Coordinating Out-of-Town Funeral Guests
It is often said that planning a funeral and planning a wedding are similar tasks. You must coordinate an event for up to hundreds of guests at a time, feed them, arrange transportation, and find places for everyone to stay. When planning a wedding, however, you usually have months of time in which to prepare. Funerals take place within a week or so of death occurring, which means you have to coordinate travel, accommodations, transportation, and (in some cases) entertainment all within a short time frame.
If you can assign this task to a family member wishing to help out with funeral plans, you can make your own job easier. However, you can also coordinate everything on your own by following these steps.
Determine the Number of Out-of-Town Guests
Many people will figure out their own travel/accommodation issues when they come for a funeral. Because they know how busy you will be with the funeral plans and your grief, they may not want to intrude. Others may need more support. Determine who will need your help and what kind of accommodations they need. Depending on their situation, this may include:
- Airline/Train Travel
- Pick Up/Drop Off at Airport
- Shuttle Transportation
- Car Rental
- Hotel Accommodations
- Food and/or Restaurant Reservations
- Directions to the Funeral Home
- List of Activities and Services Nearby
- Local Florists
Once you know how many people are coming (and what type of service they need), you can make formal arrangements.
Ask Airlines for a Discount
Many airlines provide a funeral discount when travel is for funeral-related purposes. You can ask your family to fly on one specific airline and coordinate this discount through their concierge services. You will need to show proof of death in the form of a death certificate, but you can save quite a bit of money this way.
Ask Hotels for a Discount
The same goes for finding hotel accommodations. Look for a hotel willing to put family members near each other and/or provide a discounted bereavement rate. Oftentimes, simply booking several people at once will mean you can save money.
You can also look for relatives and family friends who might be willing to put up the out-of-town guests. Because this is a time when being near people you love is important, you might be surprised at how many people will open up their homes for guests during the funeral.
Coordinate Rides to/from the Funeral
One of the biggest challenges in taking care of out-of-town funeral guests is finding ways to transport them. If they don’t rent a car, you will be responsible for ensuring they get where they need to go. See if you have family members willing to play chauffeur for a few days. Rent a larger vehicle to bring guests to and from the funeral. Reserve taxis and hotel shuttles, if needed. A funeral is a difficult time to be stranded in an unknown city without a car, so try to anticipate the needs of those arriving from a long distance.
Arrange a Few Meals
Feeding out-of-town guests during their entire visit is probably more than you will be expected to do, but try to coordinate one or two meals as a group. You can make reservations at a favorite restaurant of the deceased and make it a celebration. You can open up the deceased’s (or your own) home for a gathering the day before or the day after the funeral. You can also put out casseroles and other funeral food gifts for people to regularly stop by.
No one expects a funeral to be entertaining, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan a few large family gatherings. Find someone willing to open their home to guests so that everyone can gather and share memories of the deceased. Rent a hotel or church space to have a memorial party. Plan an excursion to one of the deceased’s favorite locations. These small (and relatively inexpensive) steps can make out-of-town guests feel welcomed and cared for.
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By Amy Johnson