Overview of the Different Elements Involved in Planning a Funeral or Memorial Service
Funeral planning for a relative or loved one is one thing everyone needs a good checklist or guide for, because it happens to us all and few of us are experts. Planning a funeral wisely is important to success and to the memory of your loved one. It’s easy to be a little confused, afraid, or uncertain. Fortunately, we have answers. Just give us a call anytime at 724-770-0100. Rome Monument of Pittsburgh is intimately familiar with all aspects of “funeral planning” and has developed this "Funeral Planning 101" guide for families that reside in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.
Getting you through the death of a loved one is why we’re here and we’re always happy to answer your questions—any questions. This personal funeral planning worksheet will help ease the strain and simplify the decision making process your family will encounter at the time of a death.
A funeral home, funeral parlor or mortuary, provides burial and funeral services for the deceased and their families. These services may include a prepared wake and funeral, and the provision of a chapel for the funeral. Many people in Pittsburgh select a funeral home because it is close to their church and/or the cemetery where the interment will take place. When planning a burial and before your choose a cemetery in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, or Western Pennsylvania, it is important to understand and learn all your options well in advance of the actual passing of a loved one. Click here for a list of select funeral homes in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Lawrence County, Washington County and Westmoreland County Pennsylvania with website addresses, phone numbers and street addresses.
The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh will send your family a booklet which contains relevant information about Catholic burial and funeral traditions, social security benefits, veterans' benefits, living wills, powers of attorney, wills and other issues that can cause challenges at the time of death. Click here to request the funeral planning guide.
Funeral planning is one of two types: that needed when pre-planning has already occurred, and that necessary when no funeral arrangements have been made before death.
Pre-Planned Funeral — funeral arrangements are often preplanned by the person who has died. In such cases, a lot of your work is already done, but it’s still important to do some managerial follow up and oversight to ensure things unfold in accord with everyone’s expectations and wishes.
- Examine your loved one’s important papers and records and look for receipts and agreements showing the purchase of funeral services, a cemetery plot, or a monument, or revealing arrangements with religious organizations for funeral-related services, or military service records.
- If any such pre-arrangements exist keep the relevant documents together and accessible and contact the provider(s) involved, provide a notice of the death, and inquire about necessary steps for implementing the arranged service. Also inquire about what if any aspect of the pre-arrangement requires family input, decisions, or additional information. Be sure to ask about options available and understand what changes to the prearrangement can be made (just in case changes are appropriate) and any related procedures document updates required.
- Military — If your deceased loved one was a military veteran, gather the service records and contact the appropriate service to inquire about eligibility for military funeral honors. You can also ask your funeral director to arrange military funeral honors, which funeral directors accustomed to handling directly with the appropriate Military Service.
- Obituary — Some particularly meticulous pre-planners also write their own obituary. While you’re looking for other pre-planning documents, also look for a pre-written obituary. Be sure that your funeral director makes arrangements for an placing an obituary in appropriate and relevant publications, and if an obituary has not already been written, determine who among the survivors, family or friends is best qualified to help craft an obituary that resonates and does justice to the life lost. If no one is up for this ask the funeral director’s staff for help or a referral to someone they know who is qualified to do such writing.
- Notify family and friends — get your family’s notice/invitation list together and reach out to friends and relatives to ensure they’re aware of funeral dates, times and events.
When Funeral Arrangements and Plans Don’t Exist — Funeral arrangements are more frequently not preplanned by the person who has died. In these more common cases, survivors are left to do funeral planning in a rush without much direction. Many details require your attention when planning a funeral, so here’s a list of important highlights that will help you get through the process successfully:
- An Important First Step — Ascertain your role and responsibility, who among your family members will participate in the funeral planning process, and each participant’s authority and responsibility. Securing family member agreement on who needs to be involved and who is responsible helps avoid confusion. Settling these matters in advance and communicating clearly with family is usually quite helpful.
- Talk with Others — Talking with family and close friends can about the funeral plan and the process helps ensure that needs and expectations are satisfied and everyone has a positive, memorable, meaningful experience—allowing all to cope well with the loss and grief. It also allows everyone an opportunity to add value to the decision-making process and express wishes about aspects of the process or ceremonies they’d like to see implemented.
- Ask for Help if Needed — Notify family, friends, and clergy, and have those close to you help if they are willing and if you need assistance. Funerals are a time of high pressure and stress and it’s best to not try to do everything by yourself. Rely on the support of those you trust as needed. Having help, and delegating, can really relieve a lot of the pressure and allows you to get more done.
- Choosing a Funeral Home/Director — Selecting a funeral home is important and is one of the first decisions you must make. You can quickly decide by considering area options recommended by professionals doctors, police, hospice, etc. They usually know which funeral homes are reputable, reasonably priced, can provide the services you require, etc. Ask friends and family for guidance too. Once you’ve identified a number of good options, contact the funeral homes directly about their services, rates, and availability. Get a comfort level. Then check online reviews of Pittsburgh area funeral homes to confirm.
- Funeral Director Arrangements — Once you’ve selected a funeral home in the Steel City be sure to have a sufficient dialog with the directors about the services they are providing. Be clear on what the funeral director is providing (service-by-service, step-by-step) and they are responsible for, what is included and what is not included. It’s best to have a clear understanding of the scope of funeral services right up front. Get it in writing and ask for disclosure of all fees and charges too.
- Make Religious Ceremony Arrangements — Contact your loved one’s church, synagogue or other religious institution and make arrangements for a funeral service. It’s important to communicate your loved one’s wishes and the wishes of your family on important aspects of the ceremony to the religious institution. Ask for a clear explanation of how the ceremony will unfold, and ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding ceremonial procedures and limitations and participants. Also, make sure you know who is in charge, i.e., who will be directing the ceremony and making final decisions.
- Select a Cemetery — Arrange for and select a cemetery in Pittsburgh, a burial plot, and related interment services. This is one of those things that you should seek family approval on. People can be very fussy about location. Bear in mind that family and friends will be visiting your loved one at the cemetery over many future years so your plot selection should anticipate their ability to enjoy, reflect, and remember in that space. Make sure the environment is aesthetically appropriate.
- Make Cemetery Arrangements — Once you’ve selected a cemetery and chosen a burial plot or grave space be sure to have a sufficient dialog with the cemetery operator about the services they are providing. Be clear on what the cemetery is providing (service-by-service, step-by-step) and they are responsible for, what is included and what is not included. It’s best to have a clear understanding of the scope of cemetery services right up front. Get it in writing and ask for disclosure of all fees and charges.
- Get the Step-by-Step Process Defined — The funeral director will assist in selecting a casket or an urn, and will explain procedural options available for managing your loved one’s remains from funeral home to any religious ceremony and then to the cemetery. You should discuss every step of this process with the funeral director to ensure that appropriate accommodations are made for family, attendees, and special ceremonial elements (e.g., bagpipes).
- Military Honors — If your loved one was a veteran, contact the military and ascertain availability of military funeral honors. Gather appropriate service records and ensure that your funeral director and the cemetery are informed of any military honors that will be performed and provide any information they need to ensure this part of the funeral service is accommodated. You can also ask your funeral director to arrange military funeral honors, which funeral directors accustomed to handling directly with the appropriate Military Service.
- Memorials — Headstones, markers, or monuments come later, after burial or other interment, so you’ll have time to make those decisions after the funeral is completed.
None of this is that difficult. It’s all pretty straightforward. It just requires some thought and appropriate guidance, and when possible advance planning. It’s best to relax. Breath deeply. You can manage this. And if you need help, just call us at 724-770-0100 and one of our planning specialists will help you get the answers you need to plan and manage your loved one’s funeral prudently and effectively and with as little pain as possible.