Losing a loved one can be one of the most difficult experiences anyone will go through. The process of planning a funeral adds another layer of stress and anxiety to an already overwhelming situation.
That’s where funeral directors come in. These professionals hold the knowledge and expertise to help families through the difficult process of planning a funeral.
One of the most important tools that funeral directors have at their disposal is a comprehensive funeral planning checklist or a funeral planning worksheet.
This checklist that our team at Gather has built can help your staff stay organized and ensure that all necessary arrangements are made for a traditional burial. In this blog post, we’ll walk through the steps of a funeral planning checklist that funeral directors can use to make this process a little easier for families:
The first step in planning a funeral is to identify individuals that will be coming to the arrangement conference, invitees and schedule that meeting for a time that will work for everyone involved.
The funeral service is the heart of any traditional burial. Funeral directors should work with the family to plan the service in detail. Oftentimes, families are seeking guidance or direction with planning their loved one’s services, so don’t be afraid to try new ideas or look into creative ways to honor every loved one.
Funeral directors should then meet with the family to decide the type of service that will be held, the location of the funeral service, and discuss coordination with any other third parties that will need to involve. Other areas of consideration include:
After you’ve started planning the service, you’ll need to plan the burial. Funeral directors should work with the family to select a cemetery and arrange for a gravesite. Be sure to plan transportation to and from the cemetery – you may also need to coordinate with motor escorts for the funeral procession.
It’s also important to make sure that all necessary permits and paperwork are in order for burial.
The family can discuss these with their funeral director in person at the arrangement. Or if they choose, they can also provide vital statistics of their loved one before or after the arrangement in a funeral management platform like Gather.
Important vital statistics that need to be collected when planning a funeral service for a loved one include:
Next, you’ll want to make sure that all necessary paperwork is in order. That paperwork typically includes a few important funeral planning forms. We’ve linked a handful of templates or examples below, but please note that some of them may be state-specific:
Following the funeral service, many families choose to have a reception or gathering. Funeral directors should help the family choose a location, help to arrange for catering, and plan any necessary transportation, or accommodations if the reception will be at the funeral facility. This can be a time for families to come together, share memories, and support one another.
Selecting a casket is an important step in funeral planning, no matter what kind of service is chosen. Funeral directors should offer a variety of options to the family, including different materials and styles.
Families should also be informed of any potential costs associated with different caskets via a physical GPL or digital GPL so they can make an informed decision.
Additionally, it’s essential for families to know that many cemeteries will require a vault, our outer burial container, for burial, so it’s pertinent to discuss their options with them ahead of time. There are several vault suppliers that can help supply specific types of vaults for your funeral home and the families that you serve.
Flowers and decorations are a special part of any traditional burial. Funeral directors should work with the family to select appropriate floral arrangements and any personal decorations that reflect the personality of the deceased. It’s also important to make sure that the venue is decorated appropriately, including any necessary signage or seating arrangements.
When it’s possible, more information will need to be collected from the family to properly plan a loved one’s services. With that said, families sometimes need time to think more about the details of their loved one’s funeral. If these items weren’t collected at the arrangement conference, there is still time before the service to get them.
Collaborate with the family to write the loved one’s obituary. Some families may be busy or overwhelmed, so they may need assistance with writing or getting started on the obituary. If you’ve already completed the death certificate, you can use that information to get started.
Work with the family to collect photos of the loved one. Once you have photos, you’re able to create a unique Remember Page, a slideshow, a photo book, and much more that you can provide to the family so they can honor their loved ones forever.
A funeral director is responsible for coordinating the collection of clothing and decorations for a decedent’s services. This may include contacting family members to determine their preferences and arranging for the items to be delivered to the funeral home. The director must also ensure that the clothing and decorations are appropriate for the type of service and reflect the wishes of the decedent and their family.
Pallbearers play an important role in a traditional burial. Funeral directors should work with the family to select individuals who are willing and able to carry the casket. It’s important to choose individuals who are close to the deceased and can handle the emotional and physical weight of the task.
This may include selecting readings or music, arranging for eulogies or speeches, and coordinating with any other individuals who will be participating in the service or speaking during the service.
In addition to the arrangement conference and the information that needs to be collected, there are a few other tasks that you’ll want to consider coordinating or completing prior to the actually funeral service.
You’ll want to coordinate with third parties such as cemeteries, churches, florists, vault companies and any other local vendors that your funeral home works with directly to plan floral arrangements, the venue, transportation, and much more.
If the loved one is a veteran, you may need to apply for VA military funeral honors and benefits (such as burial flags). As mentioned above, you may be required to complete or provide the following forms based on specific family requests:
Additionally, you’ll want to design and print funeral stationery such as funeral programs to be handed out at the loved one’s funeral service. The family may also want to create a memorial or tribute slideshow with photos of their loved one. Be sure to have this all prepared prior to the actual funeral services.
In addition to coordinating tasks before the service, you’ll also want to consider some events that take place during the funeral service.
If possible, provide grief resources to the family to help them through the loss of a loved one. Additionally, you may find opportunities to comfort the family during the services.
Be mindful and respectful of their space, but don’t be afraid to provide emotional support to the family with a few thoughtful words or a hug if they’re okay with it. In light of this advice, please be mindful that every individual handles grief differently.
Additionally, consider seating during the services – also plan whether or not the family wants to walk in during the procession or already be seated.
Oftentimes, there is a lot of traffic that will gather in your funeral home’s parking lot – as a result, you may want to consider positioning parking signs (or a funeral service associate) in a way that keeps the flow of traffic smooth when families and friends are gathering for a loved one’s services. Reserving spaces for the funeral coach or immediate family might also be necessary. This helps reduce stress on the day of the service.
Families may request additional amenities like stable internet connection (for live streaming or tribute videos), food, and water. This situation varies from funeral home to funeral home. If you have time and the resources, families will appreciate the thoughtful touch to include these amenities during the service.
In any funeral planning checklist that you use, be mindful of what follows after a funeral service has concluded. Below are a few tasks to consider helping the family through.
In the funeral planning process, you can also help guide families through aftercare – this includes tasks that the family wouldn’t typically think of, such as finding life insurance, freezing credit, or memorializing social media accounts.
Some families may experience extreme stress when planning their loved one’s services because they didn’t know what their loved one would’ve wanted. If you run into this situation, it may be worthwhile to discuss pre-need funeral planning as an option. If the family is interested, work to schedule a short meeting to discuss their options with pre-planning.
Extra tip: after a funeral service has concluded, we recommend getting in touch with the family to see if they’d be open to leaving your funeral home an online review, if they feel comfortable to do so. This helps boost your visibility so you can help even more families in your community.
In Gather, your staff is able to create a custom funeral planning checklist for each type of service so that every case is organized from start to finish.
Funeral homes that use Gather experience an average 50% decrease in administrative time spent per case, allowing funeral directors to get back to what matters most: helping families honor their loved ones in the best way possible.
With our collaborative case management platform, we’ve worked hard to make this process as easy and stress-free as possible for both funeral service professionals and families. If you’re a funeral home or crematory and you’re interested in seeing how Gather can help your team and families, book a free demo with us today.