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Funeral Planning Quick Guide

Although we knew our loved one was ill, we did not know the severity. We were told cancer was back but the specificities were still to be uncovered. Within two weeks, all the unknowns and questions plaguing our minds were answered. There was no cure. She wasn't coming home.

Unexpected loss came with the sudden realization that we had no idea what to do post transition (or when to do it). It was our first funeral to plan as adult children. This guide is for the newbies like us scrambling to figure it out. You're not alone.



Upon the passing of your loved one, contact information for the mortuary of choice will be requested. Don't be alarmed if this happens within minutes. It's okay to ask for more time to gather your thoughts and shop around. Hospital staff can also assist in providing a local list. A mortuary is needed to transfer your loved one and assist with final arrangements. Prices will vary and transportation fees may apply. I highly encourage price comparison and if possible, find one in advance. Funerals are a costly experience, especially when settling on the first hospital recommendation, or find.

Most mortuaries offer full service funeral/burial services. They offer cremation, urns, coffins, chapel hours for viewings, and stationary such as funeral cards and programs. You do not have to buy all from the mortuary. Hence, the purpose of this post.


If you're opting for a traditional burial, a cemetery plot will need to be purchased. If you're opting for cremation, interment of ashes refers to the urn being buried in the ground or placed in a columbarium, which will also need to be purchased. If you're a veteran or spouse of a veteran, check your local VA memorial for special pricing.


If your loved one has a religious affirmation, a church within their faith will need to be contacted. Please note that you do not have to have a viewing and you do not need to utilize the mortuary chapel at all. Being that our loved one requested cremation and no viewing, we opted for a church service. We met with our church funeral director in advance to select liturgy, music and work out details such as readers. They allowed us to play a memorial video before Mass and ensured we had ten to fifteen minutes for our eulogy. Our pastor also accompanied us to the cemetery for the Rite of Committal in which prayer, and a small gathering in the memorial chapel in which family memories were shared.

A fee or a monetary donation may apply per custom.


We purchased an urn through the mortuary because we did not think we had enough time to order one. However; it took a solid three weeks for them to give our loved one back to us. We probably could have ordered one with express shipping had we known how long it would take. If cremation is what you seek, browse online first. At least you have an idea what they cost before meeting with funeral coordinators. My father-in-law opted to buy his own urn while we were planning my mother-in-law's memorial. Again, if possible consider purchasing in advance.


A little embarrassing to admit, but I panicked most about flowers. Although multiple relatives said they would bring or send flowers, I worried about flowers the week leading up to the funeral. I suppose it's custom to send flowers but I truly didn't know that. I also felt the need to purchase something of our own. Especially knowing our loved one didn't like roses. She absolutely thought they were overrated. I couldn't ignore that sentiment. Cremation also meant we had an urn to display and limited space at the cemetery. Most funeral flowers are massive designs targeted toward burials. Although urn wreaths exist, they very much prefer roses and the colors red and white. We opted for a bright and colorful arrangement that we felt matched her essence. Unknowingly, the flowers, urn, photos, church and slideshow coordinated perfectly. It was our last funeral purchase, and I am so grateful I went with my gut on this one. I hope she loved it. It truly was beautiful. If you look closely, you can see a monarch butterfly in the middle of the arrangement. This feature was a bonus they added and it meant the world to me. When she transitioned, nurses placed a butterfly photo on the door. Why I noticed is beyond me but butterflies now hold a special place in my heart. I see her when I see them.

Memorial Stationary (Funeral Cards)

Let me get straight to the point here, I don't like mortuary stationary. The funeral home had a subpar selection for triple/quadruple the prices we found online. I felt like we could design something better online or purchase on a site like Etsy. I ended up picking a minimalist stock card design on Zazzle that allowed me to customize with my own photo and poem. We purchased 100 cards for $20. They took a full week to arrive. Take shipping time into consideration when ordering/ planning. I strongly recommend customizing your own stationary. The quality of product received was ten times better than the folded paper options presented.


This may be a given for some but if you're inexperienced like us, funerals are not likely to be held during the winter holiday season. We had to wait and schedule our services past the first of the year (there was a wait for the church and the cemetery). Reflecting back, it provided ample time to plan and create something memorable for our family. We were able to take our time and do one thing at a time.


What is a eulogy? In short, it's a remembrance speech. Being that we were not hosting a viewing, our church allotted time for a eulogy after the homily. What to say and who is to share it, is a decision to be made ahead of time. I know loss is difficult. Writing and expressing oneself isn't an easy task under such circumstances. If you can't do it, I understand. However, I strongly encourage every single person to try. Share the good, the fun and express your love. Keep it simple if need be. If you absolutely can't, ask a friend or relative to help.


A memorial slideshow is simply a tribute to your loved one. In my opinion, it's like telling their life story through song and photo. Include an array of photos throughout the years, baby, child, young adult to the most current. Ultimately what you pick is a personal choice. As well as song selection. I recommend taking your loved one's taste in music into consideration though. We knew she loved country music, so song selection was fairly easy for us. The songs selected helped us convey the story we wanted to tell (her story). In total, the video was slightly over 17 minutes. We played it twice while guest arrived. I know it's sad, but again, happy times occurred, consider the joy. For reference we selected, Livin on Love by Alan Jackson, Forever and Ever, Amen by Randy Travis, X's and O's by Trisha Yearwood, My Next Thirty Years by Tim McGraw and If Tomorrow Never Comes by Garth Brooks. We created our slideshow on Canva. If possible, (for quality control) create your own. You can use any video editing platform. Some funeral homes even offer this service for a fee.


Most funeral homes and churches have photo easels available. If you prefer to buy your own, here's a link. You can frame large photos, create collages, or have oversized posters made online. Again, Zazzle has amazing customizable options, as does Etsy. You can also visit local print/photo shops to see what they have available. We opted to use a smaller framed photo she had in her home as well as an 11x14 framed photo to display alongside the urn.


Every family is different. My Mother's family has always been active in planning and organizing pot lucks for receptions. I kind of assumed it was tradition. It's not. This is something you'll need to discuss and plan as a family. We opted to host a gathering at my in-laws' and ordered from a local eatery.


This chapter of life has been extremely difficult. Loss is a forever journey. It's never quite over. My hope is that we can look at funerals in new light and view them as true end of life celebrations in which we celebrate our loved ones in all their glory. Let their essence be known and present. ♡

Xx Dee

Related Post: Learning to Cope with Grief & Loss

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