The funeral business is like no other. The level of personal interaction between the director and the family of the deceased is extremely different from other professions. The funeral director is working with people at their worst. The design of a funeral home, speaking generally, can make wakes, arrangements and the actual day of the funeral go smoothly.
Plan for a large room for arrangements. Arrangements are the first task of the funeral director after the death. Normally, the family of the deceased gathers in the office of the owner or manager of the funeral home to plan wakes, cemetery arrangements, church and clergy, and other details. Often, extended family members arrive for the planning, so having enough room and seating is essential.
Plan space for an embalming room regardless of your other plans. The embalming room is often an expensive problem, especially for directors who do not do their own embalming (as some send out for this service to other institutions nearby). Some states like New Jersey require a fully functional embalming room on the premises, even if it is unused. A well stocked embalming room often pays for itself, though, since embalming is necessary for any viewing. Only “direct disposals,” or bodies going directly to the crematorium, do not require it.
Make the viewing room as large as possible. The main viewing room should be very large. This is the room with the casket, flowers and people during the wake. It is not uncommon to have wake attendees numbering more than 200 or 300 people. Maintain a large number of folding chairs, but most funeral homes also use couches, padded chairs and other amenities for a warmer look.
Consider adding a smaller viewing room, depending on the initial budget. While some wakes are very large, others are very small. To heat or air condition the large room is often not economical, and so a much smaller viewing room is often advisable. If the funeral home has more than 100 funerals a year, a second room is always advisable on those occasions in which two wakes are running simultaneously.
Keep a smaller, more intimate office. It provides a good place for family members to confer among themselves in private.
Think about adding a “recreation” room of some sort. Most funeral homes have added an additional room with a water fountain, magazines and toys for bored kids. Do not underestimate the necessity of a place to take bored children. It can mean the difference between a proper wake and a chaotic one.
- Walter J. Johnson Funeral Home, Clark NJ
- Walter J. Johnson, personal communication
- Photo Credit Thai coffin image by Adrian Hillman from Fotolia.com
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