You are probably familiar with a memorial service guest book. These sit at the entrance of a wake, visitation, funeral, or memorial service and collect signatures and notes from attendees.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Find a Company That Prints Funeral Memorial Books or Purchase a Fill-in-the-Blank Book
- Step 2: Gather Photographs of Your Loved One Depicting Many Stages of Their Life
- Step 3: Gather Your Thoughts and Interview Others for Stories About Your Loved One
- Step 4: Write the Memories
- Step 5: Add a Copy of Your Loved One’s Obituary
- Step 6: Include the Funeral Program and Card of Your Loved One
- Step 7: Ask for the Text of the Eulogy or the Funeral Sermon to Add to the Book
- Step 8: Ask Friends and Members of the Community to Share Thoughts and Memories
- Step 9: Photographs of the Funeral Displays
- Bonus: What Should Guests Write in a Funeral Memory Book?
When the service is complete, the surviving family members may gather to write thank you notes and flip through the guest book to see who they saw and who they missed during the service. Many times, funeral guest books are placed on a family member’s coffee table, then moved to a shelf, and finally placed in a box where it’s never looked at again.
Instead of merely having a guest book placed at the entrance of your loved one’s funeral, we recommend that you create a memory book. A memory book may include a guest book for the funeral services, but it is so much more.
Here are the steps of making a funeral memory book for your loved one.
Step 1: Find a Company That Prints Funeral Memorial Books or Purchase a Fill-in-the-Blank Book
Depending upon how comfortable you are with technology, you may want to find a company that produces photo memory books online or locally. Most of those companies have memorial or tribute books that allow you to add your own photos and text into a pre-made design.
These books can also be customized to include any image or text you wish. You can have the company print as many hard-back or paper-back books as you like and distribute them to the rest of the family.
Instead of paying for a professionally-printed book, you could also purchase a funeral memorial book that includes blanks you can fill in with hand-written responses. This option is cheaper and requires no computer. The fill-in-the-blank questions may also give you ideas on what type of information to include. The disadvantage of doing it this way is that it’s not as customizable.
Pro Tip: If you create and purchase a photo book from a company’s website, search for an online coupon to help save money on the printing process.
Step 2: Gather Photographs of Your Loved One Depicting Many Stages of Their Life
Find as many photos as you can of your loved one. Put them in chronological order. Once you have a physical stack of photos or a file of digital images, eliminate the pictures that are poor quality, uninteresting, or duplicates.
Is every decade of your loved one’s life represented in a photograph? Do you have photos of the essential moments in your loved one’s life?
Once you have gathered the best photos, prepare them to be digitally added to your online photo memory book. You may need to scan non-digital images.
If you decided to complete a fill-in-the-blank memory book, you might consider making duplicates of photos before adhering them in a scrapbook. Regardless, read as much as you can about using archival-quality supplies before creating your book.
Pro Tip: Learn as much as you can before scanning your old photos. Photos that aren’t scanned at the highest resolution possible will look grainy when printed.
Step 3: Gather Your Thoughts and Interview Others for Stories About Your Loved One
One of the best ways you can honor a deceased loved one is by sharing their stories. Whether your loved one had a simple life or one full of many adventures, there are always stories to share.
Write what you know about your loved one’s childhood and teen years. Record any educational achievements or military service. Write about marriages and children. Include information about your loved one’s career and community service. You may want to include any significant trips your loved one went on as well.
You may be inspired by what stories or information to include by looking at your photographs. Also, make sure to interview other members of the family and your loved one’s friends to make sure that the information you include is accurate.
Pro Tip: Give people time to think about their memories before interviewing them. You may also give them a list of questions you plan to ask about your loved one so they can prepare.
Step 4: Write the Memories
You may have tons of memories and stories about your loved one, but you may not feel comfortable putting them down on paper. After all, most people, outside of an occasional email, write very little.
If you find that you are having a difficult time either filling out the blanks in your book or writing out the stories, seek the help of a family member who enjoys writing. You can also hire writers to write your loved one’s memoirs through freelancing websites.
Once you have written the text, use a grammar program to make sure there aren’t any glaring mistakes. Have others proofread it as well, looking for inaccuracies as well as misspellings.
Pro Tip: Instead of giving a laundry list of your loved one’s best qualities, show those qualities by the stories that you share.
Step 5: Add a Copy of Your Loved One’s Obituary
Don’t forget to include a copy of your loved one’s obituary in your funeral memory book. This may keep you from having to write out some of the basic parts of their story.
Obituaries also act as historical records. They often include specific birth and death dates. They may also include the cause of death and the location of the burial.
You may choose to include newspaper clippings of your loved one’s obituary, or you may simply add the text of the document to your book.
Pro Tip: Individuals cannot submit obituaries to newspapers. They have to come from a funeral director or other official source.
Step 6: Include the Funeral Program and Card of Your Loved One
Many times, those attending a funeral will receive a copy of the order of service. This funeral program may list the songs that will be performed (or sung by the congregation,) the names of the readings, as well as the list of pallbearers.
Those attending may also be able to pick up a small funeral pamphlet that has the deceased’s photo, a poem, or a significant verse as well as birth and death dates.
Pro Tip: You can include these items in a digital photo book either by scanning them or taking photos of them. You may also include these items in an envelope at the back of the book.
Step 7: Ask for the Text of the Eulogy or the Funeral Sermon to Add to the Book
If you are not the one who has written the eulogy or the funeral sermon, ask the appropriate person for a copy of the speech.
Eulogies are usually exclusively about the loved one. Funeral sermons typically focus on the deceased’s religious beliefs.
Pro Tip: Tell the person giving the speech that you would like a copy of it before the funeral. That way, they can bring a copy for you to include in your book.
Step 8: Ask Friends and Members of the Community to Share Thoughts and Memories
While you may want to include a traditional guest book for people to sign who are attending the funeral, you may also want to allow them to share thoughts and memories of the deceased.
You may do so by leaving enough space in the guest books for people to share more than just their name.
Pro Tip: To keep from having several different items related to the death of your loved one, you may use the funeral memory book as the guest book for the funeral. If the memory book is not prepared in time for the service, you can transfer the pages of the guest book into the memory book later.
Step 9: Photographs of the Funeral Displays
You may or may not choose to have a photo memorial collage at the funeral of your loved one. Consider taking a photograph of the collage to place in your funeral memory book.
Pro Tip: Some people think that it’s in poor taste to take photos at a funeral. This is up to the individual’s discretion, but it is worth mentioning.
Bonus: What Should Guests Write in a Funeral Memory Book?
If you are faced with the task of sharing a memory of the deceased at a funeral, make sure you choose a happy and appropriate memory. Think about a time that the deceased helped you or gave you advice. Share a story of a great time you had.
More than anything else, make sure you share appropriate stories. After all, the deceased’s children and grandchildren will be reading them.
Additional Ideas of Things to Include in a Funeral Memory Book
There are many other items you may choose to include in your funeral memory book. You may include photographs of artwork, quilts, or other creative pieces that your loved one created.
You could also include immigration documents, baptism certificates, and marriage certificates. Perhaps you may also want to add a basic family tree of the deceased, depicting information about his or her parents, grandparents, and siblings. Maybe you would like to include newspaper clippings about times he or she was mentioned in the paper.
Finally, many people choose to keep the sympathy messages that they receive when a loved one dies. To include such messages, put them in an envelope and keep them in the back of the funeral memory book. These words can bring great comfort to those who are in mourning, especially if the message includes a specific, happy memory about the person.