How to plan a personalized memorial service
A memorial service is an event to honor and celebrate the life of a loved one who has passed. Personalized memorial services are an opportunity to remember your loved one and say goodbye with the help and support of your family and friends.
Memorial services look different for every family, with some opting for more traditional religious ceremonies prior to burial, and others preferring a more personalized celebration of life service. Begin your planning by thinking about your loved one and what was important to them – a favorite song, poem, bible verse, hobby, flower, food, etc. You may want to follow the memorial with a reception. Receptions are usually less formal and have food and drinks for guests.
This checklist will help you plan the memorial service and reception. Delegate tasks to family members or friends who would like to help. Remember, there is no “right” way to plan a memorial or celebration of life service. Plan an event that will bring comfort to your family and friends while honoring your loved one in the way that feels most natural to you.
Decide on the style or theme
Decide on the style of the memorial service. Would you like a more traditional ceremony at a religious venue or a more casual celebration at a park? The options are endless. Begin thinking about the type of service you would like to have and what accommodations you will need.
Choose a venue
Decide on the space where you want the ceremony and reception to be held. Consider the number of people will be attending and the type of service you’d like to have. You may want to choose a location that reflects the interests or personality of your loved one – maybe a place of worship, their favorite park, restaurant, or a service at sea. Make reservations if necessary. If you would like a family member or friend to host the ceremony in their private home, check with them to see if they are willing to host and how many people they can accommodate. Consider any special accommodations you need when choosing a location. If you are planning on scattering the ashes, make sure it is legal and the venue allows for it.
Select a date
Once you have chosen the venue, select a date. Pick a date that allows friends and family to make travel plans, if needed. If you would like your loved one’s ashes present at the ceremony, you may want to schedule a few weeks in advance. Do not feel pressured to pick the soonest possible date. Choosing a date a few weeks in advance allows for thoughtful planning.
Make sure to invite everyone who was important to your loved one, letting immediate family members know first. Don’t forget about people who live in another city or state– they may want to travel to participate in the ceremony and pay their respects. This task can easily be delegated to a family member or friend. You can invite people informally through email, phone calls, and social media, or more formally through paper invitations. When inviting guests, let them know if there is anything they can bring to help with the ceremony or reception.
Choose a leader or facilitator for the service
Decide who will lead the service. Anyone can lead the ceremony – a religious leader, spouse, child, friend, sibling, or community member. If you have a particular person in mind, reach out to them to make sure they are comfortable leading the service. You can also have multiple people lead the service, though this may require some coordination and extra planning.
Decide on the plan and order of the service
Create a plan for the service. This can be a simple list of what is happening, the order of the events, and who will be involved in each portion of the ceremony. Ask family members if and how they would like to be involved. The leader will then follow the outline, announcing any songs, speakers, or activities. A sample ceremony could include the following:
- Opening words
- Personal reflections by friends and family
- Scattering of ashes
- Closing words
- Closing song
Customize the service to include any people or activities you would like.
Consider creating a program or distributing memorial cards
A program could include the outline of the ceremony with copies of the readings, the names of the speakers, information about the deceased, photos, etc. You can also design wallet-sized memorial cards with a photo of your loved one and a short prayer, song, or poem they loved. The program or memorial card is a keepsake that friends and family can have to remember your loved one.
Choose readings or spoken words
Readings and spoken words can be comforting and healing for guests. You can choose passages from religious texts, poems, lyrics to a song, or passages from a favorite book.
Decide on speakers
If you would like people to speak at the ceremony, check in to make sure they are willing to share their memories at the event. You may also want others to read a certain passage, prayer, or poem. Make sure to assign who will be reading each passage. You could ask friends and family to write a favorite memory to share at the ceremony, with the leader moderating. If you choose to have guests share memories, make sure to let them know in advance so they are prepared.
Decide on flowers or decorations
Flowers or other decorations may bring color and joy to the celebration. While lilies are the traditional funeral flower, consider incorporating your loved one’s favorite flower. You may decide to buy flowers, gather flowers from a family garden, or forego flowers altogether. Rather than having guests send flowers, consider having them donate to your loved one’s favorite charity.
Memorial services often open and close with music. If there is a particular song that reminds you of your loved one, you can play it at the ceremony or have someone perform it. See this page for inspiration if you are having trouble picking songs for the memorial.
Collect photographs and personal items
Collecting photos and compiling them for the ceremony could be a comforting and cathartic experience for families. You can put together a photo album, memory book, or video slideshow to be displayed at the event. Organize a space or memory table to display photos of your loved one and other personal objects that reflect their personality.
Create a memory book for guests
On the same table as the display photos, you may want to include a guestbook or memory book for guests to sign. Here, family and friends can share their memories, and the book can be kept by the spouse, children or parents of the deceased.
Organize the reception
If you will be hosting a reception after the ceremony, let guests know. This can be held at the same venue as the service, or another location if that’s more convenient. Decide what food or drinks you may want at the reception. You can have a restaurant cater the event or prepare food yourself. You can also make the event a pot luck, where guests can contribute by bringing food.
Finalize the plan and delegate responsibilities
Once you have thought through the ceremony and reception, make a list with all of the items that need to be done beforehand and what needs to be brought to the event. Do you need a monitor, sound system, or podium? Assign tasks to family and friends who are up to it, and delegate responsibilities so everything doesn’t fall on one person. You are not alone in planning, and many people would love to help.
Consider your options
If you prefer a personalized memorial service to a more traditional funeral service, direct cremation may be your preferred end-of-life option. Whether a loved one has just passed, or you are planning ahead for yourself or a family member, direct cremation gives you the flexibility to plan a memorial service on your own time and budget. Direct cremation is the simplest, most affordable funeral option available. The funeral home collects your loved one from their place of passing, files all necessary paperwork, performs the private cremation, and returns the ashes to the family.
Traditional funeral homes offer funeral packages with expensive, one-size-fits-all memorial packages included. Direct cremation offers you everything you need for a basic cremation, affording you the time, money and flexibility to plan the celebration of life service that you want. There is no need to overpay a funeral director to help you plan a memorial or life celebration service if you would prefer to do it yourself.
Tulip Cremation offers the most affordable direct cremation. You can arrange online or over the phone in just minutes, and our Family Care Team is available 24/7 to answer your call. Call (844) 942-4909 today to speak to our Family Care Team, or visit our website to learn more.