Funeral Planning Guide

For many people, a funeral is a necessary part of grieving, and often the first step in the healing process. For thousands of years, funerals have been one of the most common ways of expressing grief and paying tribute to loved ones. Some people prefer to make plans for their funeral while they are still alive, while others choose to leave the planning to family and friends to figure out after they are gone.

Whether you are planning your own funeral, or the funeral of a loved one, this guide will illuminate some of the funeral planning process and what things you need to consider.

Why Should You Plan Ahead?

Many who have undergone the emotional strain of arranging a funeral within hours of losing a loved one have made the choice to pre-plan their own funeral. Doing so lifts the burden from their loved ones by relieving decision-making and financial pressure at a time of grief and emotional stress.

What are the Basic Steps of Funeral Planning?

While many funeral homes offer the option to pay for a funeral service in advance, funeral planning can be as simple as writing down your wishes or sharing them with your loved ones so they will have a basic idea of what to do when the time comes. Some of the general steps to planning a funeral include:

  • Estimate the cost of the funeral. There are many choices that you can make that can increase or decrease the amount a funeral will cost. Having a budget in mind before making any plans can make this easier.
  • Share your funeral plan with your family. Choose someone you trust that will responsibly carry out your wishes once you are gone. You can get specific or just share the basics of what you’d like.
  • Make financial arrangements. Figure out whether you will have enough money to cover any expenses necessary. You can consider funeral insurance, trusting, pre-purchasing cemetery space, and a pre-need contract for funeral services.
  • Organize all your important documents and personal information. Having all the necessary information in one place will make it easy for your loved ones to get your affairs in order.

Benefits of Pre-Planning

Between 70 and 75 decisions are made within the first 24-48 hours of death. It’s difficult to think rationally while making so many decisions within days of losing someone, pre-planning gives yourself, family and friends peace of mind. Pre-planning gives your loved ones direction about your wants and desires. The process is easy, accessible, and you can change your mind at any time.

Planning Your Own Funeral

We all know that one day we will die, but even so it can be difficult to acknowledge this fact. Planning your own funeral can be emotionally taxing, but there are lots of benefits to being involved in this process. The most obvious benefit is that planning a funeral in advance alleviates a lot of the stress that your grieving friends and family will feel after you are gone. 

Losing a loved one is already an incredibly dark time, so removing the need to make tough choices in that scenario is a wonderful thing you can do for the loved ones you leave behind.

Some of the decisions you can make in advance include:

  • Decide on burial or cremation.
  • Choose location for interment (if applicable.)
  • Select your casket or urn type.
  • Pick what type of service you want (religious, military, green, non-traditional.)
  • Choose the person you would like to officiate the service.
  • Choose the location of the service (i.e. funeral home or place of worship.)
  • Select the burial garments.
  • Pick what type of floral arrangements and style of programs.
  • Select which photographs you would like to be used in the programs.
  • Designate your pallbearers, pick any music or readings you want at your service.

Deciding on the Type of Funeral Service and Interment

Bringing family and friends together to celebrate a cherished life is part of the healing process, and best served through a personalized ceremony and tribute. It is important not only to capture the memories and celebrate the spirit of your loved one, but also to provide healing through gathering together, paying tribute, and celebrating a life. 

At Madison Memorial Home, our primary mission is to ensure that this special, emotional, and necessary time for healing receives the utmost attention. 

Interment Options

  • Monumental cemetery: A monumental cemetery is the traditional style of cemetery where headstones or other monuments made of marble or granite rise vertically above the ground.  There are countless different types of designs for headstones, ranging from very simple to large and complex.
  • Lawn cemetery: A lawn cemetery is where each grave is marked with a small commemorative plaque that is placed horizontally at the head of the grave at ground-level.  Families can still be involved in the design and the information contained on the plaque, however in most cases the plaques are a standard design. 
  • Crypt: crypts are vaults that house a casket. They are usually found below churches or within private or public mausoleums. 
  • Mausoleum: a mausoleum is a external monument containing several crypts which house the remains of those who have passed away. Unlike columbariums, which are designed to house urns containing ashes, mausoleums are meant to inter traditional caskets. Using mausoleums is a form of above-ground burial.
  • Columbarium: a columbarium is a structure that houses the cremated remains of the deceased. Each urn of ashes is stored in a separate space called a “niche,” some of which can be large enough to hold several containers. 
  • Natural cemeteries: natural cemeteries, also known as eco-cemeteries or green cemeteries is a new style of cemetery set aside for natural burials.  Natural burials are motivated by the desire to be environmentally conscience, although natural burials can be performed at any type of cemetery, they are usually done in a natural woodland area.  Conventional markings such as headstones are generally replaced with a tree or a bush or a placement of a natural rock.

Ceremony Brings Hope and Enlightenment

Meaningful ceremonies with personalized memorials can be as unique as the loved one being remembered. We can help guide you through the process of creating a ceremony that ultimately provides a meaningful experience and leads to healing. 

Ceremonies are a way to inform the community of a loved one’s passing, tell their story, and celebrate their life. Whether simple or elaborate, traditional or contemporary, a ceremony is most meaningful when it reflects your loved one’s relationships, hobbies, and the moments you shared together.

Ceremony and Memorial Service Options

One of the main reasons to pre-plan your funeral is being able to decide in advance about what type of memorial you would like, and what you would like to have done with your remains, whether you already have a preference or are still unsure.

The most common interment choices are burial and cremation, but there are other available options as well, such as donating your body to science. Additionally, Madison Memorial Home is also one of the few funeral homes in New Jersey to offer “green burial” services.

Also called “natural burials,” they avoid the many complications and expenses typically associated with funerals, opting instead for a simple and environmentally-conscious service that takes place in a “natural cemetery.” By forgoing caskets and the embalming process, “green burials” help to preserve the environment and its natural resources. 

Some people don’t have a preference about how they are interred or what type of service they want to have, while others are very particular about what should be done based on their religion, culture, or family traditions. In the end, the choice is yours, and you’ll be able to set it in stone if you opt to pre-plan your funeral.

Types of Burial Services

When it comes to honoring your loved one, there are several types of burial services you can choose from:

  • Funeral - is usually held within a few days of your loved one’s passing and is generally held in a church or funeral home. This type of service is typically done before a burial.
  • Graveside burial - These are held at the location where your loved one will be buried. It is often done after a funeral service, but can be done without a funeral beforehand. This service gives friends and family the chance to be near their loved one before they are finally laid to rest.
  • Green burial services - This is a natural option that will give you peace of mind knowing your loved one’s remains will go back into the earth. 

What Options Are Available Besides Ground Burial?

Besides ground burial, some cemeteries offer interment in lawn crypts or entombment in mausoleums.  In addition, most cemeteries provide choices for those who have selected cremation.  These often include placement of cremated remains in a niche of a columbarium or interment in an urn space.

Planning a Funeral For a Loved One

A funeral is a way to honor and celebrate the life of a loved one who has passed away, but also an important step for those who are still there to grieve for them. If you spoke with your loved one about what they wanted at their funeral, relaying that information to the funeral director can speed up the planning process as they will have years of knowledge and experience. However, if you are planning a funeral without any knowledge of what the deceased would have wanted, our exemplary and compassionate staff can guide you through the process and help you plan the perfect funeral.  

Pre-Payment Options

When pre-planning your funeral, you have the option to pre-pay for the services. Everyone may not opt to pre-pay, but should you choose to, we will guide you through the steps.

Pre-paying your funeral reduces stress and financial burden on your loved ones after your passing. Madison Memorial Home is a member of Choices-New Jersey Prepaid Funeral Trust Fund, the largest fund of its kind in NJ, and one of which is the safest and best resource to place prepaid funeral funds. Once the funds are deposited, you will receive a monthly statement and the trust will accrue interest. We can also coordinate a payment plan that suits your needs, such as a monthly plan. 

By pre-paying your funeral you eliminate your family second guessing on if they have spent too much or too little on your funeral. Pre-payment also protects you and your family from inflation.

Bereavement Counseling and Support

Grief from the loss of a friend or family member can seem overwhelming, especially when compounded with the stress of funeral planning, but you need not face it alone. With our extensive grief and coping resources, you and your loved ones can learn about these feelings and how to process them.

In addition to the comprehensive library of articles written by Dr. Bill Webster, our Director of Grief Education, we also offer a grief support group, and can provide information for several grief therapists, should the need arise.

Whether it’s during the funeral planning process, or long after, we are here to support you every step of the way.

Contact Us About Our Funeral Home Services 

At Madison Memorial Home, we are dedicated to providing compassionate care and exemplary service. Our mission is to help you honor your loved one in a meaningful and special way, offering thoughtful guidance and personal attention to every detail.  

If you are interested in getting to know our staff, finding where we are located, seeing photos of our facility, or locating additional resources, simply browse our site or contact us today for more information.