Funerals have been pushed into the 21st century and forced to adapt to modern societies’ need for virtual streaming funerals. With this new form of mourning, how does this affect the average budget of a funeral?
Funeral homes will charge an average of $241 to live stream a funeral, with some funeral homes charging no extra charge for the service and others charging up to $700 for a live stream and additional recording of the ceremony. But live streaming can reduce costs in other areas of a funeral budget.
With so much technology at our fingertips these days, especially when it comes to live streaming, the obvious question is why would you pay someone to do it for you.
If you are in two minds about this, please read the rest of this article where I will outline the pros and cons of a paid-for and a DIY virtual funeral.
What is a virtual funeral?
So, before we begin let’s just get on the same page about what we are actually talking about and what constitutes a virtual funeral.
A virtual funeral is a ceremony that allows mourners to follow the service in real-time or to watch it later on. Live streams of funerals are usually smaller events due to software limitations but the resulting recording can be shared with many more people than who normally would attend the funeral.
Many funeral homes are now offering this service as a standard part of their packages. Prices vary, but you can expect to pay as little as $50 right up to $350+. Some funeral homes are even offering this as a free service.
The average cost of a virtual funeral
The cost of live streaming a funeral is relatively cheap, even when you pay for a funeral home to do it for you. The real savings come when you consider what a virtual funeral actually allows you to forgo.
Streaming a funeral will cost you $250-$350 but this could save you, on average, $2,000 -$3000 on other services that aren’t needed for a virtual funeral. This reduces the average cost of a US funeral from $7,000-$12,000 to $4,000 -$9,000. You can reduce it by another $350 if you stream it yourself.
How do I get to an estimated $3,000 saving on a funeral just by live-streaming it?
Well, there are several savings you can make when you go from an in-person congregation to a virtual one. This is because you won’t have to do many things during the funeral which would otherwise be an essential part.
The average price of a catered event is now somewhere between $7 and $45. A funeral is more likely to be on the lower end of that as guests don’t expect a sit-down meal and they aren’t there to have a party, so the cost of booze will be less.
When you pair this with the average guest list of a funeral being somewhere between 10-50 for an elderly person and when younger people die the number could be nearer 100 guests and above.
So, at the very low end catering a funeral is going to cost you $70 to $700, and at the high end $450 to $4500. This is a significant chunk of a funeral budget, one which isn’t normally quoted as part of a funeral home’s services.
Viewings and visitations
Another important part of an in-person funeral is the opportunity to visit the deceased laying in rest and to have a private moment with them before the funeral. This normally happens in the days running up to the event.
The average cost of visitation is in the region of $425 which basically involves renting the space from the funeral home and hiring someone to supervise.
You can keep a body at home until the funeral, so this is another way to cut down on this cost. Nevertheless, if you aren’t expecting actual mourners, you probably can forgo this cost too.
Preparing the body
If you have a visitation or an open casket funeral it’s normal for a funeral home to prepare the body in order to be shown to funeral-goers. This involves several things, all of which aren’t legally necessary and can be opted out of.
Embalming– many people think that embalming a body is a legal requirement, but in many cases, it’s simply unnecessary and just an extra charge.
Unless you are delaying the funeral for a significant amount of time or planning to transport the body across state lines, embalming is just not needed. This is also true in 99% of cases where cremation is involved.
The average cost of embalming is $725 and you can simply forget about it when having a virtual funeral.
Makeup and hairstyling – another important part of an open casket funeral is grooming the deceased to make them appear as life-like as possible. This is really an important part of viewing a dead body as it can be quite shocking otherwise.
However, you can save yourself the average $250 for this service if you don’t have an open casket or people to view it.
Transportation – Ordinarily funeral transport falls into two categories, transporting the body in a hearse to and from venues and the cemetery/crematorium and transporting the family in a funeral procession.
When having a virtual funeral, especially if you plan to work with a funeral home, try to minimize the movement of the body. On average you will pay around $325 to have the body transported from hospital or home to the funeral establishment. There is normally around another $325 to rent the hearse.
If you cut out some of the journeys, for example from a funeral home where the body was prepared to a church for a funeral then to a cemetery, you may be able to negotiate this price down. Most funeral homes have the facilities to hold a virtual funeral, and you can always hire an officiant to come to you.
The other cost involved in transportation is when the family wants to ride in a limousine or similar vehicle behind the hearse. This will normally cost you around $150 PER CAR and you can do away with that by driving yourself or even just hiring a taxi.
So this is a theoretical saving of around $1945 at the very low end of the estimate.
How do you stream your own virtual funeral for free
By far the easiest way to stream a funeral is to have the funeral home do it. By now most funeral directors have invested in a good camera, sound system, and a reliable method of streaming. But, you can still do it yourself.
There are only four things you really need in order to stream nowadays, and you probably already have most of them right now.
- a cell phone
- a shotgun microphone
- a tripod
- a social media account
The fact of the matter is that most cell phones around today are as good if not superior to video cameras and even DSLR cameras. If you are only planning to stream this one event, you don’t need more than a cell phone.
The one thing your cell phone may not be able to do is to pick up the sound from across the room that is full of coughing and fidgeting people. Having a shotgun microphone which you can plug straight into most cell phones will help you pick up what is being said.
A basic tripod for your cell phone is probably the cost of a coffee these days. Ok, maybe a couple of coffees. You can get away with not having one, but it may make the picture fuzzy and your arm will get tired quickly.
Free Live streaming service
Facebook and YouTube allow you to live stream for free. Just set up an account and make sure that you carry out all the checks to enable live stream access before the day of the funeral. You can post your link to a chat group and immediately people can view your live stream. And all for free.
Important note: Make sure that you practice live streaming before the event. There are always technical issues when we try things for the first time and under pressure. Make sure that you know how everything works and that all your viewers do too.
It’s better to record the proceedings rather than have a live stream that doesn’t go live and results in people missing the service.
However, this is going to get you a very basic stream and you may not have the quality that you were hoping for. Luckily there is plenty of affordable equipment and services to choose from.
Recommended equipment for high quality virtual funerals
If you want to ensure that the live stream goes well and you have plans to live stream again in the future (See how I make money from live streaming on my about page here) you may wish to invest a little bit of money into some key pieces of kit.
Getting the right sound
Perhaps the most important part of a funeral is what is said. People want to remember the person’s life and are often delighted to hear about events in their lives they never knew about. So, recording the eulogy and other speeches is key.
The two key bits of kit you need to get this right are an audio sound recorder and a set of lavalier microphones. Depending on the sound recorder you get, you may also want a wireless microphone system.
Here is a link to this product on Amazon
The great thing about the Tascam Dr-10L is that you can plug a microphone directly into it which then records the sound directly in the device. However, you want to live stream the audio you will have to use the sound recorder in conjunction with a wireless microphone system. This is really to help you produce a better recording for the recorded video later on.
BOYA BY-WM8 Pro-K2
I actually use this product in conjunction with my audio recorder for my live and recorded videos. You can plug the wireless transmitter directly into the audio recorder or into a camera or laptop to get live sound for a stream.
Rode VideoMic Pro+
Here is a link to this product on Amazon
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of having to mic up your speakers, you can opt for a powerful microphone like the Rode videoMic Pro+ which will give you a much better sound quality than your basic cell phone or camera microphone.
Getting a good picture quality
Although you cellphone is a really good video camera as standard, it doesn’t offer you all the features you may want for a really good live stream. So, opting for a DLSR which you can hook up to a laptop and streaming software may be the best option.
Camera: Sony a6600
Here is a link to this product on Amazon
Another really important part of getting a good picture quality on your stream is to have a stable platform. if you are sticking with your cell phone as your main camera, consider getting one of these advanced hand held stabilizers which will eliminate any shaky camera work.
DJI Osmo Mobile II
Making everything look good
The final step towards a really good live stream, but perhaps the least important thing for a funeral is to have some good lighting. If your focus is on the person giving the eulogy, I would say that getting some basic LED lights is a bonus, but you won’t have enough light to capture the entire funeral congregation.
Neewer 2-Pack Dimmable 5600K USB LED Video Light
Here is a link to this product on Amazon
Recommended services for free virtual funeral streaming
This streaming company is perhaps the most famous for the average person in the street. They offer a free account that allows you to stream to up to 100 people for 40 minutes. This is more than enough for most funerals and you can even split the funeral up into different streams throughout the day to get even more mileage on the account.
Live streams on YouTube mean that you can reach almost unlimited amounts of people for up to 12 hours, which is certainly more than you need. A Youtube account is free and you can get set up to stream in about 24 hours. Just make sure you don’t leave the setup until the day of the stream.
Want to learn how to generate income from live streaming on YouTube? Check out the course that I follow here.
OBS is a free open-source streaming software that allows you to stream from your laptop to any streaming platform you want, such as YouTube or Facebook. This is a great bit of software to turn a DSLR into a webcam by connecting it to your laptop and then streaming from there.
How to make a virtual funeral a success
As with any other type of live-recorded event, the key is preparation and anticipating issues before they occur.
Doing a DIY virtual funeral
In order to avoid any issues with a successful live stream, make sure that you know exactly how your equipment works and how to connect to your streaming platform of choice.
Test the equipment in the same situation as you plan to use it. Makes sure that everything is fully charged and that you have spare battery packs available. Look at the venue and plan where you want to shoot from and what obstacles you may have in the way.
Also, test the internet connection that you plan to use. If it isn’t powerful enough, consider using your cell phone as a hotspot.
It’s also important to test the invitation system you will use and make sure that everyone you invite to the live stream knows how to access it. Try doing a test stream with just a few people to ensure everything is working correctly.
Using a funeral home’s live stream service
If you just prefer to get the funeral home to run the live stream for you, make sure that you understand exactly what will happen and the type of service they provide. Ask them to explain how you can connect to the stream and how people can access it virtually.
Will virtual funerals survive the pandemic?
Personally, I think that virtual funerals are here to stay. Although they may be a replacement for the traditional funeral in times of social distancing and pandemics, they won’t go away that easily.
Now that a precedent has been set, virtual funerals, at least the live streaming element, will allow more people to mourn in real-time with other funeral goers. For those that are not able to attend family funeral due to schedule or distance, which was my case twice in as many weeks, live streaming is the anwer.
Funeral homes are also going to see this as another potential revenue source and will promote it as part of their usual funeral packages.