Where to start when planning a funeral

In the days following a loved one’s death you’re faced with hundreds of important decisions to make when you’re probably feeling your worst. While coping with the sadness, you may be responsible for sharing the news with family and friends, handling all sorts of legal administration and planning a send off for your loved one. It’s not easy and it seems a lot to ask but hopefully you might actually find funeral planning a comfort in the strangely quiet, still days following a death.

We wanted to put together a helpful check-list of things to think about when planning a funeral to help you navigate through this sometimes foggy and confusing time.

Appointing a funeral director

The right funeral director can make a big difference in the days following the death of a loved one. They will help you coordinate everything and be a useful source of local recommendations. They will hopefully be a comforting, reassuring person to rely on whose experience will make your life easier. They will be armed with literature and to do lists so that you can work your way through everything that needs sorting, which is a surprising amount. Where and how to register a death, how many death certificates you need so that you can start notifying banks and businesses, the list goes on. They will also be able to guide you through every step of planning the funeral and will have catalogues and information on everything from coffins to cars, and guides on things like making an announcement in your local paper.

We recommend asking the funeral director to visit you at home because you might find it more relaxed, private and personal.

If you had to make a rushed decision about the funeral director straight after the news of the death, don’t be worried if you want to change your mind. Arrangements can be made to move the body to an alternative funeral director. It’s important to find the right undertaker and company for you.

Designing the Order of Service

After you’ve finalised the timing, venue and type of funeral service with the help of your funeral director, creating an order of service can be a good opportunity to share memories with family and friends.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this, the funeral director will have plenty of templates and examples to help you. You might find it easier to take bits from templates and then add personal touches, like poems and favourite hymns.

There are lots of websites with collections of readings and poems, which work well for funerals. Simply search on Google. But don’t be worried about choosing something different that’s really personal. If you are having a service in a church or crematorium, you’ll also need to speak to the vicar or crematorium contact about the structure of the service. They’ll be able to offer recommendations for readings too.

You might want to choose photos for the cover and back page of the Order of Service, whether older ones, recent or both.

Many people ask friends and family to make a donation to a charity in lieu of flowers. This can be done through a collection at the service, sending money to the funeral director to forward on or you can set up a tribute or fund webpage through the charity so people can donate online. Details of this can be added to the Order of Service.

Flowers, music and personal touches

There is no etiquette for this at a funeral, you need to do what’s right for you. One family may choose traditional organ music, while another will have a recording of The Archers because it was a favourite. Music often influences the mood of the service but you’ll know what’s right.

The same goes for flowers. You can buy beautiful displays of flowers in a cross for the casket, wreathes to lay on the grave or you may want to fill the church with flowers. Your local florists will have brochures with funeral arrangements for different tastes and budgets. 

You might prefer to organise the flowers yourself. I’ve heard of people bringing in pots of spring bulbs like daffodils to line the church aisle and then giving a pot to every guest to plant at home.

Perhaps flowers weren’t important to your loved one, but there is something unique to them you can lay on top of the casket, like a flag, a hat or something that reflects their favourite hobby.

At the wake afterwards, you might want to add personal touches like displaying photographs, or playing favourite music, or even offering guests the chance to share stories by providing paper and pens. 


After the service, there is usually a wake where family and friends can gather together after the service. You might want to go to your local pub, or set up at the village hall, or prepare your own food at home.

Hiring a catering company to organise the food can take a lot of pressure off you on the day. Fresha has been catering for funerals for many years and we understand the demands on you at such a difficult time. We aim to be as flexible as possible so you can create the send off your loved one deserves.

We cater wherever’s best for you, whether that’s at home, at the church or another venue. If you prefer, we can liaise directly with your venue and the funeral director. 

You can choose from finger or fork buffets, with traditional fare, or you might prefer our gourmet selection. We can also provide an afternoon tea with Devonshire clotted cream. Perhaps your loved one had a favourite like pasties, which you’d like to include as part of the menu.

We deliver and display the food ready for your return from the service, or we can provide staff to serve, leaving you to spend time with your friends and family. There is no minimum number for guests, just tell us how many you’re expecting and we will make sure everyone has plenty to eat.

You can find out more about our funeral catering services here.

This list is by no means complete. There are many other considerations and decisions to make but we hope it provides a good starting point for you at this difficult time. You can find more in depth information on the Government website: