Don’t forget cost of guests at a funeral

This was originally published on Monday, September 29, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

When planning a funeral, there are many aspects and details that you must think about. Some of them are mandatory costs, such as hospital bills, permits and death certificates. Others might be at the wishes of the deceased, such as cremation or being buried. Yet others might vary in price such as flowers, casket or grave marker. The bottom line is that saying goodbye to your loved one is going to cost money.

Last week, I covered some areas to consider when planning a funeral — the venue, an officiator, music, flowers, photographer/videographer, webcast of the funeral and program booklets. Here are more details to think about:

•  Food: It is customary that food is served at funerals. You must decide whether to cater or if family and friends can contribute. Most decide to cater the funeral so that they can concentrate on the funeral. A cost-effective way could be hiring a catering company to provide a portion of the meal and have others contribute. The type of food you provide also will cause the price to vary. Sandwiches, soup, fruits and desserts will not cost as much as a full spread of fiesta food.

• Reception: Frequently there is an area that guests and family members can gather to eat and comfort one another. This area is typically on the same premises where the funeral is held. Inquire if the reception area has enough tables, chairs, or if canopies are needed to handle the estimated number of people attending the funeral. If not, you might have to rent them.

• Family transportation: At times families will rent a limo or even buses to transport the family from the church to the cemetery and back to the church. Limo and bus rentals will add to the cost of the funeral, but if it is split among family members, it might make it easier to pay for.

• Escort: We have seen the long line of cars following a hearse to the cemetery. Usually there is someone who will ensure that the procession stays together by directing traffic. It might be the police or mayor’s office that provides this service. Typically there is a cost for an escort.

For veterans

If you are a veteran, you might be eligible for burial benefits. Visit the Veterans Affair website at for eligibility requirements. Some benefits of being buried at a national cemetery include a headstone or marker, a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and the playing of “Taps.” If the veteran is to be buried in a cemetery other than a national cemetery, they are still entitled to some benefits. These benefits can also be used for a spouse or dependent of the veteran. Retirees or those no longer in service will need their discharge papers for verification of service. Some cemeteries also offer special veteran services to honor those who served and for their spouses.

There might be other tributes used to commemorate a loved one, such as the releasing of doves, butterflies or balloons; photo boards; or tribute videos. How much to spend on a funeral depends on the final wishes of the loved one and the family’s wishes, but most importantly, on how much you can afford.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at

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