Many families today choose direct cremation or burial upon the death of a loved one, rather than the traditional funeral that usually had the body present, often with an open casket. Direct cremation or direct burial allows for significant cost savings as compared to an open casket funeral service. Following direct cremation or direct burial, the family may choose to have a memorial service. Often they want to do the planning on their own and hold the service at a location other than a funeral home, avoiding the expense incurred when a funeral director participates. The information below is intended to aid people in planning a memorial service without the assistance of clergy or a funeral director.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a location for the memorial service. If the deceased did not have a strong religious affiliation, consider places that reflect their personality or interests. For example, the memorial for a nature lover might be held at a local park or garden. Also, try to choose a location that is convenient for friends and family members. Remember, more than one service can be held.
Select a date
The date selected may be several weeks after the death. Pick a date that allows friends and family time to make travel plans and adjust their calendars.
Will there be a primary purpose or theme for the service?
You may want to decide on a purpose or theme for the memorial service, as a guide for readings, etc. For what will the deceased be remembered? Her dedication to charity? His love of music? Her active lifestyle? Also consider if there are issues to be discussed or conflicts to be resolved that will help attendees deal with the death. It may be best to address a controversy rather than to ignore it.
Write the obituary
After writing the obituary, check cost of publication with local newspapers. If the price is too high for your budget, copies of the obituary can be emailed or mailed to friends and family as an alternative.
Notify out-of-town family and friends
All those to be included in the memorial service should be notified-either in writing by email or with a phone call-in time to make travel arrangements. You may want to include a list of hotels close to the memorial location for out-of-town visitors not staying with friends and family.Our Personalized Funeral Plan includes free Realtive Notification Service directly from our Exclusive Funeral Society!
Choose a leader for the service
Decide whether a clergyperson, adult son or daughter, spouse, friend, or sibling will lead. Of course, a well-organized service may also be led jointly.
Consider creating a printed program or memorial cards
A program can include photographs, names of speakers, copies of the readings, favorite memories, and information about the deceased. Copies may be sent to those unable to attend the service.
Decide on speaker(s)
One speaker is usually asked to give highlights from the life of the deceased. Others may read a favorite religious passage or prayer, poem, or memory. Decide who will read and what will be read. All attendees may be given an opportunity to share memories, with the service leader serving as a moderator to keep things moving and bring the discussion to a close at an appropriate time.
You may decide to purchase flowers, gather boquets from your own garden or just use those provided as gifts. Some families choose to send home flowers with guests after the service.
Many memorial services open and close with music. You may choose to play the deceased's favorite song on CD, solicit a performance from local musicians, or lead guests in a hymn.
If you belong to a faith group, consult your clergy person and prayer book. Others may choose to use special poems or passages from favorite books. Family or friends may wish to write something special to be read at the service.
Collect photographs or memorabilia
Display photos or favorite objects that exemplify and reflect the deceased's personality. Some people put together memory books or videos with contributions from family and friends. A reflection book may also be provided for guests to write down favorite memories.
Memorial gifts are a way for guests to remember the deceased. They may be as simple as potted plants used in the ceremony, or a photo of the deceased attached to their favorite quote. If the deceased had a favorite charity, providing the name and address will make it easier for guests to make a memorial gift. Charitable organizations often have pre-addressed donation envelopes which they would be happy to make available to have on hand at the service. People's Memorial Association welcomes memorial gifts in honor of a loved one to support its ongoing work.
Make clear to your guests if/when/where a reception will be held following the service. It may be held in a private home, activities center of a retirement community, park, or other convenient location. You may choose to provide simple or more elaborate refreshments.
Order of Service
The following is a sample Order of Service for you to customize to fit your own unique circumstances.
2. Opening Words
3. Candle Lighting or other Ritual
4. Address giving background information
6. Personal reflections by one or more family members or friends
8. Summation by service leader
9. Closing words
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