Memorial Service Planning

21 October 2019 • Online Memorials

Memorial Service Guide

This comprehensive guide will offer you tips on coordinating and hosting a memorial service for your dearly departed. This is a sensitive and stressful time for you and your family as you prepare to honor your loved one through a memorial service. This article will assist you in navigating the various aspects of a memorial service, and make sure that planning it will be the least of your worries.

What is a Memorial Service Program?

A memorial service is usually an event when the body of the departed is no longer present. For example, if your loved one was cremated, a memorial service might be held with the urn prominently displayed. More commonly, a memorial service is held after the funeral, when the departed is interred. It allows family, friends, and other associates of the departed to memorialize their loved one.

A memorial service can be held any time after the passing of your beloved. In some cases, a memorial service can even be held after a year or more since their passing. Families can also plan a memorial service on the one year anniversary of their loved one’s death.

Memorial Service

Memorial Service Planning

Here are some tips for planning a memorial service for your loved one. Please note that every memorial service is unique and some of the suggestions are optional. One of the benefits of a memorial service is that you can organize one caters to your personal aesthetics, budget, and how you would like to commemorate the life and memory of your dearly departed.

1. Find a Good Location

The location of your memorial service is very important for both logistical purposes and setting the type of ambiance you prefer. The two most common locations where memorial services are held are places of worship and a place of residence.

A house of worship will allow you to memorialize your beloved within the traditions of your loved one’s faith. On the other hand, a residential home feels more intimate and might feel more inclusive to friends of the departed who come from different faiths and cultures.

Another option would be to rent out a function hall or event space. However, keep in mind that this option would be more costly than holding the memorial service in a house of worship or a residence.

If your loved one had a special connection to a specific place—like a favorite restaurant, the beach, or park—you can host the memorial service there as well, making it a more intimate event that reflects your loved one’s unique personality and life. If the location is a public place, be sure to conduct prior research to see if any permits are needed, especially if there will be a large group attending.

2. Send a Memorial Service Invitation

If the memorial service will be a more intimate event and will be limited to a certain amount of people, an old-fashioned invitation is customarily sent out to specific individuals who were close to your loved one.

You can send a traditional invitation card through snail mail, or send an e-card through email or messenger apps. Be sure that your invitees’ contact information—specifically mailing and email address—are up to date.

3. Post a Memorial Service Announcement

If the memorial service will be hosting a large group of people, an announcement will be more cost-effective. Although invitation cards are relatively cheap—depending on the design and paper material—having many attendees could put a dent in your budget. An announcement would also be less time-consuming and can reach more people online compared to both snail mail and email invitations.

4. Write a Speech or Eulogy

Traditionally, a speech or eulogy is made during a memorial service. In fact, one could say that it is the most integral aspect of the memorial service. Remember that the service is all about sharing positive memories of your dearly departed. Focus on their life rather than their departure. While it is natural to express your feelings about the pain of their departure, the memorial service should be more focused on remembrance. 

Depending on your loved one’s faith, you can include verses from a holy text such as the Bible, Quran, or Torah that fits the occasion. Another popular option is to recite a poem that is easy to understand and is appropriate for a memorial service. 

If the memorial service is smaller and more intimate, such as one that is hosted in a residence, an alternative to a speech or eulogy is to tell stories about the dearly departed. Encourage attendees, if they are comfortable with it, to share their warm or funny memories. After all, our lives are composed of stories. Our existence on earth is like a book--hence the common phrase “a new chapter in life”--and our books are filled with beautiful writings. Share them. 

It is up to you what you want to include in your speech or eulogy. What’s important is that it’s from the heart. 

Memorial Stone

5. Choose Songs for the Memorial Service

The invention of music is one of the greatest achievements of our civilization and what distinguishes humans from other living creatures on Earth. Music connects us all and is universally enjoyed, regardless of style or genre. Favorite songs are very personal because they make our personality unique. 

It is common to play songs in a memorial service in a respectful volume. You can either curate a playlist to be played through a sound system or, if it fits within your budget, hire musicians to play live during your memorial service. If you know family members, friends, or acquaintances who are musicians, you can offer them free food, drinks and tips in exchange for their services. 

Choose songs that had a personal connection to the dearly departed. For example, you can choose their favorite tunes or wedding song if they were your spouse. You can also choose to play songs you might like and think would fit well with the memorial service. 

Remember that the memorial service is a sacred event, so it would be best to avoid songs with controversial lyrics or abrasive noise. Even if that was the type of music your loved one enjoyed while they were alive, keep in mind that people of different backgrounds might be attending the memorial service. 

Although one might gravitate towards somber music, because they think that style fits with a memorial service, remember that a memorial service is more of a celebration of life and positivity rather than an event to dwell on loss. Don’t be afraid to play tasteful upbeat music that will create a joyous vibe. 

We’ve curated a playlist for you to give you ideas on the type of music that fits best with a memorial service. See our suggestions here

6. Pick Out Flowers and Decorations for the Memorial Service

Traditionally, flowers are prominent features at both funeral and memorial services. Flowers are not just used for decoration, but can also be symbolic. 

For instance, white roses are common in funerals and memorial services because they represent purity, innocence, and the spirit itself. Because white is a neutral color, it creates a light and calm ambiance at memorial services. Yellow flowers are also used sometimes to symbolize the strong connections we have with each other, showing that we are connected to our beloved even after death. If your loved one had a favorite flower, rose, or even plant, feature them prominently at your memorial service to create a personal touch. 

Memorial Service Attire

In your invitation or announcement, you have the option of detailing the expected dress code for your memorial service guests. Typically, attire at a memorial service is mildly formal but comfortable. 

For women, typical clothing choices are blouses, dresses, and long skirts that cover the knees. For men, a suit or tuxedo is not necessary. Slacks and a nice button-up shirt will suffice, especially during the warm seasons. Imagine you’re going to a company dinner party where your boss and colleagues will be attending: respectful decent attire that is also not too proper and businesslike. For both women and men, colors should be toned down, usually something solid like black, grey, navy blue, and white. 

Memorial Service Etiquette

In today’s world, people are constantly glued to their smartphones. However, at a memorial service, your attention should be focused on honoring and memorializing your loved one who had passed away. 

Turn of your phones or, at the very least, put it in silent (not vibration mode since that also makes a sound). Additionally, you can activate the Do Not Disturb mode on your phone so that you won’t be bombarded with distracting notifications, but will still be able to receive emergency messages. 

Memorial services are important events, so make sure you arrive on time. If you will be late due to an emergency, traffic, or other unexpected cause of delay, be sure to inform the host as courtesy. 

When speaking to relatives and close friends of the departed, be sure to watch your tone and word usage. This is a sensitive time for everyone, especially family members, so it’s best to practice discretion at a memorial service.


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