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Planning a funeral

Planning a funeral can be overwhelming, especially when you're grieving the death of a loved one. There are many details to take care of, from arranging funeral transport, to choosing music and readings for the service. This article will guide you through the process of planning a funeral service, making a difficult time a little bit easier.

How to plan a funeral service

Whether you're wondering how to plan a funeral for a loved one or you're just unsure about planning your own funeral in advance, it's important that you take your time when making any key decisions. Our Funeral Directors will help take away the stress of planning a funeral, making sure your loved one's send-off is a personal and unique celebration of their life.

This step-by-step guide will take you through the things you need to do when planning a funeral:

Planning a funeral ahead of time

While many funerals will be arranged when someone dies, an increasing number of people are choosing to pre-plan their funeral. If you’ve just lost a loved one, find out whether they had a Dignity funeral plan in place. You may discover that they have pre-paid for their funeral and documented their wishes. If not, your appointed funeral director will walk you through the process of planning a funeral.

Choose a type of service

The first step when planning a funeral is to think about what type of service you would like for your loved one. Funerals can be based around family traditions or religious preferences and can include anything you feel appropriate. Whether you choose a burial or cremation, we'll be there to help plan the funeral and make all of the arrangements on your behalf.

Pick a venue and date for the service

A big part of the funeral planning process is to decide where to hold the ceremony. A funeral service can be held in any suitable venue. Common venues to hold a service include:

  • Crematorium chapel
  • Place of worship
  • Private home
  • Village hall
  • Hotel

Find your nearest crematorium.

If you choose a religious service, the minister or officiant will guide you on what you can and can't do and can even help you to plan the service. 

You will then need to choose a date for the funeral service. This can often depend on:

  • Funeral director and crematoria availability
  • Religious beliefs
  • Family circumstances

You may find our guide on when to have a funeral useful.

If you have a date and time in mind, please contact your local Dignity Funeral Director to discuss availability.

Planning a religious funeral

Religious funerals have unique and meaningful traditions, from the funeral preparations to the service itself. Our experienced funeral directors will be familiar with planning a funeral for people from any religion, faith and background. If you're planning a religious funeral, we can make many arrangements to accommodate your religious needs as well as your loved one's wishes. Should you require, we offer facilities for ritual washing and additional religious funeral support. When planning a religious funeral, our funeral arrangers can talk you through prayers, religious funeral songs, hymns or any religious funeral poems or readings.

Planning a non-religious funeral

If your loved one didn't have any religious beliefs, we can cater for a humanist or non-religious funeral. You may choose what sort of service you would like to have at the crematorium. Whether it includes music, popular funeral poems, readings or any other kind of tribute, our Funeral Directors will help you to plan a funeral that fits the life of your loved one.

We can cater for all types of funeral services, with the option to personalise as you see fit.

Consider what type of coffin you want

Choosing a coffin or cremation urn for your loved one can often help with the bereavement process and is an important part of planning any funeral arrangements. You may also want to place personal items in the coffin or casket, so it's worth keeping this in mind when your funeral director is planning the service.

Common items to place inside a coffin include:

  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Flowers

Include music and readings in the service

Many choose to personalise the service with readings and prayers. The person leading the service or a close friend will often say something about the person who has died. You can include poetry and passages, and friends and family can take part. If the person delivering the main tribute has never met the person who has died, make sure they know some personal details, especially the name they were known by.

You may wish to play a loved one's favourite piece of music at the funeral or choose a popular funeral poem to be read out by a close friend or relative. If the person who has passed away was religious, you could opt for some popular funeral hymns or Bible readings. 

Organising music to be played and readings to be spoken can bring real comfort to friends and family during such an upsetting time. You may also need to consider who will give the eulogy. Find out more about how to write a eulogy.

Plan the order of service

You may like to provide a funeral order of service booklet. These are helpful for mourners and can be sent to people who can’t make the service. An order of service sheet may include:

  • Hymns
  • Songs
  • Poems
  • Readings
  • Photographs

You can even tailor the order of service in the way you and your family prefer, helping to create a unique commemoration of your loved one's life. You could also place small attendance cards on the seats for mourners to fill in so you know who was there.

Consider flowers or charitable donations

Many people choose flowers and floral tributes to create a personal tribute to a loved one. You may choose an organisation or charity for people to give a donation to in lieu of flowers.

It is worth remembering that sending flowers can be a healing gesture for people who have lost someone close. Therefore it might be worth giving people the choice of sending flowers or donating money to a charity, or both.

Arrange funeral transport and choose a route for the procession

On the day of the funeral, the hearse will take the coffin to the funeral service; it is usually followed by limousines which carry family and close friends. Choosing chauffeured limousines will mean you don't have to worry about parking, driving and getting to the service on time.

If you wish to make your loved one’s final journey even more personal, choosing a hearse or alternative mode of transport which celebrates their life can be a fitting tribute.

You may also arrange a particular route for the funeral procession to take and may need to decide whether it will begin at the home of the person who has passed away, or a different location. Again, your funeral director will have extensive knowledge of planning routes for funeral processions and will be able to advise on things like school run times or bus routes, to ensure that the day runs as smoothly as possible.

Write an obituary or create an online Funeral Notice

Writing and publishing an obituary in a local newspaper will help you celebrate the life of your loved one and share details about the forthcoming funeral. After the funeral, you can also place a 'thank you' message in a newspaper to thank the people who attended and sent donations and flowers.

We offer an online Funeral Notice service, allowing you to share the details of the funeral with friends and family via email, Facebook and Twitter.

Planning a wake or funeral reception

Organising a wake or funeral reception after the service will allow friends and family to gather and remember a loved one in a more relaxed and less formal environment. If you do choose to hold a wake, you'll need to consider:

  • Booking a suitable venue near to where the service was held
  • Providing food and drink for guests who are attending

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Useful guides for planning a funeral service

What steps are involved when planning a funeral service? These guides will help you and your family to create a fitting farewell. Discover how to plan a funeral that's right for your loved one.

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