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Funeral Services  

Memorial Services: How to Plan and Document Them

Written By Lastly.com

A Guide for Planning Memorial Services


Need help planning a memorial service?
Wondering how to document a funeral service?
Want to leave behind a record of your memorial?


Why Document a Memorial Service?

Why record a funeral service? As humans, we are much more likely to photograph and document the joyous times in our lives. But have you ever thought of documenting a funeral or memorial service. Most people don’t want to remember a time of sadness and grief. But there may be several good reasons to document such a time.

First, family and friends who cannot attend the funeral or memorial service in person will appreciate the ability to view it live or at a later time. In addition, you can experience the service in the privacy of your own home later on—remembering a family member either by yourself or with other friends and family members.


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Having the memorial or funeral service on video tape can also help with the healing process. You’ll be able to preserve and enjoy the lovely testimonials about your loved one from family and friends. You’ll be able to catch anything you may have missed on that day. And the recording can be passed down to future generations, so they know who their descendant was and how much they were loved.


Tips for Planning a Memorial Service

Planning a memorial ceremony can be a stressful job for most people—at a time when emotions are high. Whether you are planning a memorial service for someone who has passed after a long illness or died unexpectedly, you’ll want to take the time to get it right. And if you are planning your own memorial service, this is your opportunity to remove the burden from your loved ones and ensure that your memorial service occurs just as you’d want it to.

This simple checklist will help you cover the basic elements of a memorial service and add your own personal touch as well.

  • Craft a death announcement and/or write an obituary
  • Establish a guest list, so no family or friends are left out
  • Determine the location of the memorial service (funeral home, memorial park, public or public venue, etc.)
  • Choose who should be involved in any necessary tasks
  • Identify one or more persons who should facilitate any ceremonies
  • Select someone as the main speaker (e.g., give the eulogy)
  • Decide on cremation or if the casket should be open or closed
  • Pick clothing and jewelry to be worn by the deceased
  • Select pall bearers, if necessary
  • Find items to be displayed: photos, works of art, flowers, military memorabilia, etc.
  • Include a favorite quote, poem, scripture, song, etc.
  • Incorporate the person’s favorite color, food, and drinks
  • Specify the recipient of any memorial donations
  • Arrange for a memorial, gravestone or grave marker to be installed
  • Determine where ashes can be spread or who will keep cremation urn


Once you have completed your loved one’s memorial service plan, then it’s time to take action. Ask family and friends to help you with some of the tasks at hand. If you have created a plan for your own memorial service, then store your plan in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or with a trusted family member. You may also want to provide a copy to the person who will handle your estate as well as any other close family or friends.


Elements Every Traditional Funeral Should Include

A memorial service or funeral reflects your family traditions or spiritual, cultural, and religious beliefs. Service arrangements often reflect both the personality and preferences of the deceased. So, every funeral is unique. And the memorial service you are planning will also be unique.

There are elements that every traditional funeral should include. You may choose to incorporate some or all of these elements. You may also determine the order in which the elements occur.

Keep the following essentials in mind when you are planning a traditional funeral.


The visitation can also be called a viewing or a wake. Friends and family members can gather and view the casketed body (if it is open casket) and spend time in quiet conversation with other family and loved ones. The visitation can be held at any time before the funeral.


Music is a great way to express gratitude and emotions, as well as celebrate the deceased’s life. You may want to select music that was meaningful to the deceased.


If the deceased was spiritual, you may want to choose specific biblical passages or readings, prayers, and hymns that were meaningful to them.


Usually someone who is very close to the deceased will write and read a personal eulogy to celebrate the person’s life, their outlook, sense of humor, successes, and more.

Symbols and Memories

This is perhaps one of the most notable ways to personalize a traditional funeral. Feel free to share photos, videos, albums, artwork, jokes, crafts, and anything else that might be appropriate to celebrate the deceased and share their true nature, hobbies, beliefs, etc.

Committal or Graveside Service

If your loved one is to be buried, then a committal service involves the transport of the body to the gravesite as well as the gravesite service itself. If there will be no burial or graveside service, then you may want to plan a small remembrance of the loved one as a final good-bye.

Post-Funeral Reception

A reception may be held at a close family member’s home, at a church facility or at another public venue. This is a time of food, drink, and fellowship to remember your loved one. Guests can enjoy sharing memories, laughter, and mutual support.


Should I Involve Friends and Family in Planning a Memorial Service?

A memorial or funeral service is a wonderful time to include all those who were close to their deceased loved one. Participating in the events of the day can also help bring peace and a sense of closure to those individuals. And the memorial organizer can certainly be a lot less stressed when they are able to delegate responsibilities.

It’s also important to recognize that not including someone in a funeral or memorial service can cause additional pain and grief on top of the loss they are already feeling. This hurt can unfortunately last for many years. So, it’s often best to involve as many loved ones as possible to avoid any hurt or future family rifts.

There are many ways to get others involved in a memorial or funeral service. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Funeral/memorial service planning
  • Pall bearers
  • Eulogy, tribute, speech
  • Speakers/readers (poem, prayer, scripture, literary selection)
  • Music (play a music selection, sing a song, create a playlist of music)
  • Technical equipment assistance (audio, visual, etc.)
  • Host a reception
  • Create a memory book
  • Produce a slideshow
  • Collect remembrances
  • Arrange for flowers, decorations, candles, food/catering, music
  • Creating a memorial service program, memorial cards
  • Coordinate donations
  • Plant a memorial tree
  • And more!


The Most Memorable Parts of a Memorial Service

No two funeral or memorial services are alike. So, this is your chance to be unique and personal when celebrating the life of a loved one. The most memorable parts of a memorial service are those that leave a legacy behind. Whether the service is formal or informal, it often provides closure to those family members and friends in attendance.

A memorial service is a sacred time for family and friends to gather and recognize a death and celebrate and pay tribute to a loved one. Although a funeral service typically takes place within a few days of death, a memorial service can take place any time—even months or years later. This flexibility gives the organizer time to plan the memorial service and celebrate their loved one the best way possible.

By taking the time to plan a unique, memorable tribute for your loved one, you can create a tremendous impact with others. Here are some things you may want to consider to make the memorial service memorable.

  • Flowers
  • Music
  • Lighting
  • Scents
  • A remembrance table
  • Photographs, artwork, writings or other creations of the deceased
  • A memory keepsake for guests
  • A biodegradable release (environmentally safe balloons, doves, ladybugs, butterflies, lanterns, etc.)
  • Anything else memorable you can think of


Social media platforms, such as Pinterest and Instagram, are loaded with wonderful and unique ideas to memorialize a loved one. You can borrow these ideas or use them to spark your own.


What Most People Want to Be Remembered For

Death is something we all have no control over. What we do have control over is the way we live our lives, how we impact others, and the changes and differences we are able to make. We all want to be remembered for something after we are gone. No one wants to fade into distant memory to eventually be forgotten.

With that in mind, we’ve created a list of things that most people want to be remembered for.

  • Finding the positive during a troublesome time
  • Giving and receiving grace, especially when undeserved
  • Encouraging and inspiring others toward personal success
  • Giving of yourself, your time, and your energy to others
  • Demonstrating forgiveness
  • Showing unconditional love for family and friends
  • Being faithful in religious beliefs
  • Being kind, compassionate, and helpful toward others
  • Doing good and being productive in the world


What do you want to be remembered for? What would your loved one want to be remembered for. Take the opportunity to consider these things when planning a funeral or memorial service.


Using Live Recordings to Document a Memorial Service

What was once—and still is—considered a very personal and private ceremony has now been transformed with modern technology. The first of modern technology to appear at a memorial service was a photographic slideshow. Then came collected videos from the person’s life.

More people today are using personal and professional recording devices to save the cherished memories of a loved one’s passing. Recording, or even live-streaming, a funeral or memorial service is a great way to lessen the miles between people and help others to feel as if they are there with other family members too. The good news is that it is definitely possible to incorporate a live recording of your funeral or memorial service without disturbing the integrity of the day.


Using Social Media to Document a Funeral Service

Now that the use of recorded and/or live video has been established, we look toward more modern ways of memorializing our loved ones. Social media has become more and more a part of our daily lives. And so, in turn, it is becoming a part of the death we experience in life and in a celebration of life service. Social media has made way for many more ways to provide a way to remember the deceased.

We have seen memorial pages set up on social media as well as websites. In addition, Facebook has also provided a way for you to designate someone to manage your page after you are gone. You can decide whether you want someone to close the page or keep it up for you.

Here are a few items of memorial service etiquette to keep in mind when incorporating social media into your memorial service.

  • Be tasteful in your announcements.
  • Assign an appropriate hashtag for online use.
  • Create a virtual guestbook.
  • Stay offline during the service.
  • Designate an official Tweet bearer to document the memorial service.

How Lastly Can Help You Document a Life Celebration

Lastly.com is one of the best new ways to document and memorialize your loved one’s life, both for yourself and your family as well as future generations. We are your trusted partner in remembering your loved one and keeping your loved one’s information sacred and intact for all to enjoy. At Lastly.com, you can create a timeline of your loved one’s life, document your family history with a family tree, and upload photos, videos, and stories that coordinate with their timeline.

We encourage you to memorialize your loved one in a way that is consistent with them and how they lived their life. Be creative, be loving, and be kind in what you say and do. And know that your efforts will be appreciated by many, and hopefully for many generations to come.


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