How to Plan a Funeral in Today's Uncertain Times

A Step-by-Step Guide to Planning a Funeral

We live in strange times today, and this means that, like so many of us, you might be feeling uncertain and off-center when it comes to just about everything. We persevere, though, finding ourselves rising to the challenge when responsibilities fall into our lap. Sadly, one of those responsibilities may be planning a funeral for a loved one.

If you find yourself with such a responsibility but have never before thought about funeral planning, is here for you, with the information and support you need in a step-by-step guide on how to plan a funeral. If you have an immediate need, read on to learn more, or contact us now to speak with an expert.

Step 1: Look for Pre-Arranged Funeral Plans First

First thing's first, it's entirely possible that your loved one left behind detailed instructions for how to plan their funeral. This can often come in the form of a pre-arranged funeral plan. If there is such a plan, much of the guesswork will likely be taken out of the following steps for you.

However, even if you do have a pre-arranged plan in hand, that's not necessarily the end of the story. You may have to adapt and change these original plans in many cases, especially if there are regulations currently in place concerning large gatherings in your community. A pre-arranged plan then becomes a useful tool to provide you guidance, but not necessarily something you must or even can adhere to unwaveringly. The next step will be necessary regardless.

Step 2: Talk to a Funeral Director or Burial Planning Consultant

If a funeral home has not already been selected, you're first step in how to plan a funeral will be to select one and schedule an appointment with their funeral director, or you can bypass the funeral director and contact a burial planning consultant through a website like

If considering a funeral home, you'll want to choose one that is located near you or the deceased, one that has been referred to you by someone else, or simply one that you find on Google with good reviews. We recommend a funeral home that either has a partnership with your preferred cemetery, or that works within a network of funeral homes and cemeteries such as any members of the network. The funeral director or burial planning consultant will then walk you through all pertinent details.

Don't forget, a cemetery family advisor can also assist with the planning and selection of a funeral home as well.

Today, funeral directors are highly cognizant of the current economic and societal upheaval left in the wake of the coronavirus. As experts, they can suggest different approaches to adapting a memorial service in ways that reflect social distancing rules but still give you the opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of your loved one.

Step 3: Make a Decision Between Cremation or Burial

A step just as vital as enlisting the help of a funeral director or consultant is to decide the type of memorialization (again, if your loved one has not already done so through a pre-arranged burial plan). Primarily this means choosing between a more traditional burial in a casket (below ground or in a mausoleum or lawn crypt) or cremation (either also buried, or scattered in a scattering garden, placed in a cremation niche, or kept with loved ones).

There are additional decisions to make based on these initial choices, such as whether to embalm the remains for a viewing (still potentially possible during this time).

Step 4: Select Your Type of Services

In regards to how to plan a funeral, celebrating the life and legacy of your loved one is an essential component. Whether to have a viewing is part of that, as is the full service, whether there will be a religious ceremony, a service at the gravesite, a post-service luncheon, and the like. Will you ask people to attend in person, will you offer an online live-streaming component? Will you prefer to cremate the remains in order to be able to postpone a service until later?

Once you decide on the type of service, consider if you want music to be played and what type of music, if you want there to be readings, if there should be any speakers, etc.

Part of services selection involves choosing an officiant and a location. Clergy members often provide pastoral services at places of worship, while funeral homes also routinely provide locations for both religious and non-religious services.

Services that Don't Violate Social Distancing

It can be a challenge to plan memorial services if you are in a region with strict COVID-related gathering rules. However, funeral directors and consultants have developed a number of new ways to still celebrate the life of your loved one and still provide safety for those who have been left behind.

Live-streaming memorial services, with the immediate family present in person and the services available for viewing over the internet, is one useful option that has gained traction recently. Likewise drive-by services, where the family of the deceased stand outside the funeral home with the casket or urn while attendees drive by slowly, is another choice. Even graveside services, where families can stand together in smaller groups but separated from others, are possible - dependent, of course, on your state's outdoor gathering rules.

Step 5: Focus on Further Issues and Final Touches

There are plenty of other things you'll have to cover when it comes to learning how to plan a funeral. These steps are often conditional. For example, if you select a casket burial, you'll need to select a casket and then decide if you will be holding an opening and closing service. If you decide on traditional in-ground burial, you'll also need to select a cemetery and gravesite (again if not already done so), as well as a memorial such as a flat marker or upright headstone, as well as the inscription. Similar choices will be required if you opt for a mausoleum, lawn crypt, or cremation niche.

Other details you'll need to take into account including choosing any clothing and jewelry your loved one will be dressed in for their services and eventual burial, cosmetology and hairdressing, floral arrangements, prayer cards, and other final touches.

Modern Funeral Planning: Taking the Next Step

It's not easy to learn how to plan a funeral in modern times, as there are so many complexities that go along with living in a post-coronavirus landscape. That being said, there are still ways to honor the life and legacy of your loved one, both virtually and in-person, to give them the memorial services they so richly deserve.

We recommend you start by contacting a consultant now. Experts are available in-person in your home or at the cemetery, or virtually via video call.