Planning a cremation service for a loved one who has passed brings both emotional and logistical challenges. You may have to make important financial choices while in a state of extreme distress. Turn to family, friends and other resources for support. With the help of the people who matter most, you will decide on the tone for the ceremony, choose and secure a venue, invite mourners and decorate in preparation for the big day.
Look to any expressed wishes of the deceased for guidance. Maybe your loved one spoke of how she wished to be celebrated upon dying, or even left a written document with instructions detailing how to proceed after cremation. Consult with friends and family and any written requests, then follow your loved one's wishes to the best of your ability.
Recruit family and friends to help you with the planning process and agree upon a tone for the memorial service. Decide if the service will be religious, non-denominational or secular.
Choose the person will lead the ceremony according to the wishes, religious affiliation (or lack thereof) and personality of the person who has died. This could be a spiritual leader such as a minister, rabbi or imam, or even a close friend or family member of the deceased. Once you secure someone to lead the service, you may want to include that person in the rest of the planning. For example, you would not want to plan a religious service without the service leader to inform you of how that service typically works.
Choose a venue for the service based on the tone you have chosen. For example, if you want the service to feel somber and reverent, a chapel, funeral home or crematory may work best. On the other hand, if you think the deceased would want something more upbeat and cheerful, consider a banquet hall at a favorite restaurant. If your loved one was a private person, consider an intimate service in a family home. Contact your venue of choice, schedule your event and pay any fees due in advance.
Develop ideas for the service, taking into account the logistics of the venue and the tone you have chosen. Will the service be traditional and religious -- a suit and tie affair with calla lillies and minimal decorations? Or would a flashy event with bright colors and a live band be more appropriate? Will you play a video presentation commemorating the life of the deceased? Will friends and family have the opportunity to speak about their loved one at an open microphone? Make these decisions, then divide up the work of decorating, ordering food and flowers, printing any photographs and securing any necessary audio equipment. This might include overhead projectors, video screens, microphones and stands.
Announce the details of the memorial service. Write an obituary that includes your loved one's full name, birthplace, occupation, birth and death dates and next of kin. Place the obituary in the local newspaper. Set up a phone tree to invite friends, family and coworkers. You may also want to use the phone tree to recruit additional help for the day of the service.
If you plan to hold your service at a funeral home or the cemetery where your loved one's ashes will be interred, you will have to coordinate all of the details with that institution. The New York Times recommends bringing an impartial friend, preferably someone who did not know the deceased, to act as your advocate while negotiating prices. This person should have the distance to remain objective and make sure that no one takes advantage of your emotional vulnerability at the time.
If you decide to inter your loved one's ashes at a crematory and have no family preference, compare prices. Call multiple cemeteries and ask them about their services and pricing plans.
If you feel confused or overwhelmed during the planning process, seek help from a friend who has recently lost someone. Take advantage of his knowledge and look to them for support. You may also choose to ask for advice from a funeral planning group -- a non-profit organization made of up volunteers who help grieving people such as yourself with funeral planning.
Scattering ashes is illegal in some jurisdictions. For example, in the United States you cannot scatter ashes into the ocean unless you are at least three miles off-shore. Call the local EPA office or the non-emergency line for local law enforcement before organizing an ash-scattering ceremony.
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