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How to Choose a Funeral Home

Planning a funeral is an important life event. For many, it is the final time that family and friends will honor a person they love and give their proper goodbyes, so planning a funeral and choosing a funeral home with services that will meet all requested needs and accommodate personal wishes is an important and difficult task. To help, we have outlined the following guide to help you pick a funeral home that is right for you and your loved one.

Choose services and determine a budget

Before searching for funeral homes in your area, it is crucial to know what is wanted for the funeral and needed from the funeral home. The deceased person has outlined this in a will or prearrangement contract in some cases. This also may have been discussed with the family beforehand. However, if this is not the case, the funeral home search should begin with a discussion between family (and friends, as applicable) to decide on the desired services.

When planning a funeral, there are many things to consider, so it may be difficult to know where to start. However, there are a few basic things to consider before consulting funeral homes. These are discussed below.  

Final disposition

Final disposition means what will be done with body when the funeral is completed. There are two general options for this – burial or cremation. If cremation is chosen then a further choice will be necessary. Flame cremation where the body is reduced to ashes by being exposed to extreme heat. Water cremation — also known as aquamation– is a chemical process called alkaline hydrolysis where heated alkaline water and pressure are used to reduce the body to its base elements. Knowing which disposition method is preferred can be helpful when exploring funeral options and choosing services.

Funeral services and ceremonies

There are many funeral services and ceremonies to choose from, and these may differ slightly depending on the final disposition. Examples include:

  • Viewing, visitation, or wake. This is a ceremony where people can visit and say goodbye to the deceased person. They are almost the same service, but a viewing implies the body will be viewed, while a visitation can occur with an open or closed casket. A wake has the same premise–the body is present–but usually, the ceremony has an emphasis on religious aspects, although non-religious wakes are not uncommon.
  • Ash scattering. This is a ceremony for people who have been cremated. It involves scattering the cremated remains (ashes) in an area of choice.
  • Religious mass or ceremony. These are traditional funeral services given to those of a particular faith.  
  • Memorial or celebration of life. This is an event where family and friends gather to celebrate the deceased person’s life. It is often more upbeat and lively.
  • Home funeral. These are funeral services carried out partially or entirely by family and friends of the deceased person, with minimal involvement from funeral homes.
  • Committal or graveside service. A short ceremony held at the cemetery or crematorium.  
  • Green funeral. Funeral services that aim to minimize environmental impact.  
  • Direct cremation or burial. A cremation or burial that occurs shortly after death and eliminates most additional funeral services.

End of life documentation

Before funeral services can occur in most areas, families must complete government documents. This includes a death registration and burial permit. A will is also essential to have beforehand as it gives instructions on how to handle the distribution of estate and assets and who is responsible for funeral decisions and sometimes contains preferences for a funeral or dispostion.

In some provinces in Canada, the family can handle documentation directly, but in other areas may require the involvement of a funeral provider or lawyer. This should also be researched beforehand to avoid delays or hiccups with funeral planning.

Funeral budget

Finally, one of the most crucial things to determine before choosing a funeral home is the budget allotted for needs and services. Although the wishes of the deceased person and their loved ones are important when funeral planning, the budget is more likely to dictate what is feasible.

For example, burial is more expensive than cremation, so cremation may be the better option if there is a lower budget. Or a direct burial or direct cremation may be preferred. This is where a body is buried or created without a viewing or visitation, and the need for embalming is eliminated . Similarly, aquamation has a smaller environmental impact than flame-based cremation, so an environmentally conscious person may want to opt for that. However, it is slightly more expensive than flame-based cremation, so the budget may not allow for that option.

It is also essential to determine where the money is coming from. For example, many people have money set aside to pay for funeral services. Other times, the responsibility falls on the family. Nonetheless, it is vital to know how much is available and how to access it before looking into options further.

Finding a funeral home

Once services and budgets have been determined, it is time to search for a funeral home. There are a few ways to go about this. One of the most common ones is to look online. Simply searching “funeral homes in [city name]” will provide an extensive list of places to choose from. You search by city on this website or search by postal code.

Family and friends can also be a great resource in your search. It helps provide recommendations that have been vetted by people you trust.

Narrowing down the search  

Upon finding a list of funeral homes in the area, it is crucial to narrow down the search. There are things to look at when doing this. Examples are discussed below.

Funeral services

One of the most basic ways to start this is by looking at the services offered. For example, some funeral homes only offer cremation or burial instead of both, so ones that do not provide the required services can be excluded right away. This includes required and desired services. For example, two places may offer cremation, but one may only offer direct cremation. Those wanting additional services may choose to exclude these types of funeral homes.

Funeral prices

Next, it is important to review prices. Funeral homes in Canada are required to outline services and prices fully and with transparencies. There should be no hidden fees in funeral packages that are not otherwise outlined. Price lists provided on the funeral provider’s website will help determine if the packages are within your budget. In addition, the funeral home can be contacted to provide a quote when in doubt. Providers will also be there to answer any questions someone might have about pricing and services. Funeral homes not within the budget can then be excluded from the search.

Reputation of a funeral home

Another crucial thing to look at is the reputation of the funeral home. A good funeral home should not only be able to accommodate the needs and wishes of a client but also provides support and resources to help demystify funeral planning and eliminate or minimize the stress involved in the process. This support should be provided before, throughout and after the funeral.

A great way to do this is to look at reviews on their website and google. These reviews will help provide insight into the atmosphere of the funeral home and its staff. Listening to recommendations from family and friends can also be helpful, as opinions will come from people you know and trust.

Location of a funeral home or provider

Location is also something that some may overlook when choosing a funeral home. In most cases, people want a local funeral home that is close to attendees. However, there may be more to it than that. For example, if many guests are expected to attend, it is necessary for there to be adequate parking spaces. Many funeral homes have private parking lots, but some might rely on public parking spaces. In a case like this, it is essential to ensure the location offers a lot of public parking spaces to accommodate the number of attendees.  

Making a decision on the right funeral provider

These considerations should help narrow down the options significantly. Still, it may be challenging to choose between the final few options left. At this point, it is important to look at the value for the price. It may be worth spending a little more to get what you want in some cases. Additionally, sometimes it may come down to personal feelings. Visiting the funeral home and talking to staff can be a great way to determine what is best for the funeral plans. Regardless, it is essential to remember the decision is up to the family and friends of the deceased person, and no one should feel pressured into choosing a funeral home that does not fit their needs, their wishes and their budget.  

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