A Complete Guide to Planning Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service

Knowing how to plan your own funeral can sound like a complex and emotional challenge—so we developed this straightforward guide to planning your own funeral to walk you through the process, help you identify what option is best for you, and discover the easiest way to have a plan in place for your final wishes. Ready for our favorite tips for planning your own funeral? Keep reading.

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Why Should You Plan Your Own Funeral?

Although it may feel difficult to figure out how to make your own funeral plans and plan your memorial service, by doing so, you’ll save your family the emotional toll of planning it after your passing. Plus, not only can you plan your own funeral, you’ll be able to choose exactly what you’d like your sendoff to include, eliminating any confusion or uncertainty for your loved ones.

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Benefits of planning your own funeral include:

  • Ease the burden, stress, and uncertainty on your family and your loved ones by making the decisions ahead of time—so they know just what to do when the time comes.
  • Enjoy peace of mind, knowing that your final wishes will be followed.
  • Planning your own service in advance can help you and your family save money and unnecessary hassle.
  • Protect your family from the rising cost of funerals with inflation.
  • Prevent future arguments between family members during a difficult time by ensuring that all the specific details are mapped out for them.
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How to Plan Your Own Funeral Service

Ready to start the process? Here’s how to plan and pay for your own funeral. Keep reading for a complete checklist for planning your own funeral broken down into six simple steps:

  1. Start with Planning the Basics
  2. Decide on How Your Remains Will Be Handled
  3. Organize and Document the Final Details of Your Funeral Plans
  4. Calculate the Cost of Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service
  5. Make a Plan to Cover Funeral Costs
  6. Share Your Funeral Plans with Loved Ones

Don’t worry if learning how to plan your own funeral seems intimidating—it doesn’t have to be! In fact, you can plan your whole funeral for free with Everdays. We’ll make sure you have what you need to make your funeral planning decisions—and instantly give your loved ones access to your plan so all the answers they’ll need are just a click away when the time comes.

Step 1: Start with Planning the Basics

The first step for how to plan your own funeral is to start with the basics. How do you want to document your final wishes? With Everdays, we make it simple: Save your wishes 100% online in a free account, easily accessible for you to update, change, and provide access to your loved ones at any time.

Once you’ve decided how to document your wishes, the most important part of how to plan your own funeral is to determine what type of experience you want to leave behind for your family and friends. Are you looking for a formal, traditional funeral service for loved ones to honor your life? Or perhaps you’re imagining a more modern memorial service held at your favorite brunch spot? Or even a unique Celebration of Life complete with a balloon release?

Deciding how to plan your funeral with the types of services, events, and gatherings you want to leave behind for your loved ones is the most beautiful gift you can provide—it gives them direction and answers on how to say goodbye in the midst of a very difficult time. If choosing an experience feels overwhelming, don’t worry! We’re here to help. Our free funeral plans make it simple and easy, guiding how to plan your own funeral by finding the experience that’s right for you. We provide a pleasant experience that walks you through the process, asks engaging questions, and provides video tutorials to guide you every step of the way.

Once you’ve started making decisions about how to plan your own funeral, you’ll also want to make sure the right family members have access. Whoever it is – your spouse, partner, children, siblings, close friends – we make it easy to give loved ones access to your plan, instantly giving them peace of mind knowing they have all the answers they’ll need.

Step 2: Decide on How Your Remains Will Be Handled

You have several options when it comes down to how to plan your own funeral—and after deciding on the services and events, choosing how your body will be handled is one of the biggest choices you’ll have to make.

You can choose between three major categories: Burial, cremation, or donation.


Opting for a traditional burial is one of the most expensive options since it requires the purchase of a plot of land to bury your body. Most cemeteries also require the purchase of a vault—a concrete liner that goes inside the grave to ensure the land doesn’t collapse. You’ll also usually pay a lifetime upkeep fee to the cemetery. For a burial, the minimal cost is generally around $4,000—but most arrangements that include a burial are often upwards of $10,000.


Cremation is a much less expensive option to handle your remains. Many families like that cremation offers them a bit more flexibility when it comes to the timing of a memorial—there’s no rush to have a service because the body is decomposing. Cremated remains are also easy to bury, scatter, or keep.


Donating your body to science is another popular option, although it might take a bit more preliminary paperwork and research. If you live near a medical school, you can donate your body to help students learn about the body—or you can even choose a specific cause to donate your body to, such as Alzheimer’s research.

Burial Options

  • In-Ground Burial: This is the traditional burial which you’re most likely familiar with: A casket is placed inside a burial vault (a concrete layer) to ensure that the ground stays intact and doesn’t collapse inward.
  • Above-Ground Burial: An above-ground burial vault preserves the enclosed casket in a crypt or niche, commonly referred to as “entombment.” These above-ground burials may be made within a community mausoleum, a private family mausoleum, a columbarium, or a sarcophagus.
  • Private Mausoleum: A mausoleum is an above-ground structure that is built to hold the remains of a single family. Private mausoleums are much more expensive than a traditional burial—but if you’re seeking to be buried with your family, this is the best option.
  • Natural Burial: A natural burial seeks to minimize the environmental impact of a burial. Although the specifics of these burials depend greatly on your region and culture, it generally requires no embalming fluids or caskets—instead, the remains are placed directly into the earth to allow the body to naturally decompose. Sometimes, the term “natural burial” may also indicate the cemetery’s intention to minimize resources or simply provide a natural, serene environment.
  • Green Burial: A specific type of natural burial, a green burial is an environmentally sustainable approach to burial. In a typical green burial, the body is not cremated, prepared with chemicals, or buried in a concrete vault—instead, it’s placed in a biodegradable container. Some cemeteries with green burials refuse to use any chemicals, such as pesticides or insecticides, on the land as well.

Cremation Options

If you opt for cremation after passing, you can choose what you wish for your remains.

  • Urn or Keepsake Containers: After cremation, urn or keepsake containers offer a way to memorialize your life and keep you present in the lives of your loved ones. Depending on the container’s size, style, and material, urns or keepsake containers can range from $70–$2,250.
  • Spreading Ashes: Many families embrace spreading their loved one’s ashes in a special, intimate location that meant a lot to them. This ritual can be deeply healing and cathartic for family members and friends. Scattering ashes in a particular garden or memorial park can cost between $100 and $1,000, depending on the facility you choose and its location. If you choose to scatter ashes on private land you own, it’s free; for public land, including national parks, permits are sometimes required to scatter ashes.
  • Memorial Reef: Memorial reefs are a unique option to memorialize your life while preserving and protecting the marine environment. Made of environmentally safe concrete, a memorial reef is placed on the ocean floor and quickly assimilates into the natural environment, creating marine habitats for fish and sea life. Pricing typically ranges from $2,000 to $7,000 depending on the particular package.
  • Cremation Jewelry for Ashes: Allow your family to keep you close through cremation jewelry, such as necklaces and pendants. For cremation jewelry made from brass, the price can be as little as $50. For gold jewelry, it can cost upwards of $300.
  • Burial: Once your body has been cremated, your ashes can also be buried in a cemetery to provide family and friends with a permanent memorial to visit in your memory.

Should You Hold a Viewing?

Some people want to give their loved ones a chance to visit with the body and pay their final respects in an effort to bring closure to surviving family and friends. As you consider how to plan your own funeral, outline your final wishes and decide whether you’d like to hold a viewing or not. For many, seeing the body can help mourners accept the death and begin the grieving process fully.

If you decide you’d like to hold a viewing for your family and friends, it can take place at a funeral home, church, synagogue, or another place of worship. You can also choose to host a viewing at a specific location with sentimental significance, provided the property and the funeral home you’re working with allows it.

When it comes to cost, you’ll most likely need to pay a fee for the space where the viewing is hosted—whether that be for a funeral home, church, or synagogue—which costs around $500. You’ll also need embalming and body preparation services, along with a casket, which can cost upwards of $2,000.

Step 3: Organize and Document the Final Details of Your Funeral Plans

So far in your journey of how to plan your funeral, you’ve chosen which type of experience you’d like loved ones to participate in, you’ve picked the person or people who will make sure your funeral plans are seen through, you’ve considered how you’d like to handle your remains, and you’ve decided whether you want to hold a viewing. With these four major steps of the process decided, you can spend some time focusing on the personal details that set the mood of your funeral or memorial service.

Take a few minutes to review the following list and identify any details that are important to you. The most meaningful funerals and memorial services reflect the life of the person—so consider how to plan your own funeral in a way that best honors your life, your passions, your interests, and your accomplishments through these final details:

  • Elements of the Service: From flowers to music, your funeral service should be a reflection of who you are—and your ongoing spirit. Take some time to consider what you would like included.

    • Visitation with family (typically before the service begins)
    • Formal service (with or without a religious element)
    • Flowers
    • Music
    • Location of the memorial service
    • Speakers and eulogies
    • Reading of the obituary
    • Photos or videos of your life
  • Religious Elements: If you’d like to include religious elements at your funeral or memorial service, it’s best to discuss them with your officator, priest, pastor, minister, rabbi, or synagogue leader well in advance. Many seniors like to select hymnals, scripture readings, prayers, or even the style of the sermon. Most funeral and memorial services tend to include religious components—both in celebration of the deceased’s life and in comfort to loved ones grieving.
  • Reception Location: Planning your funeral or memorial service reception in advance can ensure that you have the reception you want—and it saves your loved ones the burden and stress of having to select a reception location and plan it during a time of grief. Receptions tend to be a beautiful time for your loved ones, family, and friends to reconnect as they share favorite memories of the deceased—and there are hundreds of options for planning your funeral reception. Some prefer to host a reception at a restaurant, church, community center, or local banquet hall. Others may prefer a casual, down-to-earth gathering at a park, or a barbecue at someone’s house. As you begin planning, consider if there’s a special location you could hold the reception that would have particular significance for your loved ones. Remember: This is an opportunity for your family and friends to express their grief as they celebrate your life and all the beautiful moments you shared together.

Additional Details to Consider:

  • Type of Casket or Urn
  • Open or Closed Casket
  • Where the Remains Will Go
  • Obituary Details and Key Points to Include: Some choose to write their obituary in advance, others opt to share a few key points that they would like included.
  • Clothing, Glasses, and Jewelry for Viewing and Final Resting: Choose what items you would like to be wearing for a viewing (if you choose that) and final resting.
  • Military Preferences for Veterans
  • Headstone or Marker Preferences
  • Pallbearer Suggestions

Research Funeral Homes and Service Options

Once you’ve determined the details of how to plan your own funeral, it’s time to research and choose a specific funeral home for their services if this is an important consideration for you. When finding the right funeral home, it’s best to consider your long-term plans—and your location. If you plan to move as you age, it’s often advised to choose a national funeral home. Additionally, many funeral homes have partner locations or are run by a national company, which gives you more options.

After determining a list of funeral homes that could be a good fit, reach out to them and learn about different pricing and packages. Next, schedule a visit or a call with the funeral home to ask questions. A few questions that are particularly helpful include:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Are you a locally-owned, independent business? Or are you part of a national chain?
  • Is your funeral home a member of national associations or professional organizations?
  • Are your funeral services handled in-house or outsourced?
  • What kind of packages do you offer?
  • What are the basic costs and expenses to expect?
  • Is embalming required?
  • What makes your services unique?
  • How customizable is the funeral service?
  • What are the payment options?
  • What are the next steps?

If you’re not sure or if you want your family to decide which funeral home will handle your arrangements at the time of your passing, that’s okay too! You may opt to include other caring professionals—such as those from your place of worship—in your funeral plan. Your plan can act as a source of guidance and support for your family as they navigate the days after your passing.

Step 4: Calculate the Cost of Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service

Now that you’ve chosen what type of experience you want to leave behind, how you want your body to be handled, whether or not to have a viewing and the small intimate details of your funeral or memorial service, it’s time to calculate the cost.

  • Funeral Service with Burial: A funeral with a burial today typically costs between $7,000–$12,000. The median cost of a funeral and burial runs around $9,135. Your funeral will include viewing and burial, basic service fees, transporting your remains to a funeral home, a casket, embalming, and other forms of preparation. These prices typically don’t include a burial plot, flowers, wreaths, or headstone.
  • Memorial Service with Cremation: A cheaper option than a funeral, a memorial service with cremation typically costs between $6,000–$7,000.

Your funeral plan includes many personal decisions that can impact the overall cost of your services—including the type of services, where they are held, and which funeral home will provide the services. On Everdays, you can make your free funeral plan completely online and then instantly view personal pricing to determine just how much your custom plan will cost.

Interested in learning more? Click here to get started.

Step 5: Make a Plan to Cover Funeral Costs

Option #1: Savings

Once you’ve determined an estimate of how much your funeral or memorial service will cost, you can elect to set aside a specific amount each month until you have enough budgeted to cover your final expenses. This option is less reliable and can sometimes result in your family and friends paying the difference if your savings weren’t enough.

Option #2: Life Insurance

Choosing life insurance to pay for burial expenses is a popular option because it provides immediate protection. The downside to traditional life insurance is that payment can take weeks or months to be provided to your beneficiary at the time of need—and during this process, your loved ones will be forced to navigate the stress and burden of paying for services upfront.

Option #3: Estate Liquidation

Although this is not the best option in many cases, you can rely on liquidating your estate—including your house, investments, and other valuable property as a way to pay for your final expenses. We generally recommend this as a last resort as it can take a long time for your family to liquidate your estate, leaving them stretched to pay for your funeral or memorial services out of pocket.

Option #4: Prepaid Funeral Plans

Choosing a prepaid funeral plan is the easiest way to feel at peace, saving your family stress and uncertainty. At Everdays, we offer a number of personalized funeral and memorial service packages based on your funeral planning decisions to support your loved ones after your passing—and ensure that your final wishes are observed. Prepaid funeral plans cover the costs of the services you want to put in place with an insurance policy, and arranges for funds to be paid directly to your chosen funeral home at the time services are provided. This saves your family from having to navigate through difficult decisions and unforeseen expenses even for a short while—all the decisions and finances are taken care of for them.

Start with a free plan & quote here.

Step 6: Share Your Funeral Plans with Loved Ones

With your funeral plan successfully complete, it’s time to share your final wishes with your loved ones.

This conversation can be incredibly difficult and emotionally taxing, but it’s important to remember that talking about death is natural. Although it’s a tough process—and certainly a hard conversation—taking these steps today will provide you with true peace of mind and ensure a pleasant experience for your family.

At Everdays, we’ve created a way to seamlessly share your funeral plans with loved ones – all without saying a word or jumping into a heavy conversation – if that’s more comfortable for you. Just make your free funeral plan and save it to your Everdays account. Then, you can instantly share access to anyone you choose, and your loved ones will have all the answers they’ll need to help them through a difficult time

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Our content is created for educational purposes only. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Everdays encourages individuals to seek advice from their own investment or tax advisor or legal counsel.


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