Rules of Etiquette
RULE ONE: Make yours a lively affair!
Funerals aren’t big attractions without a bit of flair, so if you expect a good turnout (even a reasonable turnout in the case of some individuals), you’ll have to make your affair one that your guests will talk about for years to come. You’ll need a few angles, press releases will help, and other ideas in this book will liven things up (not you, but the affair).
RULE TWO: Be neat and make cleanup a snap!
Choose a method that will result in a tidy disposal of your remains. It’s tres gauche (that’s French for ‘in very poor taste’) to require others to have to scrape up all of your various scattered body parts and organs in an effort to put them all back in one place. At least consider that someone, somewhere, will have the chore of bagging you up. The basic rule of thumb? If you won’t fit neatly into a lawn cleanup bag, and you’re spread over more than 20 square feet, you didn’t do it right.
RULE THREE: Accommodate your guests’ schedules.
Most of your expected visitors are busy people with lives of their own (unless you take them with you), so schedule your demise and services to coincide with their off time. Avoid having services over the holidays, and try to schedule viewing hours (if possible) that don’t conflict with prime time TV (especially during sweeps weeks), football, or bowling league nights.
RULE FOUR: Send Invitations!
Not everyone likes a surprise. Advance notice will provide guests the opportunity to ask for the mourning off. Notification for affairs such as yours have traditionally been by phone or word of mouth, but since you know when and where, why not send invites? Aside from providing guests with the place and time, you can also request financial assistance to offset expenses (think services upgrades), and prompt recipients to call your answering machine or voice mail for directions. Heck, if you’re clever, you could even generate a ton of extra cash with your own 1-900 pay-per-call phone number. At just $3.99/minute, you could have the casket you always wanted!
To save time and money, think about mailing off your invitation as a chain letter. Keep in mind that your wake and funeral may not be your guest’s most exciting entertainment option, so take the time to make your invitations elegant and creative, and be sure to mail them out in plenty of time (but not too early).
RULE FIVE: Let guests choose their meals.
Enclose RSVP’s with your invites to plan your wake catering (meat or fish?) return-addressed to the caterer. This way, guests won’t have to bicker over the food. You may also include a vegetarian plate option.
RULE SIX: Prepare thank-you cards.
Pre-print a box of thank-you notes for your next of kin to forward for you. Pre-addressing and stamping the envelopes will be greatly appreciated by all.
RULE SEVEN: Do a little something for yourself.
Consider mailing a stack of self-addressed sympathy cards to your own address to make it appear that you were more popular! If you want a bit more Press Coverage (covered later), sign famous names.
RULE EIGHT: Record a new phone or voice mail message.
Change the message on your machine (or voice mail) just before you go (but not too much before) since you won’t be there anymore (with any luck). People may be tired of your old message anyway.
In your new pre-recorded message you can give friends and relatives directions to your wake and funeral, information about where they might find you (if you kept that quiet), and, of course, all the gory details. If you have the cash, make the call toll-free. If you’re short on funds, consider pay-per-call.
RULE EIGHT (a): Send a group email.
If you really have it all together, send a group email (but if you do, you really have to hurry right after you click send). Otherwise, same idea as Rule Eight. Also, be sure you have everyone’s correct email address. Spam can cause your service provider to cancel your account.
RULE NINE: Shut off most utilities, cancel unnecessary services.
Before you go, be sure to discontinue your newspaper service, shut off your gas service (unless your method requires gas), cancel the lawn service and cable. BE SURE to pay the phone and electric one month in advance (to keep your phone, answering machine and/or voice mail working – see Rule Eight above).
RULE TEN: Pets
Let your pets out (unless they’re coming with). If you have fish or birds, leave plenty of food. Hamsters and Guinea Pigs can probably be set free. Same with Turtles. Snakes can usually be flushed just prior.
RULE ELEVEN: Let others know who you were.
BRING ALONG ID. Can’t stress this enough. So many people forget this one, which is critical to receiving credit for your act. It’s ludicrous to think that you could go through all this trouble and not even be identified after. Make sure your ID is capable of surviving your technique. A normal Driver’s License probably won’t make it or be readable. Your wallet may be blown to shreds (depending on technique). Dog tags are most often your best bet.
RULE TWELVE: Send out your own legal forms.
If you really want to make an impressive and well-thought-out exit, fill out your own Death Certificate. The forms are easy to get, filling them out yourself makes for a great finishing touch – plus, by doing it yourself, you can be assured that the form is filled out properly, your name is spelled correctly, and the cause of death is 100% accurate (not some coroner’s best guess).
Mail your Death Certificate to the coroners’ office just before you go (not a moment sooner), but leave the exact time and date blank (just in case).