A Sacred Choice


Why should seniors consider planning their funeral services?

Many seniors choose to plan their funeral services in advance so their loved ones don’t have to do it while contending with their grief. With a plan in place, your family and friends can mourn appropriately and remember you fondly, without worrying about the details. By planning your funeral services, you can remove some or all of the financial burden from others, which offers your loved one’s peace of mind during a time when it’s most needed.

Since funeral services are meant to be a way for family and friends to gather to celebrate your life, it should be a ceremony that you have some say in.

What do funeral services include?

People sometimes refer to funeral services and memorial services interchangeably, but there is a difference. When planning your final ceremony, consider these options:

Traditional funeral services

These services are held with the deceased’s cultural and religious practices in mind, and they provide an opportunity for loved ones to say their final goodbyes.

Funeral services can be held at the funeral home, at a church or at the deceased’s home. Following the service, the deceased is taken, by procession, to the cemetery for burial or to the crematorium for cremation.

This is what most people think of when they think of a funeral, as it often involves religious readings, hymns or eulogies.

Memorial services

The primary difference between standard funeral services and memorial services is that with memorial services, the body is not present. That means memorial services can be scheduled for any time following the deceased’s passing.

Memorial services are usually intended to celebrate a life, so they tend to be less formal and may not include religious or cultural elements. In fact, they can be held anywhere, including a church or even outside, like at a favorite park. Because they are less formal and may be held anywhere, memorial services can be uplifting while giving people an opportunity to share some of their grief.

In addition to traditional funeral services and memorial services, families may opt for committal services or for a viewing. These are brief, compared to traditional funeral or memorial services, but they may be a better option for people who don’t want a large ceremony.

What parts of the funeral service can seniors plan?

Seniors that plan their funeral services have a lot of control over what the service looks like, sounds like and who participates. Here are some decisions you’ll make when putting a plan together:

  • The type of service you prefer, including burial or cremation.
  • Is there a viewing or visitation before the funeral.
  • Who will officiate the service.
  • The religious or cultural customs that will be observed during the ceremony.
  • Where the ceremony will be carried out. Most people list a few options in case one isn’t available.
  • Who will deliver hymns, readings or eulogies.
  • Who will serve as pallbearers.
  • Whether there is a reception or other gathering before the funeral.
  • Additional people or organizations to invite, beyond who your family is likely to invite.
  • What hymns and readings will be delivered.
  • What music or videos will be played.
  • What personal touches will be included with the ceremony.

You have a lot of control over how your funeral services look and sound, and this can give loved one’s comfort during the ceremony. A familiar song, family photos, a video recording or even the sound of your voice can all help the mourning process.

What should seniors look for in a funeral home?

The funeral home is responsible for organizing and holding the service to your or your family’s specifications. Your choice in funeral home, then, is an important one. To find one you can trust, you’ll need the answers to the following questions:

How much experience does the funeral home have?

Many funeral homes are family-owned and have been for generations, which reveals the commitment they have to their clients. An experienced funeral home is also one that’s more likely to be there years from now, when your funeral service will be needed.

Are there any limitations on the service, due to religious or cultural customs?

The funeral home you select should be compatible with any religious or cultural customs you would like added to the service.

Can you customize the available funeral services?

Your funeral is the last chance to include your favorite media, people and practices. Make sure the funeral home is willing to accommodate these additions.

Is the funeral home part of any professional organizations?

The National Funeral Directors Association is one such professional organization and establishes standards for industry professionals to follow. The Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice is another and offers training materials to help funeral homes ensure their practices are current.

Funeral services may be difficult to think and talk about but planning them in advance brings peace of mind to many. When the time comes, your loved ones will be thankful that you’ve made these decisions beforehand.