Memorial Service Planning Checklist
Unlike a traditional funeral, a memorial service is a gathering where a casket is not present (although the urn with the cremated remains may be on display). A memorial service can be held weeks or even months after the death.
A memorial service can be held in a church, the funeral home or a community hall, or somewhere of importance to the deceased and family. There is usually music, selected readings, and a eulogy. The memorial service can be further personalized as a celebration-of-life.
Rather than opting to do things "the same old way", many families today want to celebrate the life of a loved one. Many funeral service professionals see this change as one of the many contributions to social change made by 'Baby Boomers'. The National Funeral Directors Association notes, "As baby boomers age and find themselves having to plan funerals for loved ones and themselves, they are making funeral choices based on values that are different than previous generations. Baby boomers see funerals as a valuable part of the grieving process and are seeking ways to make them meaningful." If you too desire to make the funeral for a loved one more engaging and personally meaningful, a memorial service may be the perfect concept to build on.
How Does a Memorial Service Differ from a Traditional Funeral?
As mentioned in the page What is a Funeral?, there are four basic components which make up the conventional approach to funerals:
THE FUNERAL SERVICE
A COMMITTAL SERVICE
THE FUNERAL RECEPTION
A traditional funeral then is a series of events; it's a ritualized process where the deceased, and the attendees, pass from one social status to another; a process where the torn fabric of a family and community is repaired. According to the online article "Six Characteristics of Helpful Ceremonies", by William Hoy, Director of Grief Connect, this is done by including:
Symbols of shared significance intended to communicate beyond words
Ritual actions shared by a group of individuals
Gathered people providing comfort to one another
Connection to heritage through recognized readings
Increased physical contact between attendees provide comfort
Witnessing the transition of the body through burial or cremation
In knowing these characteristics, you can design a memorial service as unique as the life of your loved.
Affordable Memorial Service Ideas
Our experience has shown us that many of today's families want more than a traditional funeral. This can be done by bringing more of the personality and lifestyle of the deceased into the arrangements. By displaying photographs or staging the event around a favorite pastime, a memorial service can become more personal and meaningful.
If a personalized and affordable memorial service suits the needs of your family, we suggest you consider the following questions:
What did your loved one like to do?
What was he or she like as an individual?
What was their profession and how did that shape their life?
Was your loved one spiritual?
Was he or she proud of their cultural or ethnic heritage?
How to Plan a Memorial Service
It's really a process of asking–and answering–questions. Sit down with other family members, at least once, but maybe even more than once; to explore the ideas which arise from answering these questions:
1. Who will be invited? The number of guests defines the where, when, and how of your memorial service. Write down the names of everyone you think would want to be there and then set it aside. You can add new names to the list as you go along.
2. Where, and when, should the event take place? Here's where your imagination is tempered by any scheduling or travel-related issues facing those who will be invited. Be sure to check in with out-of-town relatives and friends about their situation before settling on these critical details.
3. Who will orchestrate or conduct the event? If your loved one was religious, you may opt to have their pastor or church minister perform these tasks. However, many families today hire a non-denominational celebrant to oversee the memorial service.
4. Who wishes to speak at the event? Many times family members or friends will be very direct about their desire to make a short presentation at the service; other times you need to come out and ask folks if they would be willing to publicly share their thoughts and feelings. Either way, you'll want to select those people who have shared a close relationship with the deceased and have something meaningful to contribute.
5. What group activities would be appropriate? We've heard some exciting ideas over the years. This question involves thinking about what your loved one liked most about their life and gives everyone a remarkable space to share memories, laugh, and even cry together.
6. What food or beverages should be served? What you serve may depend on the theme of your memorial service, or may be based on your loved one's favorite dishes. It's entirely up to you; we've even seen "pot luck" services where guests actually sign up to bring select foods and beverages.
7. What readings and music should you include? Music is an integral part of life for many people, and a memorial service is the perfect event in which to showcase the meaningful music of your loved one's life. But, if your loved one didn't appreciate music (and lots of folks don’t), it may be more appropriate to read chosen spiritual selections, or excerpts from literature.
8. What details of your loved one's life do you want to share with guests? Not every biographical detail needs to be highlighted; rather you're trying to capture their essence by telling revealing anecdotes or stories. Sometimes you can reveal their character by detailing one short moment in their life experience.
9. What decorations will you have? Many families create a tribute video and use it as the centerpiece of the event. Others choose to use a memory table of photographs and other memorabilia instead.
We're Here to Advise, Assist, and Guide You
We know that's a lot to think about. But we urge you to take your time; be thoughtful, and don't hesitate to explore all the celebrations of life or memorial service ideas which arise as part of this experience.
As we've said, we've got the experience which could make planning memorial service or a celebration of life easier for you and your family. Don't hesitate to pick up the phone; call us at (325) 928-4711. Let's talk about your loved one's life; share some stories with us. We're confident that, together, we can come up with the perfect memorial event or memorial service to suit your needs and expectations.
We also provide you the opportunity to setup an online memorial for your loved one.