Planning a Memorial Service

7 June 2018 • Planning advice

How to Plan a Memorial Service

A memorial service is a service that memorializes the dead without the presence of the deceased’s body. Likewise, a service with the presence of cremated remains or a service done after the burial are also a memorial service. This is different from the funeral service, where they body of the deceased person is present during the service.

The Purpose of a Memorial Service

1. To honor and celebrate the life of the deceased.

2. To give ourselves the permission to grieve and experience the care of the community, as suggested by a Huffington post article.

3. To think about our own mortality and the meaning of life as we remember the deceased.

4. To possibly “resolve or complete what has been left emotionally unfinished for us at the time of death,” suggests Russell Friedman, Executive Director of the Grief Recovery Institute

A memorial service is much more than just honoring the deceased; it is also a time of reflecting upon one’s life and of expressing support to those whom the person has left behind.

Tips for Planning a Memorial Service

If you have decided to conduct a memorial service after the burial or cremation, here’s a quick guide to planning one:

1. Choose a date.

The memorial service doesn’t have to be within the week of the person’s death. You can schedule it weeks or months after. The key here is to pick a date where you can be given enough time to do preparations and enough time for relatives and friends to plan their own schedule and trips ahead.

2. Pick a theme.

When you pick a theme, think of the life of the deceased. How would the person like to be remembered? What were the best qualities of the person? What were his passions and interests? These can help you decide on the theme and the location of the service, too.

3. Pick a location.

The location depends on four things: your theme, the number of attendees, convenience of the attendees, and budget considerations. Most memorial services are held in funeral homes, churches, at the home of the deceased or a relative of the deceased, hotels, or other event places. The theme can help you decide on your location. If the deceased loved the ocean for example, then you can organize the memorial service at the beach. 

4. Create the program.

Make an event plan that lists down the activities and highlights of the service in chronological order. Assign an event leader and a host who will ensure that the program gets followed. You will also need to decide who the speakers will be and inform them several days before the service to give them time to prepare. The program may be printed on a card or on a special paper to serve as a guide for your guests. 

A memorial service program typically looks like this, but you can customize it further:

1. Opening words from a family member

2. Prayers or rituals

3. Audio-visual presentation about the deceased

4. Readings

5. Speech from family members or friends

6. Readings

7. Closing remarks 

8. Reception

5. Collect photos and memories from family and friends.

You will need photos and other memorabilia to display on the service. If you want to make the process of creating memory books easier and more interactive, try an online memory book or memorial that the deceased’s loved ones can access from their computers or mobile device. 

6. Decide on the food and memorial tokens.

Funerals and memorial services also serve food. Depending on the event hours, you can serve snacks or a full meal. It is important to let attendees know whether food will be served or if guests are encouraged to contribute a dish. Also, as a sign of gratitude, considering giving your guests memorial tokens. A memorial token can be a simple card with words of appreciation, neutral gifts like candles or charms, or any object that the deceased used to love.  

Once you have finalized the event plan, send out your invitations at least two weeks before the memorial. Invitations should include special requests from the family. You can indicate here the basic event details (time, date and venue), event attire, a short write-up about the person who died, and special requests from the family. For example, if you wish to request charitable donations instead of flowers, you may specify that on the invitation.

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