How to Plan Memorial Service
Many families today want a service which celebrates the life of their loved one. We introduce them to the concept of a memorial service, and provide support in designing a memorial service that is as unique as the life of their loved one.
We always enjoy working together with families in planning a memorial service for their loved one. While it can be a challenge to put together an event that both pays tribute to and celebrates the life and spirit of, a complex individual; it's also one of the most rewarding things any one of us can do for someone we've loved and lost.
Sarah York, opens her beautifully-crafted book, Remembering Well, with the very personal story about how her family chose to pay tribute to her mother. "My mother died in April 1983. . . she didn't want a funeral. 'Get together and have a party,' she had said when the topic was allowed to come up." However, she was quick to tell readers that the survivors did not honor the request. "We needed the ritual. We needed to say good-bye, but we also needed a ritual that would honor her spirit and would be faithful to her values and beliefs."
When Ms. York acknowledge the position of her family; that they needed not a party but a ritual; she teaches us all something important: the memorial service events we plan with families should be shaped as much by their own emotional and spiritual needs, as their desire to celebrate the life lived.
Memorial Services Can be Anything You Want
While memorial services are not burdened by social expectations—they can be pretty much anything you want them to be—it's important to realize that the event you're planning should meet the emotional needs of the guests. So, think about exactly who will be there, and what they're likely to want or need. Then, bring in those unique lifestyle and personality characteristics of the deceased; perhaps add live music or refreshments, and you've got the beginnings of a remarkable memorial service.
Memorial services are intended to lift everyone's spirits by focusing on positive memories.There you'll discover how our experience in arranging and hosting memorial services will guide you in the process.
Memorial Service Planning Checklist
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 memorial service planning checklist & ideas which arise from answering these questions:
1. Who will be invited?
The number of guests define 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 memorial 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 memorial service 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" memorial service 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.
Let Us Help with the Memorial Service
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 memorial service ideas which arise as part of this experience.
As we've said, we've got the experience which could make planning a memorial service easier for you and your family. Don't hesitate to pick up the phone; call us at 914-949-7777. 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 service event to suit your needs and expectations.
Remembering Well: Rituals for Celebrating Life & Mourning Death, Sara York