Even a "basic" funeral ca be expensive, especially when there can also be paperwork, medical costs, etc. connected to the death.
Even a super-basic, cardboard box cremation can get up to $1k in cost depending on where you are.
Oh yeah, definitely. I think the following story is why I can see both sides of the argument. When my grandmother died (and it was pretty unexpected to us - I have a feeling she knew it was coming, as she had heart problems for years, but was not one to let on just how serious things were at times because she didn't want people to worry and fuss over her, a very strong and independent woman indeed), her funeral was nothing extravagant. It still added up to the tune of almost $7,000, and her life insurance had not matured yet, so it didn't even come close to covering the costs. However, we didn't ask for donations or anything - luckily, my grandparents were long-time friends of the family that ran the funeral home, and they understood that we, the family, would pay what we could, when we could, and they were OK with that. Fast forward six years later, when my grandfather died, her funeral still wasn't completely paid off. Fortunately isn't really the word I'm wanting to use, but it's really the only one that fits, so anyway, fortunately, my grandfather's life insurance had matured by that time, and it was enough to cover his funeral and the remaining bill on my grandmother's. Here's the kicker - my Pappaw's funeral was exactly the same as Grandma's, even down to the casket, and it was over $10,000 - it had gone up roughly $3,000. Funerals, even the simplest ones, can be scary expensive. I always said that if I could handle being around death and grief all the time, I would run a funeral home. No matter what happens in this world, it's one of the most lucrative businesses to be in. After all, the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes.
Not everyone has the luxury of being friends with the funeral home directors, though, and it's sad to say, but some are less understanding than others. I also feel it's worth noting that from what I read/saw on Facebook, it was apparent that my high school friend's family had a pretty low-key service.
Anyway, on another point that this thread has gotten me to thinking about, I know that some churches take up collections for its members when something like this happens, and up home at least, it's not uncommon to see the collection jars that several of you have mentioned. I've even seen them down here at the local gas station a couple of times, so I guess it's not all that different.
As for planning within your means, I remember here a couple of years ago, a little girl (only four, if I remember correctly) died in a house fire up home. It really shook up a lot of people (small town, everyone knows everyone, and even if you didn't know them, how can you not be shaken by such an unexpected loss of such a small child?). There were collection jars all over town. The jars pulled in a good bit of money for the family, and there were flyers with information on how to donate to a fund for the family also, to help with the funeral. I personally don't see a problem with that in and of itself - it was very unexpected. The following is where, after thinking about it today, I questioned the etiquette of the way they went about doing her funeral. While I suppose maybe it was excusable because it was their baby, after all, the family wasn't exactly well-off and although I did not attend the services, many people told me that it was a rather extravagant affair with many totally optional (and rather expensive, given the price list I saw when looking over the paperwork of my Pappaw's funeral - the little girl's funeral was held in the same funeral home) extras that were not in any way required. Given that my grandparents' simple funerals were $7,000 and $10,000 respectively, I can only imagine how much a funeral like the one they had for the little girl cost. That struck me as a bit odd, but I didn't really think about it until now, that it's quite possible that while I sympathize with them for losing their child, as I cannot even imagine the pain that must bring and I hope to never go through it myself, it may not have been right of them to plan such a fancy funeral knowing that it was not within their budget and they were going to have to solicit donations to pay for the funeral. The point of that is, I can definitely see the point a lot of you are making to stay within your budget, or if the budget is almost nothing as it is with many of these donation cases, don't go over-the-top with it. (If any of that sounds insensitive given that my example was the death of a child, I give anyone permission to please politely put me in my place.)
I'm so sorry for the long, long, long ramble - just relating to both sides of the argument. Someone tell me to shut up now! :-P