Putting it all together requires a bit of skill
Whoever is in charge should either have some experience (in party planning or other events) or a lot of time, some money and perhaps some help. The organizer or committee needs to be reliable, patient and trusted by the immediate family. Here are some of the main components to adapt to your situation:
1. Set the time and place
- cost? parking? restrooms? a place for food and drink? accoustics? a sound system? warm in winter or cool in summer? who will be there to open up?
2. Let people know - by phone, email, word of mouth, and notices in the local papers, if there's time (probably not). If people are coming in from out of town where will they stay? In general, people can look after their own arrangements.
3. Organize the program - the easiest way, if your group is fairly creative, is to simply let them share what they want to share. There is rarely enough time at funerals to do this it might be greatly appreciated. Also, there should be lots of time for milling around talking to each other, drinking tea and having a bite to eat. People love that part or, if they don't, they are very happy to head off home.
3. Ask for help before, during and after the funeral. It is important to specifically ask some people to stay to help clean up.
A SIMPLE PROGRAM MIGHT LOOK SOMETHING LIKE THIS:
11 a.m. - graveside prayers - ask several people to speak, sing or read a prayer; internment follows.
noon to 1:30 p.m. - time for lunch and/or a rest
2 p.m. - the reception (ask a couple of convivial types to meet and greet, informally)
- an mc says welcome, reads a few emails from far away, tells people what to expect, introduces anyone who needs introducing, etc.
- a few prayers and readings should be organized to start things off
- time for sharing - stories, a bit of music, memories, a favorite reading or a prayer- let it flow and don't panic if there is a lull between participants; someone is probably getting up the nerve to do something great.
- as things wind down, direct people to the tea, coffee, goodies and let them visit; this is a good time to say, "we have the hall until 4 p.m. and would greatly appreciate your help with cleanup". But ask individuals as well!
4 p.m. - home again
The possibilities for music are, of course, endless. Some have the skill to put together music from different genres and decades that pleases practically everyone. If you are lucky, you will have one of those people helping with the funeral. A good sound system is a distinct advantage both for live music and speakers, as is someone who knows how to keep it working properly.
Often, someone collects family photos, organizes them into a slideshow, or prepares a book or table that honors the deceased's life and accomplishments.
Even if you are using a funeral home for some aspects of the arrangements, you might want to pesonalize one you buy elsewhere.
TEA, COFFEE, JUICE
Big urns can be rented and someone asked to fill them (a few tea bags makes a lot of tea but coffee requires 1 lb. for 60 or so cups). Set up a table with real cream, sugar, honey, Splenda. Start the coffee at least an hour ahead. Tea is a bit more forgiving. Sadly, syrofoam cups will probably have to do unless there is a kitchen with china cups and a dishwasher and someone to run it.
Juice boxes are so easy and children like them. They are also a good choice for adults who don't drink tea or coffee. In summer, cooled, bottled water is a good idea.
Our best successes have come with a few nice platters of sandwiches from Safeway (or wherever does a good job in your town) and a platter or two of dessert goodies. We let people know that potluck contributions are wlecome but not required, really. Nobody is all that hungry, anyway.
Except in winter, we fill in the bought flowers with lilacs, daffodils, whatever is growing in gardens on on roadsides. Roses to hand around and throw on the casket or take home. A couple of big displays is quite enough from a good florist is quite enough.
A WORD OF ADVICE
A diy funeral must be informal so that people can relax, remember their friend, connect with each other. No homegrown program you devise will move along as smoothly as a cookie cutter one you pay for. If (no, when) there are mistakes, don't worry about it.