The following should be considered as you prepare for the funeral:
Cremation or Burial?
This is the crucial decision that will inform all your subsequent arrangements. In many cases the deceased will have let their preference be known. Once a decision has been made, you will be able to select a venue for the service, and agree the order of events on the day.
See Funeral Services
Setting the Date
The death must be registered before you can consider the funeral. Be aware that any death that involves a coroner (if there is an enquiry or post-mortem) may involve a substantial delay before the date can be set.
Also be aware that if you have specific religious requirements for the ceremony, this may delay the funeral, as you may have to wait for a venue or officiant to become available.
Allow enough time for more far-flung friends and relations to make travel and overnight plans.
It is increasingly normal for the funeral director to look after the deceased's body until the funeral. Discuss this with them. If relatives wish to view the body, this can be arranged by prior appointment with the funeral director.
If you want to have an open coffin, or you want the body to be laid out in your home before the funeral, you will need to discuss embalming options with an undertaker.
Review the Budget
Establish whether the deceased has set aside money for the funeral, cremation or burial.
Work out what you can afford and stick to it - it's very easy at this emotional time to spend extravagantly. You do not want worry about debts to be added to your bereavement.
Choose the Coffin
You will need to choose a coffin that you can afford, and the funeral director should have a range of styles and designs.
Be aware that you do not have to opt for a conventional wooden coffin, as a range of more 'ecological' materials and designs are available; recycled wood, cardboard, woven wicker.
Your first step is to consult with the person who you have chosen to conduct the ceremony - be it a clergyman or humanist minister - who will be able to guide you through the specific rites and order of service.
In addition, you will need to make decisions about the following:
Flowers: Will you have funeral flowers? Or will you ask guests to make a donation to a charity, and if so which one?
You will need to liaise with the undertaker, or organise with the florist, the choice of family flowers.
Music: Will you having live music at the ceremony - an organist, singers or an instrumentalist? If so, you will need to check availability before setting the date.
If you are going to play recorded music, have you made a choice? Do you need to consult friends or other relations, or borrow CDs?
If your funeral service is taking place in a church, you will need to check with a member of clergy that your musical choices are considered suitable.
Speakers: Decide who you would like to make formal addresses at the ceremony and check their willingness and availability.
If you would like the clergyman, minister or officiant to deliver the tribute, ensure that they are properly briefed.
Readings: Choose the texts you would like to be read during the service, and decide who you would like to deliver the readings. Check their availability, and - if you are opting for a church service - ensure that your choices are acceptable with the officiating member of clergy.
Private or public? Decide whether you want to restrict the number of mourners. If you do not want people to turn up unexpectedly, you should add the words 'funeral service private' to the death notice.
Order of Service Sheets: It is customary to supply a specially printed order of service sheet, with details of the readings, words of the hymns, and reference to the speakers. You will need to find a printer who can help you with this (your funeral director should be able to recommend, or organise, a suitable printer).
Transportation: The funeral director will be in charge of transporting the deceased, and will consult you about the hearse.
You will need to organise - usually with the help of the funeral director - a car to take the chief mourners to the ceremony, and possibly on to the cemetery or crematorium.
Pall Bearers: Many ceremonies do not require pall-bearers; the coffin is already in position before the mourners enter the church/chapel.
If you want the coffin to be formally carried into the church, the funeral directors can supply pall-bearers.
Alternatively, you can elect to use pall-bearers from amongst the mourners. The minimum you will need is four, possibly six.
See Funeral Services
after the service
It is normal to organise some sort of gathering (with food and drink) for the mourners. You will need to think about this reception. Will it be at your (or the deceased's) home? Will you require the more formal setting of a hotel? Do you need to use caterers?
Mourners should be told in advance that there will be a reception so that they can make appropriate plans. Alternatively, further details can be included in the Order of Service sheet.