How to Choose a Funeral Home

Choosing the right funeral home can be incredibly difficult. We want to send our loved ones off in style and yet are often called on to make the arrangements at times of great stress, when we are deep in grief and it is difficult to make the right decisions.

The best idea is to think about what you want - whether for yourself or a loved one - before the event. If you pre-arrange your own funeral you not only guarantee that it will be conducted according to your wishes, but it saves those you leave behind from having to deal with it once you are gone. Or if you have an ageing relative whose health is in decline, start investigating your options now: that way you give yourself time to find a funeral director you trust and to plan a funeral that the whole family is happy with.

Funerals can be extraordinarily expensive, so it's important, when choosing a funeral home, that you shop around. Don't feel that thinking about money on such an occasion is disrespectful: some funeral homes rely on the fact that those who need their services are at the time ruled more by emotion than by reason, and they hike their prices up. You shouldn't be made to feel guilty for not going for the most expensive option: surely the departed would prefer that you spent some time thinking about what would be a fitting tribute to them, rather than financially crippling yourself unnecessarily? Try to pick a local funeral home so that as many as possible of the deceased's friends and family can attend, and ask around for recommendations. Don't assume that just because a particular funeral home has been in the town for generations and has a family name above the door you will necessarily get a family business level of service - many of these businesses have in fact been bought up by big conglomerates.

Visit different funeral homes, or ring them, or look online, and compare prices. Funeral homes should be able to provide you with itemised lists of fees: cost up the funeral you would like and work out if it's one you can afford. If you are offered a 'package' funeral make sure that you need all the services that the fee includes. If you want open casket viewing bear in mind that this will likely mean the body has to be embalmed and prepared and will significantly drive up costs.

One of the biggest costs is the casket. Caskets - and prices - vary widely, as they can be made out of all kinds of different materials and with a range of linings and decorative features. Don't let yourself be pressurised into buying the most expensive one that the funeral home supplies and remember that you can buy a casket from elsewhere if you'd prefer.

Some of the costs, for services not directly provided by the funeral home, will have to be paid up front. These might include flowers, obituaries or musicians. In these cases, the funeral home should be able to give you a good faith estimate.

Arrange for a meeting with the funeral director and figure out if you can get on with them on a personal level. You will feel much happier if your arrangements are being handled by someone that you trust. Use this meeting to check they can deal with your religious or cultural requirements, or any personal touches you'd like to bring to the service: could you release a flock of doves, for example, or stream it online for friends and family who can't be there in person?

Crucially, don't feel rushed into choosing a funeral home, and try not to let emotion cloud your judgement. A funeral is important and expensive, and you want to be able to feel confident that the people who are arranging it will give you the service you want at a fair price, and that your loved one will depart this mortal coil in style.

Our Wishing Well