A Few Tips on Planning a Funeral Event

tips on planning a funeral event

My story about Hank and Cheek gave me an idea. I used to work as an event designer where I designed funerals for sophisticated clients.

I wish to share some insights in making the funeral events more unique and memorable. People do not like to talk about it but the family is often at lost when it comes to organizing a funeral.

Contrary to the wedding industry, the funeral events typically lack style. The funeral industry has evolved but it is still not stylish and the choices are still very limited. That is why families hired me.

I was responsible to design the funeral theme, source more sophisticated supplies and decorate the room. I supervised the event to make sure every details where handle properly. This way, the family could pass quality time with the people who came to give their respect. You could say that I did the job of a wedding planner but for a funeral. Unlike a wedding, everything from planning to execution is done in a matter of days. So it is best to learn the basics before you need to plan a funeral.

Celebrating Life Not Death

The best funerals are the ones that celebrate the life of the deceased. A funeral is a time to say adieu but also to remember someone’s life.

Since it is a time of sorrow why not distribute custom handkerchiefs at a funeral? I would not go with the person picture; I think it would feel weird. It would be proper to use a cheerful illustration as long as it speaks about the deceased. I did it before on thank you cards. Even conservative people commented to the family how great were the thank you cards and the festivities. Look at your pictures of vacations and happy time to find the right ones.

Personalize the Ceremony and Celebrations

From my experiences, the immediate family gets more comfort when we remembered what the departed did in his/her life. Forgo the cliché mountain, lake and sky pictures. Print instead something that symbolizes a passion, a life philosophy or a point of character. This also goes for the memorial bookmarks. Be creative, you want people to share a nice memory about the deceased.

Custom handkerchiefs would make a tasteful and useful thank you gift at a wake. You can still send a memorial Thank you card with a personal note later on. But I do not know if Hank and Cheef can deliver in short notice for the wake. Rush delivery is the main issue when you plan for a funeral.

Delay the Event

Having a beautiful personalized funeral takes times. I encourage you to consider, if the body is not exposed, to delay by one week the funeral. Opt for less busy time of the week. Monday is ideal. You get a more dedicated service from the funeral home and people from out of town can still attend. If the late was still working, more coworkers will show up. A ceremony Saturday afternoon at 2 pm is the worst; everything is rushed by the funeral homes.

  • saundra, event engineer
    May 15, 2008 at 13:38

    I really enjoyed this post – albeit morbid. I have told my husband that I do NOT WANT a typical funeral service.

    Not that I’m planning my demise soon; but I would love to have everyone get together for a stylish celebration of life and remembrance!

    Hopefully they’ll need some tissues too….

  • Violet
    October 8, 2010 at 02:46

    First, I wanted to let you know that you should go through and re-read this post and correct your grammar and spelling.

    Second, a good funeral director should be well versed in the art of event planning. Funeral Directors are responsible for setting up a funeral the way a family wants it. There is no need to hire an event planner when all you have to do is tell your funeral director what you want. Most funeral homes will be more than happy to accommodate a family’s wishes.

    • Kim Vallee
      October 8, 2010 at 10:30

      Violet: we will agree to disagree. Funeral directors first role is not event planning, it is one of the many tasks they do. The level of service that the event planner is what will make the funeral special. Brides and grooms hire wedding planners to make the day special. I do not see why we would pay less attention to the last celebration of someone’s life.

  • Violet
    November 16, 2010 at 12:38

    Kim: With a wedding, the bride and groom hire a wedding planner. The bride and groom don’t hire an event planner on top of all of that, so why on earth would the family of the deceased need to hire an event planner on top of a funeral director?

    I have a question, so you will use a funeral home, but not a funeral director? How do you plan to deal with the body if it starts purging? Also, from reading your post, it doesn’t seem like you know the difference between a funeral and a memorial service. Do you offer event planning for funerals (where the body is present) or memorial services (without the body present)? If you are doing a funeral, you would have to have a funeral director because they are the ones that are in charge of planning the funeral, getting the clergy involved (if requested), doing the embalming/cremation, making further arrangements for the family, restorative arts, and paperwork. In order to have a funeral you actually, by law, have to have a funeral director.

    Just so you know, I am going through school to be a funeral director, and a lot of the course is about event planning. How to set up a humanistic service verse a traditional service, as well as modern and contemporary style funeral services. Adaptive funeral rites are all about how to plan the event to tailor the families’ wants and needs.

    I am also interested to find out if you follow FTC standards.

    • Kim
      November 16, 2010 at 13:48

      Violet: No need to be defensive. Event designers are not there to steal your future employment. I am sorry to tell you but some brides and groom hire both a wedding designer and a wedding planner because they want something outstanding. And the role and skills of the planner versus the designer are very different. The funeral event planner will add stylish tailored elements and put all the attention to details required for the comfort and entertainment of the guests. We deal with the room decoration of the funeral and the planning of an outstanding after-funeral event. Many families wish to delegate this part; they were the ones who sought my help. This is why they hired me or the few select people who do it. It does not replace the work of the funeral home; it complements it for people who want a custom-made experience. We do not deal with the care of body, legal aspects or other traditional rituals that funeral homes provide. By the way, both the families and the funeral homes that I worked with me were delighted that I was there. Funeral homes found that it made their job easier.

      As far as my work, I’m an editor now. My job is to produce a lifestyle online publication.

  • Diane Fuller
    January 7, 2011 at 01:29

    Last year I handled all the arrangements for my father’s funeral to include writing the obituary, the eulogy,contacting pall bearers, coordinating times and dates with out of state family, making the arrangements for the church services-choosing music,and readings etc.choose the clothes and delivered items to the mortuary, and secured a restaurant for the reception to include choosing a menu,completing and signing paperwork, purchased a casket, prayer cards and ordered death certificate, and created two memorable display boards of photos and a video disk of dad’s life. Wrote checks to pay for each item and I completed a financial accounting with receipts. Although there are 6 children, I did it all of this, and we had a funeral director–they don’t do these items. I would have loved to have had a funeral planner to assist me. Where do you find such a person?

    • Kim
      January 7, 2011 at 08:23

      Diane: You describe exactly why there is a need in a market that is not currently addressed. Unfortunately, funeral planners and funeral designers are hard to find. As more people express the need for one, I guess that more event professionals will look into it.

  • Sylvia Braga
    April 2, 2011 at 17:16

    Diane Fuller,
    Congratulations for a job well done. You have explained it thoroughly about the funeral director and a funeral planner. I know your Dad was proud of you for what you have done on his last day here on earth. I also understand why you said you would have loved to have had a funeral planner on that day. Of course you would. As you have stated a funeral director will not do what a funeral planner will do. Not very many want to plan a funeral – many love to plan weddings. I love to plan it all as I believe every event is important and should have memorable and wonderful memories. I handled my mother’s vigil service and funeral service. My mom was a cantor and loves music so many of her children and grandchildren inherited her God’s gifts. I too came from a family with 6 children I am the youngest. Because of my passion and innate ability in planning events my family gave me the opportunity to handle it all. I am now also a certified planner who graduated from University of San Diego/George Washington University. Everyone who attended including our priest, were so amazed of how wonderful the vigil and funeral service. I was crying all the time, but not because I had a hard time of planning it, but because I know I will not see my mom again and will not hear her voice or touch her or laugh with her jokes and the times when we hang out together. I would miss all of that. However, it gave me and all of my family and friends a wonderful feeling knowing even on her very last day here on earth we gave her the best galore exit. I was just hired and celebrated a most memorable vigil and funeral service for a family last week. Please visit our website at http://www.sylviabraga.com.

  • Erma
    May 8, 2012 at 00:16

    YAAYY! I found what I was looking for! Info that this is being done and can be a help and support to people and funeral homes. I’m working on getting rolling on doing this along with other “life event” planning. Thanks!