How to Plan a Funeral

By Nicholas Marouchak

06 March 2021 - 5 min read

Planning a funeral is a completely new experience for most people.

The funeral can be done in anyway you wish. You don’t need to have a traditional funeral service if that’s not right for you.

The funeral is an opportunity to say goodbye in a way that works best for you, while celebrating your loved one’s life.

Here are some tips on planning the funeral.

Who makes the decisions about the funeral?

The most senior next-of-kin (or the executor if there is a Will) makes the decisions about the funeral.

If there is no will, the next-of-kin order for an adult is usually:

  • First, the current partner or spouse.
  • Second, an adult child.
  • Third, a parent.
  • Fourth, an adult brother or sister.

The next-of-kin order for a child is:

  • First a parent.
  • Second, a brother or sister of the child who is over 18.
  • Thirdly, person who was guardian of the child immediately before their death.

Your loved one’s wishes

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Check if the deceased person left any written details about their wishes in a Will or discussed it during their lifetime.

Do your best to honour your loved one’s wishes. However, usually their wishes are not legally binding on the family, especially if carrying it out is too onerous or cannot be done.

Burial and cremation are the most common ways of disposing a body.

There are other options such as donating the body to a medical or scientific cause.

Do what is best within your means and budget.

Direct cremation

A direct cremation is often a more affordable option compared to a traditional funeral.

A direct cremation is where the cremation takes place privately (with no family in attendance) and the ashes are returned to the family.

The family can then organise their own way to remember their loved one.

It could be a bbq at the park, a meal at their favourite restaurant, scattering their ashes at the beach, a party, planting a tree, or creating jewellery from the ashes

There is no pressure to hire a funeral director and have a traditional funeral. Estates Plus can arrange a direct cremation for you.

Funeral director

If arranging the funeral yourself is not for you, you can use a professional funeral director who will take care of all the steps in arranging the funeral.

A good funeral director will make you comfortable about the whole process and keep you well informed at each step.

However, there is no legal requirement to use a funeral director.

Pre-paid Funeral

Remember check if your loved one had a pre-paid funeral package or funeral insurance.

The Celebrant

You can choose to have a celebrant (although it is not required).

The job of a celebrant is to make sure the funeral is running smoothly and that everything happens in the right order.

You can hire a professional celebrant, or have a friend or family member do it.

A professional celebrant has done it many times before and knows the routines and common practices of a funeral. They have experience with dealing with tricky situations.

Having a celebrant allows you to focus on the more important parts of the funeral such as the eulogy.

You could have a photo gallery or display to honour your loved one.

Choosing photos can be a difficult task because it brings back a lot of memories, but a lot find it a healing experience.

Have your closest family help you choose the photos. You can reflect on the memories together.

Some ideas for photos to display can include:

  • import moments in life such a marriage, graduation, first home, birth of children, traveling, retirement.
  • photos with any children and grandchildren.
  • the closest people.
  • them as a baby or when they were a child.
  • group photos with the special people in their lives
  • anything that is special and meaningful to you.


Music adds a special touch.

Most pick 5 to 10 songs which are be played at various stages of the funeral or memorial service

Pick songs that are meaningful to you and loved one.

Some popular funeral songs are:

  • Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler/Celine Dion
  • Angels – Robbie Williams
  • Over the Rainbow – Eva Cassidy
  • My Way – Frank Sinatra/Shirley Bassey
  • Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day
  • Amazing Grace – Various artists
  • Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
  • Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds
  • What a Wonderful World– Louis Armstrong
  • Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler
  • Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
  • Follow the Sun – Xavier Rudd
  • Blower’s Daughter – Damien Rice
  • I'll Be Missing You - Puff Daddy & Faith Evans
  • Bitter Sweet Symphony - The Verve


Whether you’re having a traditional funeral or doing something different, having close friends and family share stories and memories is really special.

It can be helpful and comforting to have a family member by your side when speaking the eulogy.

A eulogy can include anything from early childhood, school, marriage, having kids, grandchildren, hobbies, work, travels and highlights from life.

Don’t just make a list. Share stories and focus on the happy times.

Speak to other family members for ideas on things to share.

Practice reading your eulogy out loud beforehand.

Keep it conversational.

Make it personal.

Focus on the positives, not the negatives. As sharing negative things can increase someone’s grief. Leave the past, in the past.

Bring a copy of the eulogy with you. A family member (or celebrant) can read it if you get stuck at certain parts.


Don’t’ feel pressured to buy an expensive coffin. We’ve heard of coffins selling for up to $42,000!

A simple coffin does the same job as an expensive one.

With Estates Plus’s direct cremation service, allocate around $135 towards a simple coffin. Just be aware that coffins can come with big markups.

Personalise It

Think about what best represents your loved one.

You can have some of your loved one’s favourite things displayed at the funeral or memorial service.

The Day

Arrive early on the day of the funeral or memorial service. It's a good idea to come early, visualise the day and layout and make any changes.

It also gives you a private moment to say your goodbyes before everyone arrives.

Afterwards, you may feel like the whole day went by in a blur.