This Checklist for Funeral Arrangements Makes the Process Part of a Difficult Time Go Smoothly

funeral planning checklist

We know how difficult it is to lose a beloved family member or friend. The responsibility of funeral planning can be challenging and there are many decisions to make.

When you’re overcome with grief, these tasks can seem overwhelming. We’ve compiled the following funeral planning checklist to guide you through the process. It provides a look at the key facets of funeral planning so that you will know what to expect and can ensure that nothing is overlooked.


  • Does a prearranged funeral plan exist?
    If you’re the legal representative of the person who passed away, you likely know whether they had a prearranged funeral plan in place. If you are not the designated representative, you’ll need to contact that person first. If a plan exists, it will provide direction on how to proceed with the funeral arrangements. Even if your loved one simply wrote down their preferences and wishes, you will want to gather that information for the funeral planning meeting.


  • Select a funeral home.
    If the deceased didn’t designate a funeral provider, you will need to choose a funeral home and schedule time with a funeral director. These experienced professionals help grieving families plan and carry out funeral services. If you don’t have a funeral home in mind, you may want to ask trusted family members and friends for their recommendations. During your meeting and selection process, ensure that you are comfortable with the services, amenities, pricing, and quality of care you are receiving.


  • Schedule a funeral arrangement meeting with your selected provider.
    The arrangement meeting is the time when the details for the funeral are decided. It represents the crux of the planning process, although there is still much to attend to even after this meeting. As you prepare for the funeral arrangement consultation, think about the following:
    • What documents are required and where are they located?
      Many pieces of key information will be needed for this meeting, so begin assembling them, including:
      • Death certificate details such as your loved one’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 obituary)
      • Military discharge papers (for a veteran, if applicable)
      • Social Security number
      • Life insurance policies
  • Who will be there to support you?
    It is often helpful to have a close friend or family member there for emotional support and to take notes.

  • What elements should be included in the funeral?
    This involves many considerations, such as:
    • Is burial or cremation preferred?
    • What are your family traditions?
    • Do you have specific cultural customs that you would like to honor?
    • If the departed was in the service or a veteran, will you have a military funeral service?
    • What religious rites are required?
    • What kind of funeral, burial, or memorial will best honor your loved one’s personality and values?

Whether you are seeking a traditional faith-based funeral followed by a cemetery burial, or a vibrant celebration of life followed by a fireworks display, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services specializes in creating personalized memorials that reflect the wishes of you and your departed loved one.

  • Make key decisions.
    Funeral planning involves many choices. It’s helpful to know in advance some of the decisions that will need to be made during your arrangement meeting. These 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.
    • Arrange transportation: A hearse is needed to 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 or repast for guests so they can gather following the funeral. If you are hosting a reception, you will need to select a location, such as a hall or a restaurant, and make arrangements for refreshments. Many options exist for all types of budgets, and your funeral director will be able to assist you in planning this event.


  • Address other miscellaneous decisions.
    In addition to the details that must be ironed out at the arrangement meeting, there are a number of additional considerations, such as:
    • 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 speakers, such as who will deliver the eulogy
    • Select scriptures and/or readings for the service
    • Gather items for a memento display or memorial board, if applicable
    • Choose forms of media if you are having a video produced
    • Select charitable contributions for memorials in memory of the deceased, if desired


  • Make cemetery arrangements.
    A cemetery deed proves ownership of the gravesite. If the departed didn’t purchase a plot and you are planning a burial, you will need to secure interment.
    • Make arrangements for the opening and closing of the grave
    • Secure endowment care, which provides for the general maintenance of the gravesite
    • Arrange the graveside committal service, if applicable
    • Choose a grave marker and epitaph

As you can see, funeral planning can be complex and filled with decisions. This guide is intended to give you an idea of the process and help you prepare. It may seem like a lot of information, but with some forethought and planning, it is actually very manageable.


Please know that you are not alone at this challenging time. If you need additional assistance or have questions, the compassionate staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is here for you. Please reach out to us 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, 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

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