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Funeral Service Options

The funeral, the days leading up to it, and the burial or cremation are important steps in coming to terms with the death of someone close. Many people planning for the funeral take comfort in doing the things that have always been done in their family.

Others do things in ways that are meaningful for them, or that are unique to the person who has died. 

Do not be afraid to talk to your Funeral Director about any aspect of the funeral service: they will be only too happy to discuss any ideas you have, and will do their best to make them happen. If there is a reason why it’s not possible to do things exactly as you would like, your funeral director will work with you to find the best alternative. 



How long to wait before the funeral

Deciding when to have the funeral is one the first decisions to be made as it affects a number of other decisions including after-care. 

Religious beliefs decide the timings for some people, others make that decision after advice from their funeral director. If you have family or friends coming from some distance, for example, you may choose to wait an extra few days before the funeral takes place, rather than rushing things. After-care, in the form of modern embalming techniques, make it possible to be more flexible about the time taken between the death of a person and their burial or cremation.

You also have a choice about where the person’s body is during this transition time. Again, your family background, country of origin, or religion may be part of that decision. Traditionally, Maori custom has the person’s body staying on the marae, for example, and many families continue that custom, or have the person’s body at home. Having the body at home is also an old European tradition, and New Zealand families from many different origins find great comfort in choosing to do this too. 


After-care & viewings

Continuity of care should continue until the person is committed to either the ground or ashes. You can determine the level of aftercare they receive. There are many variables to consider such as will they be viewed, what type of funeral will you have, when will the funeral be, and numerous environmental factors. Your FDANZ Funeral Director is the best person to provide advice based on your specific circumstances. 

Have a viewing and spending time together with the deceased is encouraged as a helpful part of coming to terms with loss. Viewing can take place at the funeral director's premises, or at the family's home or marae. Read more ...


The funeral service

The funeral service is important for two reasons. Firstly, it gives people a chance to share their feelings while being supported by family, friends, and others in the community who have known the person who died. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the life of the deceased, and to share memories: the good times, the funny moments, favourite music, unique contributions they made, and to hear tributes and stories from people of all ages.

It’s good to make opportunities for children to be involved in some way if they have been part of the person’s life. 

You can make a funeral meaningful and especially appropriate by considering the elements that make up a public ritual.

Some of the important elements when you are designing the service are:

  • Movement – how the casket is brought into and taken out of the venue; who carries it and how they do it; whether you want a procession of some sort; whether you want formal movements or dancing; whether you want to form a guard of honour. 
  • Symbols – things that bring meaning and a sense of what was important in the life of the person who has died. These might be objects, such as flowers from their garden, candles, shells, photographs, artworks, and sports trophies, or actions such as scattering flowers or soil on the casket as it is lowered.
  • Music – what music you would like? There are boundless options, and it is a good idea to listen to it carefully first to make sure the words are appropriate.
  • Performance – special readings, poems, dance, or a music recital.
  • Tributes – how you would like people to share their memories of the person who has died, and talk about the key events of his or her life: in a video or slideshow; in spontaneous sharing; or in a planned list of contributors.
  • Transport – whether you want to use a hearse or a vehicle with special significance to the person who has died.
  • Social function – do you want a party, a polite cup of tea, or something in between? 
  • The order of events – you can change the order that things happen. For example, a less formal funeral service might have people gathering for a cup of tea and a chat together at the beginning of the service rather than at the end. 


Who can lead a funeral service?

The short answer is “anybody”, but people usually choose someone who has experience in doing this. The role of such a person is to guide and manage the service, making sure everything you have chosen to happen falls into place at the right time.

If you have religious connections to a faith community you will probably know the leader or a lay person of that community, and he or she will take the funeral service as part of their role. If your religious beliefs are not so strongly identified, you may prefer a less formalised service. For example, if your family is Christian but doesn’t belong to any particular Church, you can choose a non-denominational service based on Christian beliefs, taken by a lay preacher or celebrant and tailored to your personal needs.

Many celebrants now take funeral services. Celebrants are members of the community who have a special interest in leading public rituals such as naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals. They spend time with the family in the days leading up to the funeral, getting to know them and their wishes for the service, and leading and facilitating the service itself. Your funeral director will be happy to recommend a celebrant who does funerals in your area or visit the Celebrants Aotearoa website. 

Make sure you feel comfortable with whoever you chose. You get only one chance at a funeral, and it’s important that you feel good about the person who will lead it.


The venue

The possibilities for the venue are wide and varied. Many funeral homes have a chapel on their premises, but funerals can also be held in places of worship, at workplaces, clubs, hotels, halls or schools, on beaches, at parks or in a forest. The limitations are only that you choose somewhere which doesn’t create a nuisance or public offence, and that your choice is practical. You will need to consider things such as how many people are likely to be there, how they will get there, and whether you want them seated or standing. 


Do it yourself funerals

Your funeral director can be involved in planning the funeral to whatever extent you choose. For some families, being involved in putting together their own service with special personal touches is both therapeutic and appropriate. It’s important to discuss your arrangements with a funeral director, though, because there are legal obligations in terms of registration of the death and hygiene that you may not be aware of. Your funeral director will be happy to give you guidelines and take care of any part of the arrangements as you wish. 


A memorial service

Some people choose to have a service without the body being present. This can happen if the body is not available for some reason, and also if the family chooses to have a private burial or cremation. 


No service at all

Sometimes people feel that a funeral service is going to be too hard emotionally and want to opt for no funeral at all. It can be tempting to try to minimise pain in the short term by avoiding a public setting when you are grieving deeply.

Unfortunately, people often regret this choice later when the first shock of their grief has gone and the opportunity has passed. As difficult as it can be, a funeral service is an important part of the process of grieving for someone who mattered to many people in the course of their lifetime. It gives all those who have known the person an opportunity to acknowledge him or her.