1. Where the funeral service should be held. Remember, it does not have to be in a church (unless you want a Church of England service). Consider that it could be held for a small gathering at home in your garden or woodland / scenic location; alternatively it could be at your local cricket or football club.
2. Whether you need a minister of religion or celebrant, or whether you have somebody that you wish to lead the funeral ceremony. This can be difficult, so make sure they have experience in keeping their composure throughout the proceedings.
3. If in a church or a crematorium, decide if you would like extra time for the service as this is a celebration of a unique life. This would normally incur additional cost.
4. Find time to discuss what happens and where during your service ask what is the normal proceedings are (curtains open closed or automatic?) coffin remains or taken out first? Be sure that you are comfortable with this if not ask what are the alternatives. Find out the limits of what is possible.
5. Look around the surroundings and consider what is on display i.e. crucifix etc. If you do not want them ask for them to be removed or covered. Ask about lighting and music.
6. Consider what personal items you would like to bring in from home. Candles, a special cloth or banner to drape the coffin? Decorate / dress the coffin i.e. flowers from your garden, a photograph in a frame any characteristic personal object belonging to the person who has died. Who will bring them? When?
7. How will the seating be arranged? Remember if the chairs are not fixed they do not have to be in straight rows with everybody looking at each other’s backs. Maybe a semicircle or a circle foe a small congregation? This may be easier to arrange if you are the last funeral of the day.
8. Do you want music? Only book the resident organist if that is what you want. You may want your own choice of music, so check what playback facilities exist. For the entry/arrival it is usual to have 5-6 minutes of music, reflection and exit music normally last 5 minutes each so consider the length of time this will require in the overall service. Getting the music right is important. If you want live music, ensure time is allocated for setting up before to the service and that power is available if required. Alternative choices are available with hi – tech sounds and images, video or presentation slide show.
9. Think about individual contributions to the funeral service, such as one or two people getting up to give an address or a poem or tell a favourite story. Make definite arrangements that are clearly understood. Complete a brief running order for everyone involved.
10. If you would like to invite everyone to do something at the funeral, i.e. gathering at the gate to walk together to the graveside instead of driving, or throwing a single flower into the grave, make sure you mention this clearly in the newspaper announcement. You will not have time to contact everyone directly. It is possible for a few to people to get practically involved after a burial by filling in the grave themselves but only if you have requested in advance.
11. Consider ideas for a gathering afterwards. You may encourage everyone to bring along their photographs to display on a table for others to browse through together. This helps break the ice and talk through memories.
12. Don’t be afraid to use your camera or camcorder to record this get-together. This last scene of the family album is usually the one that is missing.