Memorial Service Ideas

24 October 2019 • Celebrating Life

6 Memorial Service Ideas

In a recent article, we outlined the features of a memorial service to help you plan an event. We recommend you read that guide if you are planning to host a memorial service for the first time. 

It is important to remember that a memorial service is different from a funeral service or a wake. A memorial service is an event when the body of the departed is no longer present. A memorial service is held after the funeral, when the departed has already been interred. It allows family, friends, and acquaintances of the departed to memorialize their loved one. A memorial service can be held any time after the passing of your beloved.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are six ideas that you could consider when planning your loved one’s memorial service. 

Memorial Service Flowers

1. Video Tribute

If you have access to a TV screen or computer monitor with a large monitor, you could create a video tribute for your beloved. Projectors are even more popular because the frame is larger and its size can be adjusted according to the space you’re working with. There are many affordable projection devices online that easily connect to your laptop or smartphone. 

In today’s visual-centric culture, a video tribute like a film at the cinema would captivate your guests. It will allow your guests to see the beautiful life and personality of your loved one. If you have access to any video files owned by your loved one, collect the ones that you think best represents them and edit the footage into a montage. If you’re not familiar with video editing techniques, you can ask a relative, friend or acquaintance to assist you. You can also hire a professional freelancer to edit the movie for you. 

However, please keep in mind that some videos especially those owned by the deceased might not be something your loved one wanted to make public. If your relative specified this in a will, it is your duty to respect their wishes. If your loved one did not mention this in a will or in prior conversations with you when they were alive, just make the best judgment in choosing which footage you feel is appropriate and highlights their best qualities. 

You can use websites like YouTube or Vimeo to host your video. This option will also allow those who could not attend the memorial service to view the video. If you want to keep the video exclusive to the memorial service, you can simply play the video from your laptop or smartphone after you’ve connected your device to a TV screen or projector. 

Here's an example of a video we put together:

2. Share Stories

Storytelling is a universal aspect of socialization. Our lives are made up of countless stories. One could argue that humans are not merely made up of flesh and bones, but also of memories. 

If your memorial service is in a more intimate setting such as a home or a small venue you could ask guests to gather around to share personal stories they have about your loved one. Remind the guests that they are free to tell uplifting and humorous stories. They are not expected to keep the mood somber and austere, nor are they expected to give an obituary-style speech. 

The memorial service is a celebration of life, not a meditation on death,  and laughter is the universal sound of liveliness. 

3. Personal Effects Exhibition

The memorial service is about honoring the memory of your loved one. In life, personal possessions are not merely materials but are connected to us in an intimate way. Your loved one’s favorite hat, a watch passed down through the generations, a wedding ring, a favorite book are some examples of personal effects that might have sentimental value. 

Display these personal effects at the memorial service like an exhibition at a museum. By doing so, guests get an intimate view of your loved one’s personal history and their unique personality. It also gives attendees a sense of the dearly departed’s physical presence, because they can see these objects right in front of them. 

4. Photo Gallery

Along with exhibiting your loved one’s personal effects, another museum-style idea is setting up a photo gallery at the memorial service. In fact, it would be best if you do both. Just like the video tribute, a photo gallery will allow guests to visually absorb the life history of your loved one. 

If it’s within your budget, print out selected photos of your loved one as well as those that might include family and friends and purchase gallery-style frames. You can also have them printed out as canvases. 

Another style would be to simply print out standard size photos (4 x 6 inches), and use double-sided tape to stick them on a wall like a real-life Instagram. You are the art director of the memorial service. Feel free to let your creativity run wild. 

Memorial Service Photos

5. Visit Your Beloved’s Favorite Place

If weather permits and the logistics wouldn’t be too difficult for your guests, you can visit your loved one’s favorite places when they were alive. In fact, you can even host your memorial service at the location. Our memories are often connected to a certain place: where you first met your romantic partner, a favorite restaurant, or a park they used to love going to. The places around us are interconnected with the geography of our mind. 

However, it’s important to note that some public spaces could be noisy or have a lot of traffic (both motor or pedestrian kinds). Additionally, some locales might require you to get a permit from the city or permission from a property owner. Conduct research ahead of time to take care of any requirements. 

6. Create a Book of Memories

At a funeral service, it is common to have a guestbook for attendees to sign. Usually, the guestbook simply has the name of the guests and perhaps a short piece of writing (e.g. “my condolences”, “R.I.P.”, etc.). 

At your memorial service, ask guests to sign a guestbook or blank journal, but instead of simply writing the usual condolences, encourage them to write a favorite memory they have with the departed. Guests can also write a poem specially made for the memorial service. 

You can even set up a laptop at the service and ask guests to take turns writing on an online memorial page. You can then gather all of the comments into a word processor for editing, and have them professional printed into a book. 

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