How to: Arrange a Funeral Service

How to: Arrange a Funeral Service is the next blog in the series ‘Advice’

Referring back to the blog “What to do: Checklist”, some of these items are best managed by the executor of a person’s estate. If you are not the executor, it is a good idea work closely with the person who is.

Check the will and see if there any express wishes from your Loved One before you start. If no wishes are stated, a professional funeral director can assist you with all the arrangements. A funeral director can guide you and you can do as much as you wish to.

For ease, a couple of items are duplicated on this blog and the blog “What to do: A Checklist”

The emotion of organising a funeral combined with the grief of losing someone can be very difficult. Throughout the process, make time for yourself, and when everyting comes together, appreciate the work that you have done to honour someone who was important to you.

Apart from a few legal requirements, there are no rules! However, planning a funeral involves two functions. Firstly, what to do with the physical remains, and secondly, how to honour the life and memory of your Loved One.

  1. DECIDE ON A FUNERAL DIRECTOR

    A funeral director brings everything together, to advise families and to help families. They will help you and guide you through both of the legal steps below.
    Before a Loved One is buried or cremation, you need:

    – A medical certificate signed by a doctor or nurse. This Medical Certificate of Cause of Death is issued prior to the Death Certificate (which is issued after the funeral)
    or
    – a coroner to authorise the release of your Loved One.

    See this link

    If you are using a funeral director, they’ll register the passing of your Loved One for you. However, you can do this yourself. See this link

    As a note, anyone can set up as a funeral director in New Zealand. The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand regularly monitors its members to ensure they are able to provide the care and support that you and your Loved One deserves.

  2. MEET WITH THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR TO MAKE THE FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS

    Start with providing all the registration details. Collect and provide the birth certificate and marriage certificate.

    In this initial meeting, you will discuss the type of service – private, public, traditional, individual.

    You will be asked for the following information:
    – Your name
    – Contact number and email
    – Name of your Loved One
    – Your relationship to them
    – Whether the doctor has signed the paperwork

    The next steps are to discuss all the other details and are listed below.

  3. TRANSPORTATION ARRANGEMENTS

    Meet with your professional funeral director to go through your options. Begin with your transport from home/hospital to the funeral home.

    Depending on the arrangements, you may also need transport:

    From the funeral home to the place of viewing
    From the place of viewing to the funeral service
    From the funeral service to the cemetery/crematorium

    Most funeral homes offer hearses.

  4. REPATRIATION OVERSEAS OR WITHIN NEW ZEALAND

    Your funeral director will be able to assist you and make these arrangements. Regulations and procedures differ between countries.

  5. THE ACCOUNT FOR THE FUNERAL EXPENSES

    It is common practice for your funeral director to:
    – Give you an estimate at the time the funeral arrangements are made
    – Send you the invoice 2 weeks from the date of passing
    – Ask for payment within 4 weeks of the invoice date
    – Ask that the person giving the instructions signs an Authority Form and is responsible for paying the invoice.

    The cost of a funeral depends on your choices and preferences.
    The professional service fee, the cost of the casket and other expenses for the funeral vary according to the services you select and use. It is worth noting that a funeral requires approximately 16 hours of a funeral director’s time.
    Before the funeral director can give you an estimate of costs specific to your needs, they will talk through the variations with you.
    One funeral invoice is usually made up of three sections.

    A. The professional services fee.
    B. The casket and other charges, including transferring your Loved Ones from the place of death to the funeral home, embalming and caring for the body, and providing a hearse for the funeral service. Essentially, all other costs the funeral firm incurs for the funeral.
    C. Other charges for any items paid for by the funeral director when acting as an agent for the family, which might include; flowers, catering, cemetery or cremation fees, paying the celebrant or minister, service sheets, slideshows, and other AV requirements, paying doctors etc. Funeral directors often make payments on your behalf to a number of third parties.

    The funeral director’s professional services fee is the charge for the services provided to you. This fee varies based on the specific services you use.

    The funeral director fee includes meeting with you to make arrangements, organising tasks, working with third parties such as the celebrant or organist, attending the funeral service, and managing any legal requirements such as registering the death. It also covers the cost of having the funeral home team available to you at any time and the costs of providing the funeral home facilities they offer.

    Many families use the available services to the fullest and some only require certain aspects of the funeral director’s service offering.

  6. VIEWING / VISITATION OF YOUR LOVED ONE

    Would you like to view your Loved One? It is good to decide early on as the funeral director will need to put plans in place.

    Would you like to bring your Loved One home?
    What clothing would you like to provide?

    Private viewing rooms are also available at funeral homes.

    Your funeral director can care for and dress your Loved One for viewing at your home, Marae or funeral home.

    Discussions will be had around the level of care (embalming, presentation) you wish for your Loved One.

  7. BURIAL, CREMATION, BURIAL AT SEA, DONATING TO MEDICAL SCIENCE

    The wishes of your Loved One may be known.


    The places a person can be buried are limited by law to official cemeteries or urupas (see Burial Cemetery Plot below).

    Ashes can be scattered, buried, kept in an urn, or divided among your family. Your funeral director can help you with the Permission to Cremate paperwork
    completed by an authorised doctor (different to the doctor who completed the Medicate Certificate of Cause of Death). A crematorium will not accept an Application for Cremation without this Permission to Cremate Form.
    Your crematorium will have the Application to Cremate forms for applying to use their services and facilities. Each crematorium has their own costs.

    Burial at sea can take place in designated locations off the New Zealand coastline. Special caskets are required and usually a boat or helicopter. Your funeral director will know more, eg
    , permission is required from Maritime New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and a doctor/coroner.

    Donating to medical science (medical schools, research schools) needs to be arranged in advance.

  8. BURIAL CEMETERY PLOT

    These arrangements are made through the local council or private cemeteries.
    A funeral director can arrange this for you but you will be expected to visit the cemetery to choose the plot.
    A burial will involve:
    – The purchasing of a plot in a cemetery
    – An interment fee for the work to prepare the gravesite and pay for ongoing maintenance
    – Usually the purchase of a headstone

    You are required by law to complete a Notification of Death for Registration (BDM28) and your funeral director can do this for you. This form must be completed within 3 days of the burial and sent together with the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death to Births, Deaths and Marriages.

    For many, the “unveiling” of the headstone is important to the stages of grief.

    Some cemeteries also have ecoburial areas.

    There are rules about where and how you can bury or cremate someone, and where you can scatter ashes. See this link

  9. SET THE ORDER OF SERVICE (FUNERAL SCHEDULE) AND CHOOSE YOUR VENUE FOR THE SERVICE

    Determine the date, time and place for any funeral events, and for structured events such as:

    – Prayer
    – Funeral Service
    – Interment

    You may use the chapel at the funeral home
    or you may decide to have your service at:

    – Chapel at your local Cemetery/Crematorium
    – Your local Church
    – Local community hall, sports club rooms, RSA
    – Home
    – Outdoor location
    – Graveside service at the cemetery
    – Crematorium chapel (they can accommodation different sizes of funerals)
    – Theatre
    – Park or garden

    Or you may decide not to have a service.

    Would you like any specific funeral poems, prayers or readings?
    Attire? People know roughly what to wear to a funeral, but families can request specific colours for the guests to wear.


    There are rules about where and how you can bury or cremate someone, and where you can scatter ashes.

  10. WHO WILL CONDUCT THE FUNERAL SERVICE?

    A family member?
    A church member?
    A celebrant?

    A funeral director can help you arrange a celebrant.

    If you wish, you can contact an Auckland celebrant via the HonourThem Marketplace. See: Celebrant

    Charges vary from one celebrant to another and from one region to another. There are two website that can assist you: https://www.celebrantsassociation.co.nz/ and https://celebrants.dia.govt.nz/

  11. IS THERE A RECIPIENT CHARITY FOR A DONATION?


    Let people know within the Obituary notice/death notice that your Loved One wanted any donations to go to a particular charity. See the Charity Directory on HonourThem.

  12. CHOOSE THE PEOPLE HELPING WITH THE FUNERAL SERVICE

    Do you want the funeral to be private or public?
    How many people do you anticipate will attend the gathering?
    Do you wish for family members or friends to give eulogies, do readings, sing, be pallbearers or participate in another way.

    Is your Loved One ex service personnel? You may wish to drape a flag over the casket or a RSA representative may be invited to offer a tribute at the service.

    Pall Bearers: You will need to invite 4 to 6 people to do the role of pallbearers. On the day the funeral director will give full step by step instructions.

    At some funerals, there are no pall bearers and the casket is already in the chapel and is lowered at the end of the service.

    Another option could be to wheel the casket in and out on a trolley.

  13. ADD A FREE OBITUARY NOTICE / DEATH NOTICE ON HONOURTHEM

    An Obituary is online and published instantly. Go to Add an Obituary
    Need guidance to write your Loved One’s Obituary, see How to: Write an Obituary Notice.

    At the same time you can also Create a Memorial Page on HonourThem. Here you friends and family can add photos, videos, audio and memories.

  14. NEWSPAPER NOTICES

    A funeral director can organise this for you.

    If you wish, you can contact your local newspaper to place in the announcement and funeral details of your Loved One’s passing.

  15. ORDER A CASKET / URN

    There are a range of options from traditional to modern, eco caskets made from sustainable timer to caskets you can draw on. Personalising the casket is a very popular option.

    The casket / urn can be purchased through their funeral home.

    If you wish, you can contact a company of your choosing and the casket can be delivered to the funeral home.

  16. ORDER FUNERAL FLOWERS FOR THE CASKET

    After the funeral, flowers can be left with the casket or you can take them home.
    You can often order your funeral flowers directly through the funeral home.

    If you wish, you can order funeral flowers/casket sprays directly from the HonourThem Marketplace: See send flowers

  17. MUSIC

    Music often reflects your Loved One or your feelings towards them.

    Your funeral director can provide specific music or perhaps an organist, piper, bugler, soloist.

    If you wish, you can contact a person of your choosing.

  18. PHOTO SHOW OF YOUR LOVED ONE’S LIFE

    Your funeral director can help you compile a photo show. Often matched to your favourite songs that the funeral director on hand.

    If you wish, this compilation could be handed to a willing friend. Gathering all the photos. The funeral director will have the background music.

    A photo in a frame of your Loved One could be also placed on the casket. Another thought is a photo board.

  19. FUNERAL TO BE LIVE STREAMED? (and later downloaded)?

    If friends or family cannot attend the funeral, they can still be a part by viewing a funeral online and in real time via the internet. After the service this webcast can be downloaded

    Your funeral director can help arrange this.

    If you wish, you can contact a company via the HonourThem Marketplace. See OneRoom

  20. SERVICE SHEETS

    Most funerals are accompanied by a printed service sheet and these detail the service order, words to hymns, messages of thanks and a link to the HonourThem Obituary notice. Most have a photo of your Loved One on the front cover.

    If you want service sheets or any other items at the service, order them a few days in advance. You can order them directly through the funeral home. Larger funeral homes have graphic designers to assist with creating service sheets, photo show and thank you cards.

    If you wish, you can order from another supplier.

  21. ATTENDANCE MEMORIAL BOOK / MEMORIAL REGISTER


    Family and friends can acknowledge their attendance at the funeral and write a message to the family.

    Your funeral director can organise this for you.

  22. RECEPTION OR WAKE

    This is the event after the funeral service and it can be a time for remembering your Loved One.

    Your funeral director will have suggestions for you to consider.

    If you prefer, you can organise this yourself.

  23. CATERING


    Your funeral director will be able to assist you if you hold the service within their chapel or at any other venue.

    if you wish and you are not holding your service at the funeral home chapel, you may choose to provide the food yourself or work with a caterer.

  24. WHAT HAPPENS ON THE DAY OF THE FUNERAL?

    – Arriving at the funeral service venue – Family generally arrive up to 30 minutes prior and may like to welcome other mourners to the service. Some people prefer to arrive just prior to the service beginning.
    – Bearers – If the casket is being carried into the funeral service venue, the funeral director will gather the pallbearers outside and guide them on how to carry the casket (generally at arms’ length). At the end of the funeral service the funeral director will instruct the pallbearers when to lift and carry the casket from the service.
    – The Service – The funeral director will be your central coordinator throughout the service. it involves asking all people to be seated prior to the start, ensure service sheets are handed out, ensure music and photo show presentation are in order.
    – The end of the service – the funeral director will invite the immediate family to pay their respects before leaving the chapel or lead out the casket followed by the immediate family members. Whether the farewell takes place inside the venue or at the hearse, generally all people will be offered a flower to place on the casket.
    – The committal / burial / Interment – When the funeral service is followed directly by a committal service or burial at another place, the funeral director will discuss with you about an appropriate departure time. When the hearse leaves, it is appropriate that cars follows with their head lights on.

  25. ONCE YOUR FUNERAL HAS TAKEN PLACE

    The funeral director will register the funeral to receive the Death Certificate


    It takes approximately 2 weeks to be issued and returned back to the funeral director.

    It is common practice that the funeral director will post the original copy along with 5 copies of the death certificate. The same letter will include the funeral account to the person nominated as the recipient of the account.

    If you require more than 5 copies (depending on the accounts that your Loved One had open), you will need to bring the original death notice to the funeral directors and they will copy and certify it for you.

    If you wish, you can do this yourself. See: Get a death certificate

  26. PICK UP THE ASHES

    The ashes are returned back to the funeral director and can be collected approximately two days after the service. The urn can be purchased from the funeral director.

    If you wish, you can purchase an urn from another supplier.

  27. THANK YOU CARDS

    Your funeral director can help here.

    You may wish to send your own personalised thank you cards to the people who have sent flowers, cards or attended the funeral service.

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