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Funeral Planning

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It doesn't have to be such a sad occasion

Death is never a welcome visitor, whether it is your own or someone else's. But funerals need not always be about everyone weeping. It is is an opportunity to say goodbye to the departed soul. But it can also be a celebration of that person's life. Some people also have certain strong ideas about what their funerals should or should not include. It is important to keep these ideas in mind because, after all, it is the departed person's day!

Why you should plan it

A death can mean a lot of expense for those left behind, and putting money aside for your own costs can give peace of mind to both your descendants or friends and yourself. This would also give you a chance to plan it yourself, rather than leave it to others who may have different ideas to your own. There should be little if anything for anyone else to do, apart from the undertaker, who should take care of everything. A pre-paid funeral plan would generally vary, depending on the provider. Most would cover a viewing, procession, and church service. Some things might have to be arranged separately. Some funeral parlours also offer customised services, and you can tailor your funeral plan according to your needs. So you need to be very involved in whatever you purchase.

What is involved?

A pre-paid funeral plan would vary in scope, depending on the provider. Most would cover a viewing, procession, and religious service. Some things might have to be arranged separately. Some funeral parlours also offer customised services, and you can tailor your funeral plan according to your needs. So you need to be very involved in whatever you purchase.
The burial plot
Most funeral plans do not cover the cost of a burial or the burial plot. They also don't cover the headstone. So all these need to be arranged on a separate basis, or discussed in advance with the funeral parlour. Purchasing a burial plot might come at a huge expense, and it seems to get more and more expensive with every passing year, as plot availability decreases. If you don't arrange for your own burial or leave money for it, then your inheritor might end up having to pay out quite a lot of money. Most authorities will allow you to buy a plot well in advance, which would mean you could pick your own eternal resting place.
When it comes to headstones, you have a large variety of choices. It is the one thing that remains standing even after you are long gone. So you would obviously want to have a say in what is being put up in commemoration of your life. A good resource to understand the different aspects of ordering a headstone can be found here. Do bear in mind though, that there are often local rules about the type of headstones that are acceptable, as well as the wording on them. What may seem appropriate at the time of burial may not be such a good idea for a long-term monument.
Another thing to remember is that funeral flowers are not usually covered by a pre-paid plan. Make arrangements for it beforehand. If you are fond of some particular flowers, specify it beforehand, because the undertakers may not give this aspect much importance. Bear in mind that mourners may wish to provide flowers themselves, and you might wish to allow for this. The flowers can also be reused later and given away to the guests as a "goodbye" or donated to the local hospital or other good cause. It's best not to send wreaths or other funeral-related displays though!
Funeral transportation If you are really looking to save money, then this is the place to do it. The traditional funeral hearse is quite expensive. If this is something you don't necessarily feel inclined towards, you can skip it. You also have a choice of choosing your own transportation method. Fancy a glass-sided carriage with two horses and a top-hatted coachman? A dray wagon, pulled by shire horses? A tractor-towed trailer? A vintage lorry? Why not, let your imagination roam free. Fancy a choir, piper, jazz band? You may have some interesting discussions with various bodies (pardon the pun) but anything may be possible.
The coffin
Much depends on whether your body will be cremated or buried. If it's to be a cremation, any brass fittings on the coffin will, of course, be removed for re-use first, but the rest will be consumed by the fire. Is it really worth while having a solid oak or mahogany masterpiece, if it's only going to be burned? A veneer over chipboard can look just as good, and it's far cheaper. Many people consider it a waste of natural resources to consider even this, and they go for a cardboard coffin instead. Either way, there will be some materials which will be acceptable, and some that won't because of pollution concerns. If a full body burial is the choice, there will again be restrictions, depending upon the policies of the chosen cemetery; but wool, woven rushes, seagrass, cane, banana leaf, are all possibilities. Lead lining has been popular in the past but the authorities may not accept it as many of them feel that they should only allow materials which will decay naturally.
Music for the funeral service remains traditional for the most part. But many people are now choosing to play music that the deceased loved during his or her lifetime. Such music can be classical or contemporary, and it is still the tradition to pick a piece that is more serene than lively. If you are religious, then arranging for a hymn to be played is also possible. If you are willing to pay for it, you might even arrange for live music. It's your choice though! Whether you're a heavy metal fan, a lover of plainchant or a (very) amateur singer or musician with a handy recording of your own version of 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' remember: you're paying the bill, and the one who pays the piper picks the tune.
Food and drinks
Food is as much a part of a funeral as anything else. Funeral foods are generally easy to prepare and serve; they have to b, because you rarely know how many people you may have to cater for. If you plan to outsource the catering, you can leave a menu to be followed. But do make sure, at least one of your own favourite food items is included. Another thing you can arrange for beforehand is the alcohol. If you are a connoisseur of specific alcoholic drinks, then you may wish to include it in your plan.

In conclusion

Whatever your choices, it is a good idea to draw out a detailed plan and jot down how you want everything to be. Make arrangements for practically everything in advance. Consult a few undertakers and discuss how far they can customise your funeral, and have a bit of fun looking into the possibilities. Yes, it may be expensive, but it's your money after all, and you'll have no way of using it once you're gone.
Paying for it
In the case of most pre-paid funeral plans, you'll have the option of paying a lump sum or in instalments over the years. As with anything else, it is better to pay in full as you would be saving on administration fees and interests. Either way, your money should be invested in a trust fund or insurance policy, and released when you die. In the UK, a deceased person's interest can be protected by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), which strives to fulfil the obligations of the funeral director even if the company goes bankrupt. Make sure that your funeral parlour is a member of the FPA so that your investment is protected.

Once you are above a certain age, death becomes a reality of life. But it need not be sad and boring. You can, yourself, make sure that you get the best send-off party; it's just a shame you won't be able to see it.

Some further reading

There is a selection of funeral ideas at this site; everything from transport ideas to coffin liners. If you want to pre-pay your funeral plan, the largest and most popular people to talk to may be the Co-op.

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