This list of headings will help you create a funeral wishes document to give clear instructions to your family, friends or executor so you have the funeral you want.
Having a clear funeral plan will be a huge help to your family. It will also assist the funeral director to give an accurate estimate and professional advice.
Also use this advice to create the funeral plan of a loved one who has died or whose life is coming to an end.
- Name: Full Name, current address, date of birth. This identifies you (or the loved one) whose funeral wishes are listed.
- Next of Kin and their full contact details.
- The person(s) responsible for carrying out these wishes. Discuss with close family members or closest friends, and get their agreement to being responsible for your funeral.
- Pre-paid funeral plan: Detail any plan or insurance or other financial provision that you have made and the location of all relevant documents.
- Your Will and your executor: If you have written your will, state the date it was signed, where it is (the original should be with your solicitor) and the name/contact details of your Executor.
- Repatriation: Do you want your body to be repatriated to a country other than the one where the death took place? This is important if you spend a lot of time abroad, or now live overseas, or if you come from another country and you want your body to return there.
- Donating organs or your body: Do you wish to donate suitable organs, or your body, for medical research?
- Burial or cremation: The most important decision to take about the funeral. If you want a ‘green’ funeral, or one that is as environmentally friendly as possible, state it here.
- Funeral Director: Do the necessary research to choose the funeral director that will deliver the most professional, ethical and caring service.
- Religious, humanist or a mixture of religious and secular: When making this decision about your final event, be honest to your beliefs, lifestyle and views. Your friends and family will understand you better for your honesty.
- Funeral event venue: Where do you want the funeral service or ceremony to take place? Church or other place of worship, cemetery/crematorium chapel, council office, your home, a hotel, or other suitable venue. This is not normally where the body or ashes are interred but where family and close friends gather to acknowledge the life that has passed. However, for woodland burials an open air ceremony can be appropriate.
- Officiant: Who do you want to officiate at the funeral? Humanist officiant, religious officiant, civil officiant, interfaith celebrant, the suitable religious celebrant from your religion?
- Who you want to attend the funeral service or event: Take into account the size and location of the venue. Dress code: black for traditional, sombre event – colourful clothing for more celebratory mood.
- Final resting place (interment): Family graveyard; local church; local cemetery or crematorium; favourite place for your ashes? Give details of any Exclusive Right of Burial - pre-paid deed for a specific plot.
- Who should attend the interment: You may want only close family members to be present when your body or ashes are interred.
- Reception: Where do you want the reception to take place? As well as those attending the funeral event and interment, other friends, more distant family members, neighbours, colleagues can be invited to the reception, but the numbers attending will affect the cost of the reception.
- Who to invite to the reception.
- Casket: There are now a growing variety, with degradable material such as willow, wicker, cardboard becoming more popular thanks to cost and environmental concerns. There is also a growing trend for bespoke designs.
- Hearse and pall bearers: Hearses can range from the Victorian horse drawn carriage to a motorcycle sidecar. Pall bearers can be chosen family members and friends.
- Flowers or donations: Flowers are expensive, so think about requesting donations to an appropriate charity in place of flowers.
- Music, poems and readings: Choose the music, poetry and readings to mark your life, or that of the loved one whose funeral you are planning.
- Return home: Do you wish the body to be returned home before the funeral? State how many days, or hours, or just the night, before the funeral. Agree this with your family members.
- Embalming: Not really necessary, and most embalming fluid is toxic and therefore your body can’t be interred at a woodland burial site.
- Viewing: Decide who, when and where you want (or not) your body to be viewed. Choices would be at the funeral home; at your home; during the service/ceremony.
- Clothing and Grave goods: What do you want to wear when placed in the coffin? The funeral director can provide coffin garments. Or you can leave this world in the same way that you came into it - naked. You can also choose what you want to take with you - known as grave goods. Discuss with your funeral director your grave goods.
- Public notices: Do you want a notice in a national, regional or local newspaper?
- Order of Service/Ceremony sheets: Your funeral director will have some standard Order sheet designs. There are also a number of websites that have various templates. What do you want your Order sheet to communicate? Choose a favourite photo you would like used.
- Tributes and eulogies: Who should speak about you, or your loved one, at the funeral event, at the interment, at the reception, at the memorial event? Write some helpful biographical notes.
- Messages: Write a suitable message for those mourning your passing. Consider if this is best communicated at the funeral ceremony, where there will be little time available and where people will be grieving, or at the reception following the funeral, or later at a memorial party. Consider an audio or video recording that can be played at the event you select.
- A Party: Consider having a memorial party to celebrate your life. Maybe a fund raising event for a suitable good cause. You can either leave the details to friends and family, or you can list the venue, the music, the guest list, the food, the drink, the messages.
- Permanent Memorial/epitaph: Do you want a headstone? Plaque on a memorial wall? A tree? A bench along your favourite walk? An online memorial? What do you want your epitaph to be?
- Last letters and emails: Write in advance the letters or emails to be sent on your death. Tell your executor or next of kin to send these as you have instructed.
Last but not least, sign the document
Once you have compiled your funeral wishes, sign it and put the date next to your signature. Get a witness to sign which will give your plan greater influence when read by your family members and executor.
Documenting your funeral wishes is a sound idea, but this does not give you any security over how you or your family members will fund your funeral. Getting your wishes down on paper will give you a better understanding of the cost implications your send off could incur, and you may feel that a prepaid funeral is a more cost-effective way to fulfil your wishes.