wikiHow to Plan Your Own Funeral

Three Methods:Plan a Burial ServicePlan a Cremation ServicePlan the Details of Your Service

Planning your own funeral may sound morbid, but it can save your loved ones a substantial amount of money. According to the Nation Funeral Directors Association, (NFDA) the average cost of a funeral is over $6,000. Add flower arrangements, transportation costs and other incidentals, and the price of a funeral can easily reach the $10,000 range. Apart from alleviating the financial burden of your survivors, planning your own funeral ensures that you will have the funeral you want, and relieves your survivors of the guesswork entailed as they try to figure out what kind of funeral you would have wanted.

Method 1
Plan a Burial Service

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    Consider all the elements involved in a burial. Although the personal details you want incorporated into your final service can be the same for either a burial or a cremation, there are different factors to decide upon if you choose a traditional funeral.
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    Choosing a casket. This is often the most expensive element of a burial service, and is often a heartrending choice to leave to your survivors, who might opt for a very expensive casket while in the throes of recent grief. It isn't necessary to have a top-of-the-line casket with satin lining; you can save thousands of dollars by choosing a simple casket to hold your remains. Shop around for a casket; visit at least 3 funeral homes to look at their options. You can even purchase a casket online; The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ensures that funeral homes will accept any casket you purchase. [1]
    • Wood caskets range from $345 to $12,000.
    • Metal caskets range from $1,000 to $12,000.
    • Cardboard caskets (they are made to resemble wood) range from $50 to $500.
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    Decide on a vault. There is no state law that requires a vault or a grave liner, but most cemeteries do require them. The purpose of a vault or liner is to prevent the grave from sinking and to keep the cemetery’s grounds from becoming uneven and unsightly. All caskets will eventually experience deterioration, so a vault or liner will prevent a grave from collapsing in the future.
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    Factor in cemetery costs. The fees charged by cemeteries are in addition to funeral home costs. You will need to purchase a burial plot (which can be as much as $4,000) and pay for grave digging and vault preparation. The cemetery also charges a fee for the placement of a headstone or grave marker. Many cemeteries take a percentage of the plot cost and put it into a perpetual care account; be sure to find out if there are any additional charges for perpetual care of your grave site. (Public cemeteries are maintained through local taxes.)
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    Arrange for a headstone or grave marker. The cost of a granite headstone can be $1,000 or more. #Don’t forget about basic funeral home fees. Even if you pre-purchase your casket, vault and other items, you will still incur costs for basic services provided by a funeral home. You can also negotiate and prepay for standard and necessary services, such as housing the remains, obtaining the death certificate and getting a burial permit.
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    Arrange for religious services. If you want a religious service, you will have to cover the fees charged by the church, synagogue or mosque. The actual use of the building is usually free of charge, but you will have to arrange payment for at least some of the following services:
    • Minister, priest, rabbi or eulogist
    • Musician(s). This may include sound systems and soloists.
    • Custodial fees
    • Funeral programs, mass cards or memorial cards.
    • Food. (Due to state laws and insurance regulations, most church’s cannot allow food prepared outside.

Method 2
Plan a Cremation Service

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    Consider cremation instead of a traditional burial. Having your remains cremated can be a fraction of the cost of a funeral, but it can also cost just as much as a traditional interment; it all depends on the choices you make. You can arrange to have your remains directly cremated and have no memorial service for as little as $1,500. Or, you can choose a variety of options that will increase the cost by as much as $6,000.
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    Arrange for a low cost cremation that includes a memorial service. Shop around for package deals that offer direct cremation with memorial visitation as well as funeral services (without the body present.)
    • Choose a cremation service that is similar to an interment. A “full” cremation service usually includes the following:
    • Use of a casket for viewing the remains and for the funeral ceremony. (The body is taken to a crematorium and cremated after the funeral service.)
    • Cost of an urn to hold the ashes.
    • Stipend for a minister or eulogist.
    • Cemetery costs (for graveside services and urn placement if the ashes are not scattered)
    • Floral arrangements.
    • Scattering services (if you wish for your ashes to be scattered)
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    Investigate regulations regarding the scattering of ashes. There are no hard and fast rules and laws concerning the scattering of your ashes, probably because there are no safety, health or environmental problems associated with the practice. However, use common sense and check your local jurisdiction to see if there are any ordinances that would prevent you from your site choice. This is especially important if you are considering an area that is within town or city limits, or a public park or facility. Other factors to keep in mind:
    • Obtain permission if you want to have your ashes scattered on private property.
    • Understand that the ashes of human remains are actually conspicuous. They are very white and therefore very visible. This isn't a concern if ashes are scattered over a body of water, but on a windless day, the ashes could remain on the ground and very visible for quite some time. (Scattering ashes on a very windy day presents a very different problem).
    • Keep in mind that some people and cultures find the practice of scattering ashes repulsive and offensive. Be discreet about your choice of location.

Method 3
Plan the Details of Your Service

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    Make a list of everything you want to be included in your service. It’s best to devise a list of all the elements you want included in your funeral. (Once you have refined your choices, you can interview funeral directors armed with your wishes and easily eliminate any funeral home that cannot accommodate your last wishes.) You may want to include some or all of the following on your list:
    • Eulogy. If you would like one or more people to deliver eulogies, approach them and express your desire. It gives them time (hopefully years) to write a thoughtful eulogy.
    • Write your own obituary. No matter how well your family knows you, they are likely to forget pertinent details about your life if they are called upon to suddenly produce an obituary. Either write your own or provide all the information your family will need to write it for you.
    • Write personal letters to your family and friends. You can arrange to have these letters delivered after your death, or you can arrange to have the letters read out loud at your service.
    • Select music for the service. Music does not have to be traditional. Think about making your own CD of the songs you want played at your service. Pick a genre you love, or choose songs from a particular era that’s dear to you. Try to have fun with this; include at least one song that will elicit smiles, if not laughter.
    • Choose photographs you would like to be displayed.
    • Make an audio or video recording. You can make a video of yourself sharing memories. Be irreverent, make funny faces and say whatever you like. It’s your last word.


  • Consider a green burial and lessen your carbon footprint on the Earth for eternity. You can purchase a burial shroud that is biodegradable.
  • Do your family a favor and tell them where they can find all your important papers. Keep everything stored in an easily accessible location.
  • If you have enough storage space in your garage or shed, you can save even more money and have an unassembled casket pre-shipped to your home and assemble it yourself.


  • No matter what kind of funeral you plan for yourself, be sure to check the laws in your state. For example, your state may not require a vault or embalming, so make sure you don’t pay for those services, or inform your family ahead of time about the regulations and laws governing funerals in your state.
  • Some states require a waiting period before cremation occurs; be sure to inform you family of this so that they can plan a memorial service that will include your ashes.

Article Info

Categories: Death Funerals and Bereavement