Arranging a Funeral

Where Will the Service Be?

Where the funeral service is held is an important aspect of funeral planning. You may choose to use our chapel, or if the person who has died was a member of a religious denomination, often the service is held in their local church.

A funeral service can also be held in the family home or any other setting that has significance for the person who has died and their family.

When arranging a large funeral, families sometimes choose another venue appropriate to the large number of people likely to attend.

A catering lounge for a ‘cup of tea’ is also seen as an important feature when selecting a venue. A funeral director will be happy to discuss suitable options for you to consider.

Burial or Cremation?

Burial or cremation?During your first contact with Paterson’s, our funeral director will ask you whether the person who has died wished to be buried or cremated. The choice – burial or cremation – determines which kind of medical certificate we are legally required to obtain.


Paterson’s arranges all the details for the final resting place, and can advise you on the availability of Upright Headstone or Plaque areas in all local cemeteries. Burials can be arranged in most cemeteries either in existing graves or in new plots.

We provide a grave marker in the form of a wooden cross when a new plot is purchased. Cemeteries will generally allow two interments in the same plot, so you may wish to decide on single or double depth as part of the funeral arrangements.


In New Zealand cremation is now a widely accepted alternative to burial. Paterson’s attends to all the requirements for cremation, and also operates its own crematorium.

The ashes will generally be available after 48 hours. The funeral director will assist you in discussing the next steps in relation to the ashes. There are a number of options as they can be scattered, interred in a range of locations, or divided into portions and placed in urns. We can assist in sending ashes to other destinations in New Zealand and overseas.

Clergy or Celebrant

celebrantIf you are a member of a religious denomination, your priest or minister will be the obvious person to contact regarding the funeral service. Your funeral director will then liaise with them regarding the date and time, and will maintain contact leading up to the funeral.

Funeral celebrants (male or female) are also available to conduct services. Celebrants will provide a service that is appropriate to your needs and cultural beliefs. They will generally lead a civil service, but often incorporate prayers and religious aspects if required. Paterson’s engages a group of highly skilled celebrants and will recommend one that we feel will be suitable to you and your family.

The Funeral Service

Over time customs and rituals have evolved. Those that remain with us today are the ones that have proven to offer the greatest comfort and support. The funeral is a final opportunity for family and friends to publicly express their love and respect for the person who has died. If it is arranged carefully and sensitively so that it reflects the feelings and fulfils the needs of everyone attending, then it can be enormously beneficial in helping people come to terms with their loss.

The funeral represents the first and most important step towards working through one’s grief and readjusting to life. Its significant therapeutic value is widely recognised.

From a practical point of view, the funeral ensures the legal, reverent and dignified burial or cremation of the person who has died.

The funeral director’s role is to make all the relevant arrangements prior to conducting the funeral on the day.

The funeral director will liaise with the minister or celebrant to ensure that any of the family’s special requests such as music, flowers, photo’s or audiovisual tributes are met.

The minister or celebrant is ultimately responsible for what happens in the funeral ceremony itself. This usually involves working with family members to:

– plan the format of the funeral service;
– decide who will deliver the eulogy – family member(s), a close personal friend or the celebrant;
– select music, reading or poetry for during the service;
– decide on the use of other mementos such as flowers and photos as required;
– discuss the content of the printed service sheets; and
– schedule the audiovisual presentation (if any) in the service.


Funeral Timing

funeral timingWhen to hold the funeral is entirely up to you. Some people believe three days after death is the correct timing; however, legally there is no set time. Given the many matters to consider in arranging a modern funeral, it is not uncommon for a funeral to be held five to seven days after death. If necessary it can be held still later to allow people coming from overseas to attend.

We can assure you it is far better not to rush the planning of a funeral. Allowing more time helps you to make clearer decisions. When people are rushed they may forget or overlook matters, leading to regrets afterwards.

Ex Service Personnel

ex-service personnelThe local RSA is happy to attend and conduct a Returned Services tribute for any service person who has died. The Last Post can be played if you would like this tradition to be a part of the ceremony. A flag may be draped over the casket and medals may be displayed. In addition, poppies can be supplied to those wishing to come forward and place them on top of the casket during this ceremony.

Service personnel and their spouses are entitled to be buried in a subsidised plot in most cemeteries. The plaque or headstone on these graves is also subsidised by the New Zealand Government. If you do not know the service details of the person who has died, we are able to obtain these details from Personnel Archives at the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of the family.


Mortuary services – caring for the dead

The care and respect that Paterson’s gives the person who has died begins from the time they are transferred into our care. Our funeral team are fully trained in conducting the transfer in a dignified and caring manner, whether the place of death is in a private home, hospital or more public place. This standard of care continues right through the entire process of the funeral preparations.

When you advise us of the death we will ask you whether we are able to carry out our normal preparations. At this stage we are seeking your verbal approval for us to begin embalming.

Our experienced embalmers will take care of the preparation of the person who has died. At all times the person is handled as if family members are present: with full dignity and care.

We attach a great deal of significance to the preparation for a viewing; the dressing and grooming are a very important part of this process.

The end result of mortuary care is that the person who has died is presented in a safe, clean and hygienic way.

If required Paterson’s will arrange for the repatriation of the person who has died to any other centre in New Zealand or any other country in the world. We have a modern mortuary and experienced embalmers available to meet the exacting standards required by transportation authorities. We are skilled in attending to all documentation required and proud of our high standard of service in fulfilling this need.


As part of our care and respect for a deceased person, we have developed various options to allow for ‘light embalming’, which limits the amount of chemicals used in the embalming process. We can use New Zealand–made Eco products for washing the person who has died. Alternatively we offer the choice of no embalming. There are no legal or mandatory requirements in New Zealand for embalming. We will be pleased to talk about the consequences of any choices for the funeral that you are organising and the full range of options available.

For more information on eco funerals, see

Clothing and Dressing

clothingBefore you spend time with the person who has died, we will ask you to bring in the clothing you would like them to be dressed in. When deciding on the clothing to be worn, remember to include all undergarments.

We will normally dress the person and place them in the casket. On some occasions, in accordance with cultural considerations or personal wishes, the family may choose to either dress the person who has died or assist us in this process.

Caskets and Urns

casketsThe funeral director will assist you when choosing a casket, and will usually do so from Paterson’s casket catalogue. Alternatively you may visit our offices and view a casket selection if you wish.

Caskets or coffins – what’s the difference?

Coffin is the term that has traditionally been used in England and refers to a shaped casket that is wider at the shoulders and more pointed at the feet. A casket is an oblong (rectangle) shape and commonly seen in the United States of America. In New Zealand we use casket to describe both shapes as it is seen as a more modern and less oppressive word.

Our casket range

We provide a variety of caskets including solid timber or particleboard/MDF. There are many options when considering the finish of the caskets, such as: solid rimu, macrocarpa, mahogany, or pine, rosewood finish, or veneers. Caskets have either a flat or a raised lid, and can also be painted in any colour you choose. There is also a range of caskets available with vinyl transfers that you may choose if they reflect the personality of the person who has died.


After the funeral – the ashes

As part of the process of planning a cremation with you, Paterson’s will discuss the options available for keeping, scattering interring cremated remains (commonly referred to as ashes). Attendance of family and friends at the interment of ashes is welcomed and encouraged. We can also assist with the scattering of ashes or the transportation of them to other places.

Following a cremation, the ashes are placed in a plastic urn inside a plain cardboard box. This is suitable for storage if you choose to scatter the ashes at a later date.

If you decide to keep the cremated remains at home or if you wish to inter them, you may choose to have them placed in a more attractive and decorative urn.

Our urns are similar to the casket range and can be made of solid wood or painted. Alternatively you may choose from a range including resin, marble or metal. There are many sizes, designs and materials available.

You may also choose to supply your own container into which we will transfer the ashes.

Time Together

time-togetherMany people find it helpful to spend time with the person who has died. This special time is an opportunity to say goodbye. We have a selection of viewing rooms for families who wish to visit. This time together can assist in the grieving process as it allows people to begin to accept the reality of the death. It can be a time to place mementos such as cards, letters, small gifts, photos, flowers and other significant objects in the casket.

Some families choose to take the casket home or to another venue; this enables them to spend some days with the person who has died. We are happy to make arrangements that will fit with your wishes and at a time suitable to all family members.

Children benefit from being included in the preparations for a funeral. Visiting, seeing and touching someone they love can be a positive experience as it allows them to say goodbye and helps them to accept the reality and finality of death. Historically children were not involved in the funeral process.

Today most experts would agree that children should have the same opportunity to view the person who has died and to attend the funeral if they so wish. We encourage visiting at Paterson’s between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday. You are welcome to visit outside these hours by organising a convenient time with your funeral director.