How to Plan a Memorial Service

When someone close to you passes away, it can feel impossible to get anything done, let alone plan a funeral or memorial service. While it won’t be easy, here’s a guide to help walk you through the process.

What is a memorial service?

A memorial service is very similar to a funeral, except that the body of the deceased isn’t present. Memorial services are becoming more common as more people opt for cremation and/or want to give themselves more time to organize and invite guests to the memorial. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for a memorial -- it all depends on what’s important to you and others who were close to the deceased. You can build a personalized memorial service plan on Wonderful Life, but here’s an overview to get you started.

Step 1: Decide which events will feel meaningful

While the most traditional memorial service is a formal service at a place of worship or funeral home, followed by an informal reception, your options are limitless. Ask yourself how you think your loved one would want to be remembered, and what would make family and friends feel they are best honoring the deceased. This can be anything from a traditional service with a full Catholic mass to casual gathering at a favorite restaurant or bar.

Step 2: Pick a date and place(s)

Once you’ve decided on the general events, consider the locations that would feel most natural (or work the best for the people who most want to attend).

When selecting a date, ask yourself the following four questions, and then find the balance that makes the most sense to you:

  • What day(s) will make scheduling easier for the people who care most about attending?
  • What timeline will help close family and friends best process their grief? Some people prefer to hold a memorial service as soon as possible, while others want to give themselves some time to process the loss first.
  • What timeline is reasonable for me to feel like I can effectively plan the memorial?
  • What restrictions do I have due to event space or officiant availability?

Step 3: Send out an announcement

Once you have a date and place, send out an announcement to friends and family. A memorial website makes it easy to share event information in one place, so nothing gets lost in communication. Then, send out an email with the link or share it on Facebook. You may also want to ask others to forward the link to people you may have missed.

Step 4: Set the program

Think through the logistics for the event(s). What time should people arrive? What do you want to be formally scheduled? Do you want certain people to give eulogies? Would you like there to be readings or funeral songs? Do you want to open it up to anyone to speak? If you’re going to serve food, decide whether you want to prepare it yourself or organize a caterer.

Step 5: Consider small touches

You may want to add a bit of your loved one’s personality to the event. This could mean creating a playlist with his or her favorite songs, serving a favorite dessert, putting together a wall of photos, or anything else that you feel would help guests feel a connection. We've listed a few options to help give you more ideas.

If you feel overwhelmed during this process, give yourself a break before getting back into logistics. If you’d like additional support, give Wonderful Life a call at 415-322-0848.

February 2018