Planning a Funeral or Memorial Service

For most people, after a death has occurred, it is important that family and friends have opportunities to come together to grieve. Funeral and memorial services or other public gatherings are ways for this to happen. They also allow the wider community to support family members and recognize the loss. How or where people gather is not as important as the fact that they are able to come together.

This is a time to:

  • Say good-bye
  • Pay tribute or respect and share memories
  • Acknowledge relationships with the person who died
  • Express spiritual or religious beliefs about life and death
  • Give and receive support by the sharing of sorrow
  • Express feelings openly and as a group
  • Acknowledge the reality of death for all people
  • Find comfort in cultural and family traditions
  • Re-connect with family and friends

Funerals or Memorial Services

When making decisions about a service or ceremony of remembrance, it is important to consider patient and family needs and wishes, religious and cultural beliefs, finances, and certain basic information and options. For example:

  • At a funeral, the body is present in either an open or closed casket; at a memorial service, it is not.
  • Either service can be religious or not; it can be held in a church, funeral facility, private home or any other place of choice.
  • The kind of service does not dictate whether burial or cremation is chosen, nor does the choice of burial or cremation determine the kind of service held.
  • While most people prefer to make arrangements through a funeral facility, it is also possible for families to carry out the necessary plans themselves.

Things to Consider When Making Arrangements

  • For some people, it feels right to make some or all of their funeral or memorial service arrangements in advance. Others do not want to discuss the details. Do what feels right for you. The main benefit of pre-planning is that you can express your wishes yourself.
  • If you have been asked to make arrangements for a funeral or memorial service for someone else, it can be helpful to do some of this in advance when there is less pressure.
  • Whenever possible, bring someone with you when making funeral arrangements to act as your advocate or support.
  • Funeral directors often explain ‘all the options’ to people who are making arrangements. This may feel overwhelming. If you do now want to receive what might feel like a sales pitch, be very clear about your wishes from the beginning, and let the funeral director know if you don’t want to hear all the options.
  • The funeral home registers the death and produces the death certificate. How many copies you will need depends on the complexity of the estate and therefore the number of institutions you will need to provide a copy to. You will need to provide the following information to the funeral home:
  1. Social Insurance Number, birth certificate and Care Card number
  2. Vital Statistics (name, date of birth, birthplace, birth name, father, mother, residency, marital status, occupation and place of death)
  3. Clothing, as wished.
  4. Medical certificate (comes from the physician or registered nurse)
  • When working with a funeral home, be clear that you want the total price for all the services that you require. Funeral homes often refer to immediate disposition or immediate cremation as one of their options. This includes transfer of the body from the home or hospice/hospital to the funeral home, and some other professional services. It does not, however, include the cremation fee, cost of burial or other administration fees.
  • Some funeral homes offer ‘after care’. This involves a funeral director meeting with the family to discuss death benefits such as Canada Pension Plan, Veterans’ benefits, etc. as well as information on how to discontinue a driver’s licence, work with the bank, deal with income taxes, etc. There is an extra cost attached to this service, but for some people it may be very useful. For others, it might be enough to have an executor’s checklist.

Memorial Societies

A Memorial Society is an organization that was formed to reduce funeral or memorial service costs. Each Society is associated with a particular funeral home, although other funeral homes may also be willing to honour those plans and prices.

It is not always more affordable to make plans through a Memorial Society, but the existence of Memorial Societies may help to regulate and control prices and competition. Memorial Societies are also a source of information for the public.

The Memorial Society of British Columbia

  • Operating for 50 years
  • $20 fee to join
  • 1-888-816-5902 (answered 24 hours a day)

Vancouver Island Memorial Society

  • Incorporated in 1971
  • $15 fee to join
  • 250-388-7170 or 1-800-661-3358

Cemeteries and Crematoriums

There are two cemeteries/crematoria in Victoria. Both of these organizations work with funeral homes. You may want to speak to them first, but you will still need a funeral home unless you are prepared to make all of your own arrangements (see below for more details).

Royal Oak Burial Park

  • Owned by the municipalities of Victoria and Saanich
  • Not-for-profit Society
  • Has both a crematorium and a burial park
  • 4573 Falaise Drive, Victoria, BC
  • 250-658-5621

Hatley Memorial Gardens

  • Owned by Arbor Memorial Services which also own Sands Funeral Home
  • 2050 Sooke Road, Victoria, BC
  • 250-478-1754

Making Your Own Funeral Arrangements

It is possible to register a death, transport the body and complete burial or cremation arrangements without the assistance of a funeral home. To complete arrangements on your own, remember these important points:

  • Following a death, a Medical Certificate of Death is completed by a physician or a Registered Nurse
  • A Registration of Death form must be completed within 48 hours after the death either by staff in hospital or family at home. The ‘Funeral Facility’ section of the form should state that the next-of-kin are removing the body with the physician’s approval. The form is available from Vital Statistics.
  • Take both the Medical Certificate of Death and the Registration of Death forms to: Vital Statistics, 818 Fort Street, Victoria, BC any weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Telephone: 250-952-2681.
  • Once the death is registered, a Permit for Burial or Cremation is issued. There is no fee for this. Vital Statistics also issues copies of the Death Certificate. There is a charge for each one.
  • Before transferring the body, a Private Transport Permit must be obtained from Consumer Protection BC. This permit can be obtained prior to death.
  • If death has occurred in a hospital, return to Admitting with the Permit for Burial or Cremation. Arrangements will be made for the body to be released. The family may take the body home temporarily or transfer it directly to the cemetery. If death has occurred at home, the body can also now be moved to the cemetery for burial. However, if cremation is planned, it is important to consider that, by provincial law, cremation cannot take place until a minimum of 48 hours after death.
  • Make arrangements with crematorium or burial park staff prior to transferring the body for cremation or burial.  Prior to cremation, any pacemaker, prosthesis or other mechanical or radioactive devices must be removed.
  • Contact the Coroner’s Office to access a permit which is needed only if the body is going to be taken to a destination outside British Columbia.

NOTE: There are many ways to personalize this experience while still working with a funeral home. For example, it is possible to build or to provide your own casket or urn, or to wash or dress the body. Ask funeral homes about ways in which you can be involved.

Preparing an Obituary

An obituary notice goes into the newspaper to tell the community that the death has occurred and to announce funeral or memorial service plans. The obituary may also be sent to newspapers in other communities where the person is known. Some families write the obituary themselves, while others prefer to have the assistance of a funeral director. The notice will include the name of the person who died, and the date and location of the death. In addition, information about a service, flowers or donations are usually included.

Beyond the basic information, there is no prescribed obituary format to follow. Information about the cause of death, the person’s date of birth and the names of surviving family members and special people are often included. Some families like to include information related to the person’s achievements during their life, or their personal attributes. The cost of publishing an obituary may be a consideration in deciding how much information to include.

If you choose to designate Victoria Hospice as your charity of choice in lieu of flowers, please use this mailing address for memorial donations:

Victoria Hospice and Palliative Care Foundation
1952 Bay Street, 4th Floor, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8R 1J8

We will send you a list of donors who make donations in memory of your family member if you give us your contact information. Please call our Victoria Hospice and Palliative Care Foundation office at 250-519-1744 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Monday to Friday, or send an e-mail to our fundraising staff at [email protected].

Helpful Resources

NOTE: Many airlines have a compassionate travel policy. Check on this prior to booking any flights for those attending the funeral or memorial service.

Quality end-of-life care for all: Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for those facing advancing illness, death and bereavement through skilled and compassionate care, education, research and advocacy.