Advice and Suggestions

Crafting a Meaningful Memorial Service

  • 03-22-2019

Thank you to officiant Catherine Kentridge, who discusses elements you may wish to include: 

Often funeral homes and religious organizations are a great help at this time. However, you may not be using these services or may wish to create a personal memorial or be called upon to advise with preparations for family or friends, and not be the decision maker.

If you’re assisting with creating a service, the first thing to be aware of is that this may take considerable time and effort. Those closest or doing most of the planning will most likely be in a state of extreme grief and shock.

Families and loved ones often prefer to pool their ideas, or discuss what they may have learned through conversations about preferences with the deceased, if they didn't leave specific instructiions, and then see how it will all fit together. Changes to ideas or order of service are often made during the planning process.

Here is a likely order of events for a memorial service.

  • Music plays as mourners arrive—this is often chosen by the family or loved ones and reflects the wishes of the deceased, precious memories, or his/her personal tastes
  • Sometimes family and loved ones are present before the service—welcoming mourners at the door, for example, or after they sign a guest book, so that condolences may be expressed before the service
  • Everyone is seated
  • Officiant enters and welcomes mourners
  • Close family may often process in, if they are not already present
  • Family/guests may wish to carry lighted candles, and either place their candles around the urn or casket, or together light a larger candle that burns throughout the service.
  • Opening blessing or reading (even for a non-religious service, people often request a blessing). You may wish to select from a poem or other favorite or relevant writing, or create your own.
  • Officiant delivers a eulogy—this is usually crafted with advice and input from those closest.
  • Officiant may call on family and all those scheduled to speak one at a time, with (usually) a brief introduction and mention of their relationship to the deceased
  • Those delivering eulogies or speaking will do so. Often, the person speaking will introduce the speaker following, or the officiant may do this.
  • Officiant often invites everyone to take some time for silent meditation, remembering, and reflection after this.
  • This may be in silence, or you may wish to have a musical interlude. 
  • Officiant (or a guest) may give a closing blessing or reading/poem
  • Officiant will give closing remarks and usually thank everyone for attending and for showing comfort and support by their presence on behalf of loved ones 
  • Usually music is played at the completion of the service—often favorites or special pieces with meaning to the deceased and loved ones.

Those present are often advised where to proceed if there is a reception or gathering— it may be in the same location or it could be at the home or other favored spot. 

Often the immediate family leaves first and the other mourners follow down the aisle.

Sometimes, the family and loved ones take a little time to gather and talk after the service, before proceeding to the official meeting spot for the wake or reception. The family and those closest to the deceased may arrive later, after they have had a little time to gather their thoughts and say a last goodbye. 

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