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How to Plan a Funeral

How Families in Pittsburgh Plan Traditional Funeral and Cremation Inurment Services

On this page, Rome Monument explains how to plan a funeral or cremation service in Pittsburgh, PA.  Figuring out how to plan a funeral can seem overwhelming. Most people are called on to do it just once or twice (if that) in their whole lives, and they do it under pressure. While it’s easy to be a little confused, afraid, or uncertain, the process is actually fairly simple. Fortunately, we have answers and are happy to help walk you through the process. Just give us a call anytime at 724-770-0100.

Conducting a funeral is a process, with a starting point and an end point. Every funeral is a personal celebration of a life lived, and each has distinctive elements and common elements. Think of a funeral as a unique process rather than as an event and you can visualize the various steps involved. By imagining each step in the process, you can see the step-by-step details involved in successfully “producing” funeral events in a way that matches your vision and your family’s values/priorities.

The State Board of Funeral Directors regulates the licensure and practice of funeral directors in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Board’s functions include the formulation of necessary rules and regulations for the proper conduct of the business or profession of funeral directing in order to safeguard the interests of the public and the standards of the profession.

Making funeral arrangements requires us to consider that process with three primary elements and funeral-activity venues in mind:

  • Funeral home
  • Church, synagogue, or other religious organization
  • Cemetery

So, one of your first planning tasks is identifying, settling on, and making arrangements with each of these.

  • The funeral home selected will assist in deciding on and arranging for a casket or memorial urn, will coordinate and provide essential funeral-related transportation, and usually hosts any wake or pre-burial visitation for family, friends and the public.
  • Religious service arrangements are made directly with the church or other religious institution’s administrator.
  • Burial or other interment arrangements are made directly with the cemetery’s administrators. Your funeral director may—if you ask—assist you in your efforts to make arrangements with the cemetery, religious institution, or military services.

Cremation Service and Inurment Planning

Preplanning Funeral Arrangements —Many details require your attention when preplanning a funeral, so here’s a list of important highlights that will help you get through the process successfully:

  1. An Important First Step — Ascertain the role and responsibility of your family members in funeral-related processes. 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.
  2. Talk with Others — While it’s not an easy topic to sit down and discuss with family, talking with family and close friends about the funeral plan and the process helps avoid problems, confusion, and missteps, and ensure that needs and expectations are satisfied and everyone has a positive, memorable, meaningful experience—allowing all to cope well while getting through the process. It also allows those close to you 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.
  3. Choosing a Funeral Home/DirectorSelecting 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 area funeral homes to confirm.  Click here for a list of select funeral homes in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Lawrences County, Washington County and Westmoreland County Pennsylvania with website addresses, phone numbers and street addresses.
  4. Funeral Director Arrangements — Once you’ve selected a funeral home in the Pittsburgh area, 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 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.
  5. Make Religious Ceremony Arrangements — Contact your family’s church, synagogue or other religious institution and make arrangements for a funeral service. It’s important to communicate your 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.
  6. Select a Cemetery — Arrange for and select a cemetery, a burial plot, and related interment services. This is something you should seek family approval on. Families can be very fussy about location, especially since they will be visiting you at the cemetery over many future years. Your plot selection should anticipate their ability to enjoy, reflect, and remember in that space. Make sure the environment is aesthetically appropriate.
  7. Make Cemetery Arrangements — Once you’ve selected a cemetery and chosen a plot be sure to have a sufficient dialog with the cemetery operator about the services they will provide. Be clear on what the cemetery is to provide (service-by-service, step-by-step) and 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 related to burial plots (lots) and grave space.
  8. Get the Step-by-Step Process Defined — The funeral director can assist you in selecting a casket or an urn, and will explain procedural options available for managing the decendent’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).
  9. Military Honors — If the individual who has died is a military veteran, gather service records and contact the appropriate service, ascertain availability of military funeral honors, and make arrangements for the military’s funeral participation, or make an arrangement with your funeral director to arrange military funeral honors, which funeral directors are accustomed to handling directly with the appropriate military service. Either provide the military service record (copies) to the funeral director, or ensure that such records are located and accessible. 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.

Essential Funeral-Planning Questions ­— Decide how you want funeral-related events to unfold. Who’s involved? What roles do they play? Important questions to ask during your funeral-planning process include:

  1. Who is on the planning team? Who will do what?
  2. How does the location of each venue affect event timing and logistics?
  3. Do you have invitation/contact lists? Who should be notified directly? Who is tasked with direct notifications?
  4. Have you written an obituary? Who will do this? (See more on this below.)
  5. Is there a social gathering (party) separate from the pre-burial visitation? If so, when does it occur, what happens at the event, and who’s invited?
  6. Where will any post-service or post-burial celebration/party/gathering occur?
  7. Will a caterer be necessary? What, if anything, is being catered? What if any gathering hall has to be arranged? Who will the caterer be?
  8. What types of floral arrangements are appropriate or desirable, who will manage floral arrangements, and which florist service is best suited to reliably deliver the quality sought?
  9. Who are the pall bearers?
  10. Who is presiding over (conducting) the service?
  11. Who will speak at the service?
  12. Who will write or deliver the eulogy?
  13. What important considerations should be addressed in the eulogy?
  14. What music will play during the funeral service, if any? Will the decedent’s favorite music be played in the background? Who is supervising audio production? Who are the musicians? Who will hire or arrange for live music?
  15. Are you hiring any special transportation for the casket? (E.g., a horse-drawn hearse.)
  16. Is the cemetery interment open to all, or restricted to family?
  17. What accommodations are needed for cemetery interment? (E.g., tent, chairs, handicap access, signage.)
  18. What visual presentations will be produced to “remember” the person who has passed away? (E.g., historic slide-show, video, or photo presentation.)
  19. When and where are these visual presentations appropriate, and most likely to have the desired impact for all visitors?
  20. What record of attendees will be kept, and where will it (they) be placed?
  21. What printed service booklets and other materials will be distributed, who will produce them, and how will they be distributed?
  22. How will the family communicate with the community, what social media will be deployed, how will community feedback, comments, and condolences be received and/or published?

This list of questions is not exhaustive but illustrates the many issues to address when arranging a funeral. Other questions may occur to you as you review these.

Writing and Publishing a Fitting Obituary — Why is a fitting obituary important? One, you want the life remembered to be remembered well, respectfully and honorably. And you want to encourage the attendance of family and friends, which helps make your funeral services succeed.  You want success for the family and guests and their memory of the event and the person celebrated. You want to give the community a chance to express their condolences and meaningfully share the experience. An obituary is a published record of the life remembered, and it’s important to get it just right, not just to the memory of the loved one who has passed, but to the dignity of the family as well. Be sure the obituary is well written and includes all pertinent facts about the decedent’s life, family, and accomplishments. This record gives the community a reliable record of the dearly departed. You want it to shine. If you need writing help, ask your funeral director or the local newspaper for assistance or a referral. It’s worth the effort.

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.

  1. Memorials and GravestonesHeadstones, markers, or monuments can (and should) be part of your preplanning as well. While these are installed later, after burial or other interment, selecting, designing, and buying your memorial (and making arrangements for installation) in advance ensures that it is your selection (not someone else’s), and that your family will not be pressed to make difficult choices about a monument that memorializes your life forever.  You can purchase your memorial from a monument company, or a cemetery, or a funeral provider. Cemeteries and funeral homes often offer memorials and markers as part of a service “package,” and their range of choices can be limited. When preplanning your funeral give yourself time to visit with a monument company’s designers to fully understand the complete range of monument designs, materials, and options available to you. The monument company will design your memorial, create it, and install it at the cemetery.
  2. Monument Arrangements — Be sure to have a dialog with the monument company about the design, creation, storage, and installation services you are arranging. Gain a clear understanding of what the monument company is providing (service-by-service, step-by-step) and responsible for, what is included and what is not included. It’s best to have a clear understanding of the scope of monument services right up front. Once your arrangements are made, keep a record of the written service agreement with your funeral-related papers.

None of this is that difficult, though there is much to do in a short time frame. It’s all pretty straightforward. But it does require some thought, focus, organization, and appropriate guidance. When possible, plan as much in advance as possible. It’s best to relax. Breathe deeply. You can manage this.

And if you need help, just call us at 724-770-0100 and one of our funeral-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.