Grand Rapids:

9 Essential Items You Need to Plan a Funeral

When a loved one passes, we understand the hardships that come at family members from all angles. At Gerst Funeral Home, we have been supporting families in the Grand Rapids area since 1885. Our utmost goal is to walk with families through each and every step of the funeral planning process. We aim to help ease your burdens during this difficult time.

When a loved one passes, the need for planning becomes immediate. Due to this, we have created a list that provides you with the nine essential items you need to plan a funeral. This comprehensive list is designed to streamline your funeral planning process by providing you with a preview of what items are needed when you are working with a funeral home. With knowledge of these items, we hope we can take one burden off your many tasks.

Below are nine items to bring with you when meeting with a funeral home. These items provide the necessary information for funeral planning and are essential to make the process run as smoothly as possible.

  1. Social Security Number: If you have it, please bring the social security card of the deceased. If you do not have the physical card but at least have the number, that is also very helpful. Please do not bring the medicare card for the deceased, as this does not provide the necessary social security number.
  2. Family Information: As much information as you have about the deceased parents and family is appreciated. Specifically, the names of both the mother and father. It is also important to note that we need accurate information for the mother’s Maiden name. If you are not sure of this information, it can generally be found on the birth certificate.
  3. Place of Birth: We will need information about the deceased person’s place of birth, including city and state. This information should also be found on the birth certificate.
  4. Ancestry Information: If known, please come prepared with any information regarding ancestry that is available. For example, this would include if the individual was of German, Dutch, Irish, etc. descent.
  5. List of Relatives and Spouse: Some of this information required will help us in writing an obituary for the deceased. An obituary is an important written piece to announce the passing of a loved one and to honor their life. All information about their family will help to depict the full overview of their life and the legacy they leave behind. Any information about relatives, children, and spouses will come in handy during the obituary writing process.
  6. An Endearing Photo: A photo is also an important part of an obituary. Choose a photo that captures your loved one’s positively to celebrate their life. Your funeral director will assist in composing an obituary that shares the life story of the deceased. A photo,  alongside information such as hobbies and their profession, can help in the writing process.
  7. Undergarments: If you and your family should choose a traditional burial service,  please come prepared with undergarments and other personal items you seek to be included in the burial. For traditional viewings and visitations, consider socks and shoes, jewelry, glasses, or any other items that are unique to the deceased individual.
  8. Cemetery Information: Information on the cemetery location and plot will help in the funeral planning process. We can assist in aspects of this process, if necessary.
  9. Veteran Information: If the deceased had graciously served our country, please provide a copy of the individual’s DD-214 or military discharge papers. We want to ensure we can accurately honor the time this individual has devoted to serving our country.

We understand that gathering the required information for planning a funeral can be difficult for grieving families. On behalf of the Gerst family, we sincerely hope that this list of essential items is valuable and relieves a slight burden for you and your family.

Coming prepared with these items can help make your funeral planning process go smoothly, but we understand obtaining all this information can sometimes pose a new hurdle. Have questions? We’re here to help. Feel free to contact us by phone at  (616)-949-7350 or at with any questions or concerns prior to your funeral planning meeting. We are happy to provide as much assistance as we can during this challenging period.