How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Balloon Release Memorial


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Most of us have childhood memories of accidentally letting a balloon go. Watching it drift off into the sky, string trailing behind, was heartbreaking. But now as adults, balloon releases are a form of fun! At weddings, funerals, and anniversaries, thousands of balloons go up into the sky to mark the occasion. 

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A balloon release can be a truly beautiful way to honor someone, but the trash that occurs as part of this celebration is worth mentioning. Losing one balloon might not endanger the environment. But releasing large numbers can do significant harm. And balloons generally do not decompose well. Luckily, there are environmentally friendly balloon options, as well as some alternatives that achieve a similar effect. Some of those alternatives are listed at the end of this article.

It can be challenging to plan a memorial, especially if you want to do something unique. Follow the steps below to successfully navigate planning this special event. 

COVID-19 tip: If you're thinking about planning a virtual or live streamed memorial using a service like GatheringUs, you can still share this experience with your online guests. Coordinate with your planning team to accommodate a balloon release that both your online and in-person guests can enjoy.

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Step 1: Get Inspired

Balloon release memorial inspiration image

You can start by brainstorming what the goal of the memorial service is. If you’re planning ahead for your service, think about what you want. Do you envision people coming together for a fun activity in your honor? If you’re planning for someone else, what would they have enjoyed? Don’t feel pressured to make the whole event light-hearted.

A balloon release might be the perfect ending to your memorial. It can help everyone feel a little happier after spending time mourning the loss of a special person. 

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Step 2: Plan the Ceremony or Service 

Planning the ceremony will mean picking a location, a date, and an activity. You’ll also want to plan who to invite, the size of the event, and the schedule for the service. Memorial services can vary dramatically based on how you want to commemorate the person you love. Some are somber, with people quietly reminiscing over the deceased. Others mimic a party, and include a large celebration.

Decide what mood you want to achieve, and plan your party based on that. Including a balloon release as part of your event means you’ll need to have part of your service outside. If possible, have a contingency plan in place for bad weather. 

Step 3: Pick a Poem or What to Say

A balloon release is a light-hearted way to honor someone. But it’s likely to still be an emotional event for everyone involved. Having some words prepared to share before releasing the balloons adds a nice moment of reflection to this event. There are a few ways you can go about this. 

If you’d like, you can borrow someone else’s words. Many poets have expressed their feelings about death, loss, and losing people that were close to them. Memorial service poems can be found in a few places.

The Poetry Foundation has a great online archive for all types of poems. If you want, you can search for collections based on a specific subject. You could search for poems that seem to relate to your balloon release. Poems about flying, or the sky, would tie together nicely with the activity. If you don’t want to look online, consider leafing through an anthology of poems. These poems are curated from a cross-section of authors to fit into a book. 

It’s possible that no matter how hard you look, you just can’t seem to find the perfect words for your loved one. If that’s the case, it might be time to brush up on your writing skills. Writing a tribute speech isn’t as scary as it sounds! After spending a lifetime with someone, you should have plenty of memories to inspire you.

Even if you struggle with public speaking, try your best to muster through. No one will judge you for being nervous or overcome with emotions. And it’s better that you try, even if you’re nervous, rather than skip it and regret missing the opportunity.

» MORE: Honor those who served their country. Create a plan this Memorial Day.

Step 4: Send Out Invitations

There are a few ways to send out invitations. Start by considering the scope of the event and who will be attending. If it’s a tiny event, with a few close family members, pick up the phone. That way, you can confirm details and update each other as the date gets closer. If it’s a larger event you might want to break out your stationery.

Sending invitations is a great way to get prepared. Make sure to include pertinent details such as time, place, location, and activities. That way, people know what to expect of the event and can plan accordingly. 

If you’re not much for handwritten notes, an email thread will do just as well. But if you have an overflow in your digital mailbox you might lose track of RSVPs. Make sure you have a good tracking system in place so you don’t miss any RSVPs.

If you have time, you might consider designing invitations that are thematically appropriate. Balloon-shaped invitations or a balloon animation for an e-vite would let people know what you’re planning even before they read the details.  

Alternatives to a Balloon Release

Alternatives to a balloon release memorial image

In recent years, environmentalists have been raising an alarm about the consequences of balloon trash. As far as saving the environment, balloons are a major detriment. Losing one balloon might not endanger the environment. But releasing large numbers can cause problems. Most balloons do not decompose quickly. Latex takes over four years to decompose in a landfill. And balloon debris ends up in the wild where it is being eaten by animals that mistake it for food. People are being encouraged to stop this practice to help curb this issue. 

Between animal endangerment and a long decomposition time, trying to find an alternative to a balloon release is a great idea. But coming up with an idea might feel challenging. Luckily, there are lots of fun alternatives: 

Host a virtual ceremony: If you're planning on doing a balloon or another type of release during a funeral, but travel, illness, or work-related problems keep loved ones from attending, you might consider using a virtual funeral planning service or live stream the event.

Tip: We recommend GatheringUs's virtual funeral planning service to help you with logistics, tech, and day-of-funeral production.

Create an online memorial page: Even if you don't want to host an entire virtual event, you can make a space for your loved one on the internet with an online memorial page. Cake's online memorial pages are a simple way to create a meaningful tribute to your loved one. You can use your page as a simple guestbook for visitors to write tributes, or you can use it as a place to raise funds for the departed person's favorite charity.

Blowing bubbles: With massive bubble wands and eco-friendly dish soap, this is a beautiful option. Watching bubbles float into the air can be great fun for everyone. If a lot of children will be attending this memorial, blowing bubbles is a great entertainment option. The excitement of blowing bubbles will add a moment of joy to a sad day.

Planting a tree in memory: Planting a tree can also achieve a similar feeling to a balloon release while having a positive impact on the environment. Trees anchor topsoil, create oxygen, and provide important nutrients to the soil when their leaves fall and rot.

They also provide shelter for animals and birds. Picking out a tree that will flourish in your area is a great start. Planting a tree in memory can be a good group activity, and serves as a living memorial for your loved one. 

Throwing confetti: You can do this as a fun, life-focused twist on a wedding tradition. But you’ll need to do some research to find an environmentally appropriate option. The majority of confetti is made from paper and plastic. Both can have a negative impact on the environment. 

Ribbon dancing: What if you want something that provides some group participation, though? The fun part of a balloon release is that everyone is doing it. A whole group of people, commemorating someone they loved, is the special part.

Making your own ribbons for this is easy. Buying long wooden dowels and attaching beautiful long ribbons to the end is easy. Even if you just twirl around with long ribbons, it’s still a beautiful sight. These can be reused for other occasions, too. 

Sending flowers off into a body of water: This mimics the idea behind a balloon release without the issue of trash. Letting something go into nature is a therapeutic experience. You can collect some flowers and throw them into a river, pond, or lake.

Taking time to reflect on some of the great memories you made with your loved one while the flowers float away can help provide closure. If you choose this option, remember these two recommendations. Don’t use exotic flowers. And limit the number of flowers you use. Those two details will help keep this choice environmentally friendly. Check out our guide on flower meanings if you'd like to use any symbolic flowers.

» MORE: This Memorial Day, thank those who made the ultimate sacrafice. Honor a veteran now.

Planning a Memorial 

You might have a few activities that you're considering. Start by deciding how you want to honor your loved one and build your memorial service from there. After all, floating flowers or ribbon dancing might not take up very much time.

But you can add a few special details around the moment, like sharing a special memory, to make the event more meaningful. It doesn’t need to be a giant event, unless that’s what you want. The most important thing is that no matter what you decide, honoring your loved one is what counts. 

If you're looking for more inspiration, check out our guides on memorial service ideas, how to remember a death anniversary, and things to do in memory of a loved one.

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