Funeral Arrangements Checklist: Your Guide to Planning a Funeral

The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever go through.

After your loved one is deceased, it’s normal to feel unsure and emotional. For many, a funeral helps them accept their loved one’s death and reflect on their life.

However, many families aren’t prepared during funeral planning. Don’t worry, you don’t need to feel overwhelmed. Just follow this funeral arrangements checklist to stay organized.

Choose the Type of Service

There are many ways to honor the deceased. Here are a few of the most common funeral services and ceremonies.


The viewing is when your loved one is displayed in an open casket. Attendees can walk over and view the deceased as they rest in eternal peace. A mortician prepares the body for viewing.


A visitation is when family and friends gather to mourn the deceased.

These events are also held to support the deceased’s, immediate family. They’re commonly held at funeral homes, but can also be held at the deceased’s home and other required locations.

Graveside Service

Are you burying your loved one? Consider a graveside service.

A graveside service is a funeral service held at the spot where the deceased will be buried. It can be a standalone event or it can be held after the traditional service.

Additional Events

There are more events to honor the deceased’s life. A “wake” is a gathering of loved ones before the funeral. The wake is usually held at the deceased’s home; however, more funeral homes are now offering wakes as well.

Wakes are often confused with the celebration of life ceremony. The celebration of life is another social gathering, but usually occurs days or even weeks after the deceased passes.

A celebration of life is usually celebrated when the deceased is cremated.

Many families continue to hold a celebration of life event on each death anniversary date.

Decide on the Logistics

Before you plan anything else, always start with the basic logistics. These include:

  • Where the funeral will be held
  • Who’s in charge of organizing the service
  • The day and time of the service

You should also decide if it will be a religious service, if any family traditions will be included, and if any arrangements need to be made ahead of time.

Prepare for Your Meeting with the Funeral Home

If you’re hosting the service at a funeral home, you’ll meet with the funeral director in advance for a funeral arrangement conference. You’ll need to bring some materials with you. These include:

  • The loved one’s clothing and accessories (if you’re hosting an open casket service)
  • Death certificate
  • The deceased’s driver’s license and social security card
  • A recent photograph (if you’re hosting an open casket service)
  • Pallbearer name and contact information (if applicable)
  • Life insurance policy

You’ll also want to prepare the deceased’s essential demographic information. This includes the names of their immediate family members and their spouse, date, and place of birth, the place of death, occupation, and their highest level of education.

If your loved one was in the military, it’s useful to have their military information, such as discharge papers, especially if you’re hosting a veteran’s service.

Who to Invite

The next main question loved ones have is who to invite.

First, decide if this should be a private service, such as a family-only event, or if it should be an open visitation. You should consider what the deceased would have wanted. You’ll also have to ask the funeral home about their capacity.

Choose the Resting Place

The most common burial options include burying at a cemetery or a private property (such as your yard). Keep in mind, you must check zoning requirements if you can bury your loved one on your property.

You’ll also want to consider specific cemeteries, such as a veteran’s cemetery.

Did your loved one request to be cremated? You’ll need to decide what to do with their ashes.

You can keep the ashes at home or scatter them in a park, at sea, or in a memorial garden. Keep in mind, there are certain regulations when scattering ashes in public places.

Choose a Funeral Conductor

If you’re having a religious funeral, a religious leader will likely officiate the funeral. If this is a traditional service, you can have anyone officiate the funeral. The conductor can be the funeral director or a family member.

You may also invite loved ones to deliver eulogies throughout the service. Prayer is also common during religious services.

Add the Personal Touches

Personalization will make the biggest difference in a funeral. Display your favorite pictures of the deceased. Play their favorite music and add any mementos that reflect their life, career, and interests.

Flower arrangements also help to provide a personal touch. Great floral arrangement examples include wreaths, standing sprays, bouquets in vases, and other floral designs. If you’re hosting a visitation funeral, casket sprays are a beautiful addition that sits on top of the casket.

From here, designate someone to remove the flowers from the funeral home after the service is over.

Decide the Order of Events

The order of events is usually displayed on a pamphlet.

This details vital information about the service such as the names of the participants, the readings, and the starting and ending times. You can also include information about the celebration of life if you’re hosting one.

It’s also helpful to include other personal information, such as the obituary.

Inform Your Loved Ones

After you complete these steps, it’s time to inform your loved ones. Always include the location, date and time of the service.

While sending out funeral invitations is customary, you can also call the attendees. The digital age also makes it easy to text and email loved ones as opposed to sending invitations by mail.

Purchase a Guest Book

A guest book helps your family know who attended the funeral. Display the guest book at the entrance of the home. Come prepared with pens, and collect the guest book after the service to keep as a memento.

Your Funeral Arrangements Checklist Is Complete

Planning a funeral can be difficult. Hopefully, this funeral arrangements checklist will keep you organized during the funeral planning process so you can focus on the important things.

Are you looking for a funeral home in San Diego? Contact us today.