10 things to consider when planning a Memorial or Celebration of Life Service
There are a number of reasons to choose a memorial or celebration of life service. While traditional funerals are typically religious, some people prefer to create a service that is tailored to honour the life and memories of the deceased.
Both memorial and celebration of life services provide the opportunity to highlight the life of a loved one in a way that is unique to them. A memorial service often has religious or spiritual overtones, while a celebration of life service is typically non-religious. Both services honour a loved one and give family and friends the time and space to support one another in saying goodbye.
At One Thread, we can support you with all aspects of a memorial or celebration of life service – from the initial planning through to conducting the service on the day-of. Here, we have compiled a list of the top 10 things to consider when planning a service.
- Consider the wishes of the deceased – did they leave a list of wishes and desires for their service (for example, perhaps they left instructions for a particular location, music they wanted played, or a favorite photo to be displayed)? It is important to keep the deceased’s wishes in mind as you plan the service.
- Choose who will oversee organizing the service – ideally, one person will take care of organizing the service and making decisions. While the spouse or person closest to the deceased should be consulted, they may not want to bear the burden of making all the decisions. If the list of tasks seems overwhelming for one person, tasks can be divided among a group of people.
- Choose the type of service – would you like a religious tone to the service? Or will it be non-religious? The answer to this question will help you choose the type of service (memorial or celebration of life) and might provide inspiration and guidance for the readings and music.
- Confirm a location and date for the service and reception – select a location and date as soon as possible, as the rest of the planning will revolve around the location and date chosen. You will also want to consider whether there will be a reception and if so, will it be at the same location? Or will another venue be chosen?
- Notify out of town guests – once the date is confirmed, reach out to relatives and friends who are out of town so that they can make travel arrangements. You may also consider providing them with a list of hotels in the area.
- Write the obituary – once you have written the obituary, reach out to local papers to determine the publication cost. Keep in mind that there are print and online options available. If the cost is too high, you can always email or print and mail copies of the obituary to family, friends and loved ones.
- Order of Service – to keep the service organized, you will want to create an order of service which simply lists what will happen, and in what order. This includes the speakers, readings, and any songs. For each element of the service, choose who will be involved or leading each part. You will also want to choose one person – this could be a clergyperson, family member or Celebrant – to lead the overall flow of the service. This person introduces the individuals for each part of the service and keeps the proceedings moving on time.
- Service details – choosing the elements and details of the service can include themes, flowers, music, photos, and memorabilia that were significant to the loved one. This is where you can get creative and consider what would best represent the individual and their life. Consider their hobbies and interests for inspiration, or favorite songs, photos, poems, or bible verses. You can also create memory books, special playlists, or videos to share at the service or provide a reflection book for guests to share their favorite memories.
- Program or Memorial card – you may choose to create a special printed keepsake that family and friends can take with them. This may include photos, information about the loved one, the order of service, and the names of the speakers. There are many online software programs that can help you design a suitable layout.
- Memorial gifts – guests are often looking for the best way to honour the deceased. Flowers – either potted or fresh – are the most popular memorial gift. If your loved one had a favorite or special charity that was meaningful to them, provide the name and address of the charity to guests to make it easy for them to make a memorial gift donation. As host, you can also consider providing guests with a special memento or keepsake – a candle, poem, or favorite food item – to take with them following the service.
Taking the time to think through and plan the memorial or celebration of life service is a wonderful way to honour the life of your loved one. If you would like support in planning the service, or would like to learn more about our celebrant services, please reach out and we would be happy to speak with you to understand your needs and support you in planning the service.