Funerals are like weddings: gatherings of family and friends to mark a life passage. They are typically very emotional and can be very sweet. And they can also get very expensive!
It’s optimal to talk with your loved one about his or her funeral wishes well before there is a need. Allow him or her to decide what is personally meaningful. If possible, talk as a family. Then everyone will understand your relative’s wishes.
Consider the options
Several logistics should be coordinated. Cost and lead time for making arrangements are often big factors.
- Cremation or burial. People frequently have very strong preferences based on religious beliefs or family tradition. As a practical rule, cremation is usually less expensive. It does not require preplanning. Burial requires a cemetery plot.
- Casket. Cremation does not require a casket. If burial is desired, ask about alternative containers. They cost less.
- Embalming. If the body is buried or cremated within two days of death, there is no legal requirement for embalming. If you will need more time, then embalming will likely be required. You must then work with a funeral home. Ask if refrigeration is an option. (It tends to be less expensive.)
- Viewing and location. Do you want a ceremony that involves viewing the body? If so, do you want the service at home? At home, the ceremony must take place within 48 hours of death. The funeral home must then pick up the body for immediate cremation or quick burial. If you need more time or wish to have a more public viewing, consider other sites. Services can be arranged at funeral homes, religious institutions, or directly at the graveside. If you would like to arrange for a viewing and then cremation, you will need to arrange for renting a casket.
- Memorial service. A memorial service does not include viewing of the body. A memorial service can happen at any time and at any location.
You can get more information from the Funeral Consumers Alliance (www.funeral.org).