Today’s memorial service is a wonderful opportunity to personalize a special tribute to a loved one. The traditional funeral as we’ve known it is changing with time. The emphasis today is on the celebration of a life, using music, venue, and ritual to truly represent the personality and achievements of someone who has passed.
We’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you with your planning.
Did your loved one have a favorite beach, park, lake, river, or venue? If so, it’s often possible to get permission for a gathering. If this is private property, you’ll surely need to contact the administration in charge of the place. If it’s public land, you can check with your local municipality about regulations around using that land.
Event rental companies have lots of equipment available to produce a gathering of this sort. Many people will rent a canopy or tent so that the gathering is contained and guests are protected from possible inclement weather. Remember that you might also need to rent or borrow chairs and tables. Here are some popular places for memorial services:
Think about the format of your service. Do you want one person to facilitate the event? Would you like several key people to participate? Will you include a segment where guests can get up and speak (either prepared or spontaneous)? Will you select readings, blessings, prayers, stories?
Will ashes be scattered? Will candles be used? The following is a list of some great ideas to create ritual and ceremony at your service:
Photo slideshow of person’s life
Compile a playlist of favorite songs
Invite guests to come forward to tell stories
Ask guest to light a candle or incense before or after story or offering has been shared
Scatter ashes during the ceremony
Distribute ashes in small containers so that guests take a memento to keep
Place ashes in biodegradable balloons, to be released as a group
Place small amount of ashes in floatable, biodegradable structure, to be released into water
Arrange a dove or butterfly release
Gather friends for a blessing of a garden or special spot in honor of your loved one
Incorporate blessings of various faiths or spiritual practices
It’s great to have a book in which guests can write messages or stories, draw pictures, or leave pictures. In this way, you’ll know who was present after many years, and it becomes a special memento for families. You may also have a large surface on which people can paint, draw, or write messages in honor of that person. Here are some ideas that we’ve seen:
Canvas on table with markers nearby so that guests can create and design a personal tribute
Wooden placard and paints where guests can co-create a permanent garden marker or outside panel
Distribute seed packets for guests to take home and plant in honor of the loved one
Display photos, belongings, and objects that were important to your loved one
Have bouquets of flowers so that each guest can take a flower in honor of your loved one
Distribute pins or bracelets for guests to wear in honor of the loved one
It’s important for guests to have a chance to spend time together. Food is always a great comfort during this time. Think about how you’d like to present food. There are event planners who can help you with catering services. Some people buy food, gather at a restaurant, or request that guests bring a favorite dish. You can also serve a food or beverage that was special to the loved one. You may or may not want to serve alcohol, but beverages should be provided.
Basically, you can get as creative as possible when planning a memorial service. If the person expressed his/her wishes before passing, it certainly alleviates a lot of the guesswork. Most importantly, you'll want to think about all that makes your loved one unique, and incorporate those aspects into your celebration of that person.