You just lost your dad, and now you’re in charge of planning a funeral service and reception. If your dad left an end-of-life plan, you might have some guidance for the kind of arrangements he envisioned. Otherwise, it might feel overwhelming to come up with ideas in your grief.
Jump ahead to these sections:
Start by mulling over how you want to honor your dad, who you want to include, and your budget. Consider if your dad would prefer a subdued, religious ceremony or if he would be more interested in a lively party. What kind of guy was he—traditional, eccentric, or some combination? Plan a funeral that’s as unique as he was.
Funeral Ceremony Ideas for Dad
You can choose any one of these ideas or combine multiple! You can plan different ceremonies for distinct groups. Perhaps your immediate family gathers for a graveside service. Later you can host a virtual service for extended family, friends, and other loved ones.
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1. Virtual service
Circumstances might present that make it impossible to gather in person for a funeral. In that case, virtual funeral services are a great alternative.
These can be beautiful and especially personal. Each guest can have a chance to share stories and condolences. Whereas you might not have an opportunity to hear whispered memories at a traditional funeral, wake, or shiva visit—a virtual service enables this.
Plus, you likely won’t have as many scheduling and travel conflicts. Loved ones who may not have been able to be there in person will have an opportunity to join you in grieving and saying goodbye to your dad.
Options for live-streaming your service:
- Zoom or other meeting software such as Microsoft Teams
- Facebook live or Facebook Messenger video chat
- FaceTime or Skype
Pro-Tip: If you are feeling out of your depth planning this type of service, enlist the professional help of a virtual planning service.
2. Scattering ceremony
If your dad’s end-of-life wishes included cremation, you might choose to have an ash scattering ceremony. If your dad didn’t specify a location, select a meaningful place to you—somewhere you can imagine yourself going back to visit and reflect.
You can bring the ashes in a regular container to scatter at your chosen site, or you can create or buy a biodegradable urn. Using a biodegradable urn allows you to plant the ashes alongside a tree, or float the ashes on a body of water. The ashes will sink as the urn slowly dissolves.
3. Special location
One way to make a funeral service unique is to have it at a location that is special to your family. Consider a sunset service at the beach or an intimate ceremony in the backyard of your childhood home. There are many beautiful outdoor options.
Tip: Make sure you have a rain day plan or let your guests know to dress accordingly if the funeral is rain or shine.
If you don’t live in a climate that makes it easy to predict the weather, there are some unique indoor options to choose from. Famous artist of "Thinking About Death" Frida Kahlo’s funeral was hosted at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City! Museums, libraries, and other unique locations often rent out their spaces for events.
4. Graveside service
There are so many ways to make the graveside service memorable.
- Include bubbles or a flashmob. (Just be careful to respect nearby gravestones.)
- Hand out your dad’s favorite flower to guests and encourage them to toss their flower on top of the casket as they say their goodbyes.
- Use music and candles to add charm.
- Share poems and memories to highlight your dad’s personality.
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5. Traditional funeral
Just because a funeral is traditional doesn’t mean that you can’t add unique elements. Even if your funeral is at a funeral home, church, temple, or mosque, you can always personalize. Ask all guests to wear your dad’s favorite color. Add humor with some dad jokes or even a funeral Mad Lib.
You can also supplement a traditional funeral with an eco-friendly outdoor grief-release ceremony. Step outside to fly kites or float flowers down a river as you say your final goodbyes.
Funeral Reception Ideas for Dad
A reception can accompany a funeral service, or you might choose to only host a reception. Some people prefer that their families skip funerals altogether. Think through the things that most embody your dad. Consider ways you can incorporate what made him unique into his funeral reception.
6. Celebration of life
A celebration of life event can be held before or after your dad dies.
Your dad may be sick or elderly and want to participate in his own funeral. A celebration of life event is a wonderful way to accomplish this. Acknowledge your dad by hosting a party with all of his loved ones. Ask people to write living eulogies, enjoy favorite foods, play his favorite music, and hold an open mic.
If you are throwing a celebration of life event after your dad passes, throw a party that strikes a balance between celebrating and grieving. This is an excellent opportunity to sprinkle in humor with jokes, eat secret family recipes, display heirlooms, and be surrounded by loved ones.
7. Memorial reception
A memorial reception can be anything you want it to be. It can be an energetic party or a simple reception to visit with friends and family after a funeral service.
Here are some ideas for how to have a unique memorial reception for your dad:
- Host a family potluck
- Create a buffet with his favorite foods
- Set up a memorial table
- Show a slideshow or video montage
- Invite friends and family to make speeches
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8. Candlelight vigil
Host a candlelight vigil as a moving tribute to your dad. Have everyone gather around sunset. Once the sun sets, light the candles and allow yourself to soak in the beauty of community and your dad’s spirit. You can lead a prayer, psalm, poem, speech, or moment of silence.
Tip: If you’re not planning on providing candles and a light, make sure to let your guests know on the invitation that they should bring their own supplies.
9. Online memorial
You may decide to forgo an in-person reception, or you might want to do an online memorial as a supplement to an in-person event. Online memorials often include an obituary, photo album, guest book, and community forum.
10. Themed reception
Whether Dad liked golf, grilling, music, or art, plan a reception that’s all about him. Decorate the room with art your dad admired. Have a local florist use golf balls or toy clubs in your centerpieces. Include activities and a playlist that your dad would have loved.
Life After Losing Your Dad
Once all the end-of-life traditions, services, and receptions come to an end, it’s common to feel like you’re at a crossroads. Whether your relationship was easy or complicated, losing a father often comes with grief. Losing a parent is a difficult and often transitional time of life.
If this is the first parent that you have lost, your multitude of feelings may surprise you. You may have been caring for your dad in his final years and now no longer have that responsibility. That can come with feelings of relief, for example. If you’ve also lost another parent, you might be facing feelings of loneliness and fear.
Whatever feeling is surfacing, know that it is likely normal and you are not alone. Try practicing ways to cope when you are missing your dad. Reach out to friends and family who can support you. If things start to feel unmanageable, looking into grief counseling is never a bad idea.