Funeral planning can be stressful under the best of circumstances. Any family conflicts, unresolved arguments, or issues related to privacy that arise tend to make matters much worse than they need to be, often interrupting private grief and taking the focus away from where it should be—celebrating the life of the deceased.
Because death notices tend to be made public, it can be difficult to keep a funeral private and restrict attendance, especially if the deceased was a popular figure in any way. Here are a few tips to keep a funeral a small, intimate affair without hurting the feelings of those who aren’t invited to the funeral.
- Hold the memorial service in a private venue. If you plan the funeral at home or at a small restaurant, space will be limited. Most people will recognize and respect this, and you can “un-invite” people by saying that you are limited by space, but that they are welcome to visit the gravesite at a future date.
- Delay the service or interment. Most people expect there to be a funeral in the week following death, and they will be most likely to adjust their schedules during this time frame. If you have the deceased cremated, you can always hold the service and scattering ceremony at a later date—and by private invitation only.
- Have a family-only service. It is a lot more difficult to restrict one or two attendees than it is an entire group. While asking a particular person to stay away will most likely result in bad feelings and a breach of funeral etiquette, asking that only family attend is considered a legitimate funeral service option.
- Delay the death announcement. Although the Internet makes it more difficult to keep things unannounced, you can refrain from placing an obituary or other public notice until after the ceremony takes place. You can also ask the funeral home to not give out any information over the phone to interested parties.
- Have an open and honest discussion. Not inviting a particular person (or group of people) to a funeral is going to result in hurt feelings no matter what. (This is especially true when estrangement is an issue.) However, being open about the situation can help lessen some of the damages. You can also ask them to participate in the funeral in a different way, maybe holding a separate memorial service or taking the time to visit the gravesite on a day of particular note.
- Involve the authorities. If the deceased was a public figure, it may be possible to ask for a police escort or other security detail to be on hand to help keep the crowds reduced and enforce attendance regulations.
It’s never easy to restrict attendance at a funeral, so it’s a good idea to examine your motives before you go through with any funeral privacy plan. The death of a loved one is a good time to offer forgiveness and to embrace all the people who cared about the deceased. No matter what your personal feelings, it’s important to remember that this time is not about you or your desires. It’s about honoring life and death and focusing on what’s really important in both.