Funeral Planning Guidance

Get Smart Before Planning a Funeral

Before planning a funeral you should know that death care in America is a business. There are service providers (e.g. funeral homes, cemeteries, and headstone dealers) and there are consumers (people like you and me who need to make funeral arrangements).

Like any business, funeral homes and cemeteries should provide their goods and services on an honest and fair basis. Unfortunately, this rarely happens as several characteristics unique to the funeral industry place the consumer at a significant disadvantage when making funeral arrangements.

Donating Your Body to Science - What You Need to Know

Many people consider donating their body to science in lieu of choosing a funeral followed by cemetery burial.

If you are interested in donating your body to science and making a contribution that benefits others, Medcure is one of the oldest and most respected programs to do so. If you quality for a body donation, Medcure will arrange for your body to be donated, and then will organize the rest of the remains to be cremated and returned to the family within 3-5 weeks for no cost. If you would like to know more, please call (866) 437-9526 and someone will be able to assist you and answer any questions.

Donating your body to science:  a basic description

When you choose to donate a deceased body to science, you are essentially donating the body to aid medical research - usually to teach medical students about anatomy.

When you donate a body, a representative from the medical school picks up the body and takes it to back to the school school where it's embalmed and stored.  The body is used to teach anatomy to medical students during the following semester's classes.  After the semester ends, the body is cremated.

The cremated remains (i.e. cremains) are either returned to the family or buried in communal plot in a cemetery near the medical school.

Families choosing to donate a body to science can still choose to hold their own memorial service after the death; however, in cases of body donation, the cremains will not be present during the memorial service (because the body needs to be transported to the medical school immediately following death).

The medical school usually holds a single memorial service for all of the bodies used during the previous semester's classes, and surviving family members are invited to attend the ceremony.   The medical school's memorial service occurs approximately two years after the date of death.

After the school holds their memorial service, the cremains are usually buried in a cemetery near the medical school.  However, the family can also request the cremains be returned to the family.  Again, this occurs nearly two years after death.

Understanding Funeral Home Services

Many people want to know what services are offered by a funeral home.  Funeral homes, cemeteries, and memorial dealers all play an important role in caring for a deceased family member.  However, funeral homes normally handle the actual funeral or memorial service.

Different funeral home services

But not all funeral services are like.  In fact, funeral homes offer a range of services designed to accommodate different wishes and budgets.

Here are the most common types of services offered at most funeral homes:

    •  traditional funeral service
    • immediate burial
    • direct cremation
    • cremation with services
    • donation
    • memorial service
    • graveside service
    • private service

What's Included With a Traditional Funeral Service?

A "traditional” funeral involves the laying out of a casketed body for friends and family to pay respects.  The casket itself may be either “open” or “closed”.  An open casket is one in which the casket lid is left open so that the deceased is visible throughout the ceremony.  A closed casket ceremony means the ceremony is held in the presence of the casket, but the casket lid is closed.  The decedent’s family decides which option they prefer after considering the manner of death and condition of the body.

Find trusted funeral homes near you to compare quality and prices

What Costs Are Associated With a Traditional Funeral Service?

This post provides price ranges for many of the items associated with a traditional funeral service.  Reviewing these considerations will help you identify the type of funeral service most appropriate for your budget.

A traditional funeral service can cost nearly $10,000

While the average funeral costs nearly $7,500, many traditional funerals cost in excess of $10,000.  Here are the main components typically associated with a traditional funeral:

    • casket: $2,300
    • funeral director’s basic services fee: $1,400
    • embalming and body preparation: $600
    • viewing / visitation ceremony: $400
    • funeral ceremony: $450
    • transportation (pick up body, limousine, and hearse): $625
    • miscellaneous (certificates, permits, music, clergy, obituary, register book, service folders, obituary, flowers): $500
    • grave site $1,000
    • fee to dig grave site $500
    • headstone $1,500

The above costs represent national averages for many of the costs associated with a traditional funeral service.  Your actual costs could be higher (or lower) based upon geographic location, the funeral home you select, and the actual items you purchase.

If you would like to save money the next time you need to make funeral arrangements, you can search and compare local funeral home pricing at

Traditional Funeral Service: The Advantages and Disadvantages

This article identifies a variety of considerations related to holding a traditional funeral service.  Reviewing these considerations will help you identify the type of funeral service that is most appropriate in your situation.

Advantages of a traditional funeral service

A traditional funeral service is the most popular –and therefore, socially acceptable- type of funeral service in America.  The structured formality of the traditional funeral service may provide the family with a sense of comfort and closure not experienced in less formal service arrangements.

The traditional funeral affords ample time for friends and extended family to attend and support the surviving family members.  A traditional funeral usually includes some type of viewing ceremony held one or two nights before the actual funeral.  Since the funeral ceremony itself is almost always held during the daytime, this nighttime visitation allows friends to pay their respects, even if they work during the day.  Also, by scheduling the traditional funeral three to six days after the death, extended family members have time to make travel arrangements, if necessary.

The traditional funeral provides many ways to celebrate the life of the deceased.  Although the traditional funeral can be a fairly structured event, it also provides maximum flexibility in terms of casket choice, religious readings, flower arrangements, and eulogies.

Lastly, the expenses associated with a traditional funeral service leave plenty of room for negotiating a big discount.  Using a resource like the Funeral Saver’s Kit to plan your funeral can often slash several thousands dollars from the funeral home’s bill.

Understanding Your Total Funeral Bill

Funeral expenses really consist of three separate pieces:

    • the services and merchandise provided by the funeral home
    • the costs and services to dispose of the body or cremains (i.e. ashes) at the cemetery or elsewhere
    • the cost to purchase and install some type of memorial (i.e. headstone, marker, monument)

Even if you end up paying for all three pieces through the funeral home, it’s best to break the cost of a funeral down into the above-three categories.

When estimating your TOTAL funeral costs, you must add all three pieces together. I think this is by far the best way to plan a funeral because it allows you to isolate and prioritize the goods and services that are most important to you.