your life. Understanding how to obtain a death certificate is crucial, as it permits the funeral director to proceed with arrangements.

Documenting your pre-arrangements

When planning ahead, it’s essential to document your last wishes, to allow your loved ones to access your plans from your funeral home or your lawyer. This documentation guarantees your wishes are honored and eases the burden on your family. Prepaid funerals further simplify this process as all details are predetermined. If you decide to plan a prepaid funeral, the funeral home will have the information ready for your family.

Understanding the law behind of your preferred funeral

While green funerals continue to rise in popularity, they are not yet legal in every state. Human composting, on the other hand, is currently legal in a select number of states. If you choose this option but reside outside these states, arranging transport over state lines may be necessary. The green funeral home will be able to help you navigate this process, including applying for a burial transit permit.

Selecting a funeral home

Choosing the right funeral home is crucial, as it will be responsible for fulfilling your final wishes and ensuring comfort for your family and friends. So, what does a funeral home do? Well, in simple terms, funeral homes coordinate the ceremony, handle all the paperwork, and support your loved ones during the farewell. Select a funeral home that offers reassurance and is open to addressing your queries.

Arranging the funeral

The digital revolution means visiting a funeral home is no longer necessary (if you’d prefer not to). You can arrange a funeral online, giving you more flexibility.

However, if you want to opt for online arrangements, verify that the funeral home's online services accommodate detailed planning and specific requests.

Planning an unexpected funeral

Planning a funeral on short notice can be overwhelming and emotional. While some funeral homes offer pre-need services for advance planning, dealing with sudden arrangements can be challenging without predefined wishes.

Although there are many steps to planning an unexpected funeral, Earth specializes in supporting families through these times and ensuring meaningful goodbyes through the process of human composting.

Open and transparent communication

Good communication is key to planning any funeral — as one may have a lot of questions about the process, paperwork, and pricing. A funeral home should be easy to contact and their staff should be friendly and knowledgeable. Some funeral homes offer tours, either virtual or in-person, allowing families to ask their funeral directors questions they may have about the arrangements.

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Planning The Service

Planning a funeral service can be a healing process, allowing a meaningful farewell. Whether you want to be actively involved in planning your own service or leave it to your loved ones, there are several aspects to consider.

Creating an obituary

Obituaries are formal notices of a person’s death, informing family, friends, and the community about any funeral arrangements so they can pay their last respects. More than just an announcement, it's an opportunity to celebrate the person's life and legacy.

These can create a lot of meaning and allow family members to express their sorrow and grief, as well as share their appreciation for and memories of the departed. Digital obituaries offer a lasting tribute for future generations.

Planning the service

Religious and cultural preferences play a significant role in funeral planning. Whether you desire a religious ceremony or a secular one, ensure the funeral home can accommodate these needs. If a religious service is preferred, you may need to speak with an appropriate officiant.

The personal touches

A funeral can be personalized through elements like music, readings, and floral arrangements, reflecting the loved one's personality and wishes. Discuss with your green funeral home about incorporating these elements.

When thinking about the funeral, it’s best to consider whether you want to include the following elements:

  • Floral Arrangements
  • Order of Service
  • Readings and Poems
  • Music
  • Charity Donations
  • Eulogies
  • Funeral Reception

My loved one doesn’t want a funeral

Funerals are a tradition in many cultures - but what if a loved one doesn’t want a funeral? You can still arrange a natural burial or human composting without holding a formal service. Some families choose to have an informal memorial as a way to honor their loved one instead. Knowing the alternatives can help you plan.

Memorializing a loved one

Creating a memorial can significantly aid the grieving process, offering a way to cherish memories. Human composting, for instance, allows families to use the resultant soil for planting trees or gardens as living memorials. Digital memorials are also an enduring option, preserving the legacy for future generations.

A bridge leading to a green and lush rainforest

Final Thoughts

Planning funeral arrangements in advance ensures that your loved ones understand your last wishes and can focus on saying goodbye when the time comes. If you’re planning a funeral for someone without predefined wishes in place, following the steps in this guide can make the process a little less stressful.

Our human composting services offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional cremation or burial, allowing a harmonious return to the natural world. At the end of our process, families choose how much soil they would like returned, to scatter or plant, and the rest is used to help restore our beautiful conservation land.

For further assistance with human composting or funeral planning, our team is here to help. You can get an instant price and begin planning your funeral today, ensuring peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.

Refer to our funeral checklist below to help provide a structured approach with any arrangements.

The Earth Funeral Checklist

  • Check the will for information about any last wishes and prepaid plans.
  • Contact the funeral home, or look for suitable homes if your loved one hasn’t planned ahead.
  • Speak to family members and ensure they’re involved with the planning process.
  • Liaise with the funeral home to obtain death certificates and arrange a burial transit permit if necessary.
  • Set the date and time and create an obituary to inform friends and family about the funeral.
  • Arrange a religious ceremony if required.
  • Decide whether you’ll need transportation and book it if necessary.
  • Create the order of service (your funeral home will also help you).
  • Pick any music or readings for the service.
  • Decide on how you plan to memorialize your loved one.

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