Steps In Planning a Memorial Ceremony

Memorial services celebrate the life of the deceased. They usually are held in a church, beautiful hall, at the beach or someplace significant to loved ones or the departed. The timing of the service is totally flexible and up to the family, often taking place a few days, weeks or even months after a loss. Unlike a funeral service, with the body present, a memorial service does not include the body.

If a loved one chooses direct burial, some families will have a simple graveside ceremony at the cemetery and have a memorial service later. Oftentimes, the memorial service is held in a location other than where the deceased lived their final years.

Clearly, a major appeal of memorial services is there flexibility. However, there are a few key decisions you’ll want to consider:

The Setting

You want to choose a venue that reflects the style and personality of the departed. If they were religious and wanted their pastor or priest to conduct the service, then their church is the ideal setting. If they loved plants and gardening, perhaps a local arboretum or botanical garden would be the perfect setting. More and more loved ones are planning services at their home.


Who, and how many, you invite can affect your decision on venues. Do you want to invite only close family members and friends, or open up the ceremony to anyone wishing to attend? Consider whether you want to inform others of the ceremony in an obituary, or if you prefer to make personal contact through phone calls, mail or e-mail.


If clergy or a chaplain is not involved in the service, you may want to consider a family member or celebrant. Having many family members or friends involved personalizes the service but be sure to designate a master of ceremonies to avoid confusion and a disjointed service.

A celebrant, someone specially trained in conducting services for events such as funerals and weddings, is a nice touch and allows the family and friends to focus on their loss.

Ceremony and Order of Service

Just like the setting, the memorial service should capture the essence of the departed’s time on earth. Music, readings, poems and any cultural rituals should reflect the personality of your loved one. There is no right or wrong order of service but having a theme can assist with the ceremony.

Tributes and Remembering

Programs and remembrance cards are a good way to provide families and friends with something tangible to remember the departed. A program will also assist in guiding guests in following the ceremony. Memorial videos and websites are also very popular for remembering and paying tribute to our loved ones.

Flowers and Donations

Flowers add to the beauty and serenity of any setting. Whether you choose flowers or donations, consider what your loved one would have wanted. Many people will ask for donations to a charity in lieu of flowers.


Following the ceremony, oftentimes families will invite guests to a reception. Whether it’s a potluck, catered event or just appetizers, time spent together sharing stories about your loved one is priceless.

Use Celebrate Me Home’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Memorial Planner to assist you in creating a truly unique and personalized memorial service.