Our Checklist for Funeral Arrangements: Seven Essential Guidelines to Help You Through Bereavement

funeral planning checklist

A checklist for funeral arrangements is an essential tool for those who have recently suffered a loss.


Losing a beloved family member or friend is undeniably difficult. The responsibility of funeral planning can be challenging, and there are countless decisions to be made. Amid grief, these tasks can seem even more overwhelming. Please read on for a helpful checklist for funeral arrangements that will guide you through the process. It provides a look at seven key facets of funeral planning so that you will know what to expect and can ensure that nothing is overlooked.


1. Determine if a pre-arranged funeral plan exists.

If you’re the legal representative of the person who passed on, you probably know whether they have a funeral plan in place. If you are not the designated representative, you’ll need to contact them. If a plan exists, it will provide direction on how to proceed with the funeral arrangements. In many cases, no formal plan is in place. Even if your loved one simply jotted down their death care preferences or wishes, assemble that information and bring it with you to the funeral planning meeting.


2. Choose a funeral home.

Did your loved one designate a funeral provider? If not, identify several possibilities and meet with each funeral director. You may also want to ask trusted family members and friends for their recommendations. These experienced professionals help grieving families plan and carry out funeral services. During your meetings, determine how comfortable you are with the services, amenities, pricing, and quality of care so you can make the best choice.


3. Schedule and prepare for the funeral arrangement meeting.

Once you have selected a provider, the next step is to set up an arrangement meeting during which all of the details of the funeral will be determined. It represents the crux of the planning process, although there is still much to attend to afterward. Think about the following as you prepare for the funeral arrangement consultation:

  • What documents are required and where are they located?
    Many pieces of key information will be needed for this meeting, including:
    • Death certificate details such as the departed’s full name; Social Security number; date and place of birth; address at the time of death; marital status and surviving spouse’s name, if applicable; Veteran’s discharge papers (DD-214), if applicable; Father’s name; Mother’s full name, including maiden name; place of death; highest level of education and occupation
    • Recent photograph (for cosmetic purposes if a viewing is planned and for the obituary)
    • Military discharge papers (for a veteran, if applicable)
    • Life insurance policies
  • Who will attend the meeting with you?
    It can be helpful to have a close friend or family member there for emotional support. There’s also a lot to cover so it is wise to bring someone along to ask questions and take notes.


4. What kind of funeral or memorial service will best honor your loved one’s personality and values?

This involves a number of key considerations, such as:

  • Is burial or cremation preferred?
  • Do you have specific cultural customs or family traditions that you want to honor?
  • If the departed was in the armed forces or was a veteran, will you have a military funeral service?
  • What religious rites are required?


5. Consider the funeral elements and logistics.

Funeral planning involves many choices. You and your funeral director will work together to iron out the specifics. Some of the details you will need to determine include:

  • The location of the funeral or memorial: You may hold the service at a religious location like a church, or you may select a place that held special meaning for the deceased.
  • Casket and burial vault selection, if applicable: If burial is chosen, you will need to select a casket and decide whether it will be open or closed at the funeral.
  • Select accessories and grooming: Choose clothing, jewelry, and glasses for the departed and discuss cosmetology and hairdressing if an open casket is planned
  • For cremation, select an urn or niche space and a cremation container: An urn is a large vase used to hold the ashes of a cremated body. A niche space is a recessed compartment in a wall where an urn can be placed. A cremation container is usually made of wood for use at the funeral service and is later cremated with the body.
  • Create an obituary: This announcement of passing is usually posted on the funeral home’s website and may also appear in the newspaper if you choose.
  • Visitation details: The visitation affords time for the family of the departed to be available to friends and other family members who wish to express their sympathies.
  • Transportation: A hearse will transport the body of the deceased from the funeral service to the cemetery. A limousine or other car transports close family members from the funeral, to the cemetery, and to the post-funeral reception.
  • Organize reception details, if applicable: It is customary to have a reception for guests following the funeral. If you are hosting this gathering, you will need to select a location, such as a hall or a restaurant, and make arrangements for refreshments. Options exist for all types of budgets and your funeral director will be able to assist you in planning this event.


6. Address other ancillary decisions.

In addition to the particulars that must be ironed out at the arrangement meeting, there are a number of participants to identify and other items to attend to. For example:

  • Choose and schedule a clergy member or officiant 
  • Select pallbearers to assist in carrying the coffin, if applicable
  • Schedule instrumentalists and vocalists and choose the music
  • Select speaker/s to deliver the eulogy
  • Select scriptures or readings for the service
  • Choose media elements if you are having a video produced
  • Select charitable contributions for memorials, if desired


7. Make cemetery arrangements, if applicable.

If your loved one didn’t purchase a plot and you are planning a burial, you will need to secure a gravesite. In addition to the burial plot, interment considerations include:

  • Arrangements for the opening and closing of the grave
  • Endowment care, which provides for the general maintenance of the gravesite
  • Arranging the graveside committal service, if applicable
  • Choosing a grave marker and the epitaph

As you can see, funeral planning requires many decisions. This checklist for funeral arrangements is just a portion of the considerations our caring funeral professionals can help you address. It is intended to give you an overview of the process and help you prepare for the arrangement meeting.


When you need to discuss funeral arrangements for a beloved friend or family member, we are here to help. If you have questions or require assistance, please reach out to our compassionate staff anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, grief counseling, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit www.ewsmithfs.com.

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