Four-Step Funeral Planning


If you’ve never planned a funeral before you might feel overwhelmed and not even know where to begin or what questions to ask. If so, you are not alone. In the early 20th century, Americans largely handed over the responsibility for caring for their dead to funeral directors. Over time, we talked about it less and less until we got to where we are now, largely ignorant of our options and what’s involved.

Honoring our dead doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and you have a choice about whether to have a simple disposition or an elaborate funeral. Your taste, beliefs, and budget should dictate the type of funeral you arrange.


Just like planning for a wedding, a baby, or buying a home or car, families need to talk about funeral planning and the costs involved. Avoiding the topic won’t stave off death, but it will make it more difficult, and likely more expensive, for survivors. Planning ahead can make a painful time easier to bear, and many find great meaning and peace carrying out thoughtful funeral plans that honored their family member’s wishes.

There are as many ways to honor the dead as there are cultures, religions and budgets. Your personal philosophy or faith should guide your choices. No religion or philosophy dictates how much money should be spent on a funeral, and no belief system encourages burdensome spending. Families can choose simple arrangements, such as a cremation with no ceremony, or more elaborate ones, such as a long wake before a funeral. You can keep the body at home for visitation, or hold a viewing at a funeral home. Another way to save money is to purchase your Casket or Urn from outside the funeral home.

Whatever you choose, be sure it’s based on what’s meaningful to you, not on what you think other people expect you to do. No amount of money, great or small, can express how we feel about those who have died. Taking an active role in funeral arrangements—whether that means carrying out the whole process without a funeral home, or just preparing and delivering the eulogy—is more meaningful than the money we spend.


While many choose a “traditional” funeral—embalming, casket, open-casket wake, funeral ceremony, procession, and graveside service. Just know that you have the right to care for your dead in almost any way that is meaningful to you.

Being able to answer these questions will help you decide what you want and prepare for talking with a funeral director if you choose.

Cremation or burial?

Embalming? It is rarely required by law. While there are situations where it can be useful (for example, a long time between death and viewing), in no state is it required when burial or cremation takes place within two days, and in most states, refrigeration is a available alternative.

Viewing? Public or private/family? At the place of death, at home, at church or a funeral home?

Body present at a funeral service?

A memorial service held after the body is buried or cremated?

If you want the body embalmed and/or don’t want to keep the body at home for a viewing, you will want to use a funeral home, so choose one that is physically convenient and appealing to you. Visit more than one, talk with the funeral directors, and choose an honest, flexible one that you believe will honor your choices with caring and dignity. This is a meaningful, once-in-a-lifetime occasion that can be marred by insensitive staff.

If you want a funeral service with the body present, but don’t want to hold it in a funeral home, consider a religious institution or have a graveside service. (If you have no affiliation, ask your local Unitarian Universalists or Quakers what they charge for use of their generally religiously-neutral spaces.)

If you prefer a memorial service after burial or cremation has taken place, there is no need to hold it at a funeral home. Have it at a religious institution, home, park, club, hotel, or community center. One woman in her 90s had lived in a nursing home for many years. When she died, her daughters chose cremation and put her ashes in a cookie jar, as a tribute to her legendary baking skills. They held a memorial service at the nursing home—complete with Mom’s bake-off ribbons—where residents remembered her with laughter and tears.

If you choose cremation and no embalming, friends and family can be invited to say their goodbyes at home or other place of death before the funeral director is even called. You have at least 48 hours before refrigeration or final disposition is required. When you are ready, the funeral director will pick up the body, arrange for the cremation and return the remains to you. This works with a quick burial as well. Since there is no need to go to the funeral home, you can pick the least expensive, even if it is somewhat farther away.

If someone has been cared for at home for a long time, it can feel best to keep that person home until burial or cremation. In most states an individual, family, community or religious group can handle a death without hiring a funeral director. Families can do everything on their own or hire a home funeral consultant, death midwife or funeral director to assist.

When her 6-year-old daughter died after a long illness, one young mother couldn’t bear to give her daughter’s body to a funeral home. Because she had cared for her daughter in every way a mother could, she dressed her daughter at home and laid her in her bed with her favorite stuffed animals. Friends, siblings, and schoolmates were invited to come to the home to say goodbye in a very private setting. Her friends spent time with her in her own bedroom, and talked with their parents about the mystery and pain of her death. It gave them time to come to terms with her death in a comfortable, family-centered setting.

Depending on the state, the family can then bring the body to the crematory or cemetery themselves or hire a funeral director to provide transportation, permits, etc.


Most people pick the funeral home closest to them or one they have used in the past (even if they were unhappy). Neither of these criteria tell you whether you’re getting good service, and prices can vary enormously between funeral homes, even just blocks apart.

Federal law requires funeral homes to give you price quotes over the phone and a printed, itemized General Price List when you show up in person. 

Be sure to contact your local Funeral Consumers Alliance affiliate to see what guidance they can offer (see the directory at Some have arranged discounted prices with specific funeral homes. Some have done an area-wide funeral home price survey which can give you a great overview of local options. All will provide information and education and most can refer you to an ethical funeral home.


Once you’ve decided what you want, talk to your likely survivors about your wishes and what you’ve learned. If plans go awry, or death occurs away from home, they’ll need the skills and knowledge you’ve developed to negotiate the funeral for themselves.

Put your plans in writing, but don’t put them in a will or a safe deposit box, as they likely won’t be seen until long after other arrangements have been made.

The above information comes from the Funeral Consumer Alliances website

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Casket Options | How To Make An Informed Choice

Types of Caskets

Metal and Wood Caskets for sale in Three Rivers, MA not far from Greenfield MA

  Caskets can be categorized into two basic material types. Those manufactured out of a variety of metal materials including Bronze, Copper, Stainless Steel, and Standard Steel and those crafted out of a variety of wood materials including Mahogany, Walnut, Cherry, Maple, Oak, Pine, Poplar and Veneer.  

The most significant feature difference between metal and wood caskets lies in how the lid closes against the shell of the casket. In the majority of metal caskets, a rubber gasket is inserted and wrapped around the entire perimeter of the casket shell. When the lid of the casket is closed a sealing key is inserted on the exterior foot end of the casket and turned to provide a secure closure. The gasket feature has been designed to prevent outside elements from entering the casket in the burial state. The gasketed seal in no way prevents or slows down the naturally occurring decomposition of the body. The gasketed feature is exclusive to most metal caskets. Wood caskets are not constructed with gaskets.

Metal Caskets

Metal Caskets for sale locally near Worcester, MA

Metal caskets constructed from Bronze and Copper offer permanent non-rusting materials, which have been used for centuries for sculptures and monuments and are considered to be the highest quality available in metal caskets and present a most prestigious statement.

Stainless Steel is a metal everyone is familiar with especially when thinking of watches. Caskets made from Stainless Steel offer rust-resistant properties and exceptional value in comparison with Bronze and Copper caskets.

The most economical metal caskets are made from standard steel sometimes referred to as carbon steel. This is a strong and durable metal, which is used to build everything from automobiles to skyscrapers.

Wood Caskets

Wood Caskets for sale in Three Rivers MA. Large In stock showroom

Like furniture, wood caskets are available in a variety of types and finishes from magnificent highly polished cherry finishes to natural satin-finished oak grains. Mahogany, Walnut, and Cherry are considered to be among the most elegantly crafted wood caskets and offer exquisite highly polished finishes similar to the finest furniture along with classical urn and rounded corner shell designs adding softness to the casket exterior appearance.

Caskets crafted from Maple and Oak are woods everyone is familiar with. Maple has amazing strength and hardness and anyone who has ever gone bowling has walked on maple. Oak is noted for its highly recognizable graining pattern which is a predominant reason families select oak caskets.

Pine, Poplar and Veneer caskets represent the most economical categories of wood caskets. 

Casket Interiors

Casket Coffin Interiors Velvet and crepe

Similar to fine bed linens and sofa treatments, casket interiors are offered in a variety of colors and grades of material. 

The two most highly selected interior materials are made from either velvet or crepe.

Casket interiors are designed to project softness and compliment the exterior finish of the casket. Velvet is considered the softer and more luxurious of the two materials and therefore velvet creates both a visual and touch difference in both metal and wood caskets.

Casket Features

Affordable Caskets and Urns in Three Rivers MA. Large in stock showroom open daily by appointment

  Other casket features are the type of shell design and exterior finish treatment. Caskets have a basic rectangular shape, which can be softened by introducing various elements to the casket corners. Essentially there are three types of metal and wood shell designs:

 Classical Urn, Rounded Corner, and Square Corner. The beauty of each of these is in the eye of the beholder. One of the most compelling features of both metal and wood caskets is the type of finish applied to the exterior of the casket – the most highly visible part of the casket. 

18 Gauge vs. 20 Gauge steel caskets.

18 gauge steel casket in stock three rivers ma. open daily by appointment

18 gauge steel is about 30% THICKER than 20 gauge steel

Some funeral homes claim to match my prices by offering customers 20G caskets for the same price as my 18G caskets. There is nothing wrong with a 20G casket, just don't pay over $950 for it, and know the difference in price and quality.

Showroom Open daily by appointment Three Rivers (Palmer) MA

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