Choosing a funeral home

Deciding on the best service for saying goodbye.

Few of us know exactly how to plan a funeral and how much it should cost. Yet, when a loved one dies, we need to make important decisions and sometimes spend thousands of dollars, all during a time of emotional strain.

Being as informed as possible before you ever need funeral information is the best way to make funeral planning less challenging.

Just knowing the difference between a "funeral service" when the body or ashes are present; or a memorial service when they are not can help. Or that memorial services do not have to be held at a gravesite.

The funeral home

See these profiles of funeral homes. A funeral home can handle all your planning needs. A funeral does not have to follow a formula. Feel welcome to personalize it in any way you want, according to the deceased's wishes.

Funeral directors are prepared to fulfill whatever you desire for the final arrangements. They can provide any or all of the following services:

  • Transport for the deceased

  • Obituary(ies) for newspapers

  • Embalming

  • Cremation

  • The casket, urn or vessel

  • The funeral service and official

  • The flowers, final resting place and more
When someone you love dies, you'll want to call your funeral director right away. Almost all funeral homes accept calls anytime, day or night.

A trend in funeral home operations has been toward consolidation, which means that many funeral homes are owned by large corporations even if the funeral home outwardly seems like a small business. If it's important to you to find an independent funeral home, inquire about who owns the business.

Funeral types

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are three basic types of funerals, (with some leeway in variations).
  • Traditional Generally the most expensive, it can include a viewing, a service, transport to a cemetery and entombment. This kind of funeral is available whether the deceased is cremated or buried in a casket.

  • Direct This ensures the deceased is buried right away, which means no embalming is necessary. This package may include a service by the grave or final resting site or other memorial service.

  • Direct cremation Generally less expensive than a traditional funeral because it does not include visitation and embalming.


The Federal Trade Commission requires funeral directors to offer their clients an itemized list of how much everything involved in a funeral will cost, including the casket, grave liner, vault, container, embalming and more.

They often will include alternatives at lower prices. Specific price information may be given out over the phone, and the FTC even advises "price shopping" funeral homes over the telephone to avoid undue stress.

However, if a client chooses to purchase a package, the funeral director does not have to provide an itemized list with the package price. Because you are generally making decisions quickly and under emotional duress, you may want to take along an objective friend or family member to help you make informed decisions.

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