How to preplan a personalized funeral service

Prearrange a personalized funeral service that’s as unique as you are

In today’s culture, personalization is key — even for funerals. More and more people are veering away from traditional funeral services and choosing to hold celebrations of life or funeral parties because they’re less somber and feature the person’s personality and character. Personalized funerals have become so popular that they’re considered a funeral planning trend.

If you want to bypass a traditional funeral for yourself, you can prearrange a personalized funeral. Preplanning and prepaying allow you to specify your exact wishes and take the pressure off your loved ones when you pass. They won’t be questioning what you would’ve wanted and worrying how they’re going to pay your final expenses.

To advance through the four steps to preplanning a funeral, you’ll want to form a relationship with your funeral home of choice. The funeral director can walk you through your alternatives, record your selections, and connect you with prepayment options during a preplanning appointment.

What to ask at your preplanning appointment

Form a relationship with your funeral director

It’s important for a funeral director to listen to the family, said Ellen McBrayer, funeral director at Jones-Wynn Funeral Home, in Douglasville and Villa Rica, Georgia, and spokesperson for the National Funeral Directors’ Association (NFDA).

“Everyone wants to tell their story,” she said. “We create ideas by really hearing them.”

McBrayer says she talks to clients to see what’s important to them and what makes them unique.

“A funeral is a lifetime in one day, rather than a day in the life,” McBrayer said. “A personalized service is a heartfelt connection as unique as someone’s thumbprint.”

​How to plan a funeral step-by-step

Ways to personalize funeral services

Before you start making arrangements, you’ll need to decide how personalized you want your final wishes to be in three key areas: disposition, funeral service, and final resting place.


Your first step is to choose a form of disposition — cremation or burial. If you have elaborate plans in mind for your final resting place, you may want to choose cremation, since more options for personalization are available. But burial still offers a chance to showcase your personality or achievements, especially if it’s important to you to have an eco-friendly green burial or to be buried in a military cemetery.

​Cremation vs. burial: Which is right for you?

Funeral services

“Planning a funeral is much like planning a wedding,” McBrayer said. “The details are the same. You pick the venue, the time, the speaker, the visitation, and the service.”

And like a wedding, you can make the event more personalized by focusing on the people involved.

Grant Bolt, co-owner of Johnson’s Funeral Home in Georgetown, Kentucky, says he’s seen people’s occupations and hobbies easily woven into their personalized funeral services.

“We had a person who passed away that loved karaoke,” Bolt said. “So, we had a karaoke machine in the corner at the service. The family brought in food, and we had 15-20 minutes of open mic.”

Another funeral Bolt helped plan was for an artist. After the service, his artwork was auctioned off and the proceeds were donated to his favorite charity.

But having a personalized funeral doesn’t mean it has to have a theme or be elaborate. You can include unique small touches in your preplanning documents, such as:
  • Having your favorite music played
  • Asking family members to casually share stories versus having someone give a formal eulogy
  • Releasing balloons into the air
  • Including poems or songs that hold special meaning
  • Creating a picture board or slideshow video
  • Displaying a floral spray made of your favorite flowers
  • Serving your signature drink or favorite food

You can also request to have mementos distributed to loved ones at the funeral service.

“The loneliest day for the loved ones is usually the day after the funeral, when everyone goes on with their lives,” McBrayer said. “That’s why we like to give mourners something to hold on to. It can be a guitar pick for a musician, a flag pin for a vet, personalized seed cards, or a quilt on the casket instead of flowers. Loved ones can remember the person they lost with something they loved.”

Final resting place

If you choose burial as your disposition, your creative options are more limited, but that doesn’t mean you can’t request a special memorial on or in the casket to share an emotional connection with your loved ones.

“When a young mother passed away, we asked dad what he would like to do for his children to help heal their hearts in that moment,” McBrayer said. “We gave each of the young triplets a stuffed lamb. We placed the same lamb with their mother. We told the kids, ‘When you whisper to your lamb, know that she has one with her, too.’ It was an emotional connection with mom. It was very touching to see.”

You can even personalize the casket or urn, McBrayer said. She has seen family members place their handprints on the outside of a casket and sign an urn with messages of love. Or some preplanners customize the casket to showcase their style or hobbies.

​How to preplan a cremation with a funeral service

If you choose cremation as your disposition, your options for handling your ashes are almost endless. You can:
  • Request to have your ashes placed in an urn, which can be kept on a mantle, buried in a cemetery like a casket, or stored in a niche space
  • Have your ashes cast into the wind, scattered in water, or buried in the ground (just make sure the location is permitted and lawful in your state)
  • Choose from a variety of alternative methods, from affixing the ashes to a manmade reef at the bottom of the ocean to launching them to the edge of space or pressing the ashes in a vinyl record of your favorite song to mixing them in gun powder, placing them inside bullets, and having them shot in a final salute

How to fund your personalized funeral

After discussing your wishes, your funeral director will discuss payment options to fund your personalized funeral service. They include Preneed Funeral insurance and Final Expense insurance.

Preneed Funeral insurance

Preneed Funeral insurance is used to fund a funeral service agreement between you and a funeral home. If you choose Preneed insurance, your funeral home partner will price all the elements you’ve selected for your personalized funeral. The total cost is the basis for your Preneed insurance plan. You can either pay the amount in one installment or through monthly premiums. Upon your death, the funds are used to pay the funeral home for your funeral.

Find a Preneed funeral home partner in your state

Final Expense insurance

Final Expense insurance doesn’t include recording your personalized funeral wishes, but it alleviates the burden on your family of covering its costs — and an array of other expenses. You will need to write detailed instructions that tell your family how to use the funds for your personalized funeral service. If money is left over, your family can use it for unpaid bills, medical expenses, and even college tuition for children or grandchildren.

Get a FREE Final Expense insurance quote

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Photo credit: iStock

Estimate your funeral expenses

Our funeral expenses calculator can help estimate your burial and end-of-life expenses and show how those costs could be affected by inflation over time.

Calculate Your Funeral Expenses

Request a FREE Funeral Planning Guide

Do you need help preplanning your final wishes? Request a free copy of our Planning Guide.

Preneed Funeral insurance

Save your family from a financial burden by prearranging your funeral with Preneed insurance.

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