What do you do if a loved one dies and an important member of the family cannot attend the funeral?
Here are some scenarios:
- A spouse is in the hospital or too ill to attend the service.
- Elderly siblings who live across the country from each other can’t afford a plane ticket to travel to the services.
- A family member is serving overseas in the military and can’t get bereavement leave to attend a funeral.
Technology can do amazing things. If someone can’t attend a funeral, you can bring the funeral to him using a live stream. All you need is a smartphone and a reliable internet connection on both sides of the process.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s a Live Streamed Funeral?
- Things to Consider When Live Streaming a Funeral
- How to Set Up a Facebook Live Funeral
- How to Set Up a Live Stream through Skype
- More Services That Offer Funeral Live Streaming
- Other Ways You Can Get People Involved Who Can’t Make the Funeral
- Frequently Asked Questions: Live Streaming a Funeral
We’ll discuss how to live stream through two different platforms: Facebook Live and Skype. There are other options available for streaming online, such as YouTube. It’s important that you’re aware that to use your cellphone to stream over YouTube, you have to have 1,000 subscribers, so this option may not be an excellent option for someone who doesn’t have a strong social media presence.
Before we go into the specific steps of using either Facebook or Skype, here are the steps to follow to set up a live stream, no matter what platform you plan to use.
What’s a Live Streamed Funeral?
A live streamed funeral is an end-of-life service that interested individuals can watch live from their computer, tablet, or cell phone. Because of the recent pandemic, many funeral homes and churches worldwide have improved their technology to offer live streaming services for the families they serve.
Live streamed funerals are different from virtual funerals. During a virtual funeral, no one is gathering in person.
While sharing a loved one’s funeral online can be done by simply holding up a cell phone during the service and connecting through Facetime, a “live streamed funeral” typically refers to using Zoom, Skype, or Facebook Live to share the event with family and friends who are unable to attend.
Please understand that there are different levels of live streaming services, so if you are paying extra for this service, make sure you know what it entails. You might also want to ask for permission to log in to a live streaming event produced by the company so that you can examine the quality to make sure it’s worth the cost.
Things to Consider When Live Streaming a Funeral
Don’t forget to do your homework before you get ready to live stream this important event.
Figure out event coordination and planning
In some cases, funeral homes may already be equipped to handle virtual funerals, including having video cameras, a high-quality streaming subscription, and other tech. Ask your funeral director if they can help set up and alert guests of the live stream.
If your funeral home isn't much help, you have two other options: doing it yourself or hiring a specialized virtual funeral planning service. A virtual funeral planning service, such as GatheringUs, does a lot more than set up a live stream. These services normally include event planning assistance, tech support, invitation and thank-you card creation, facilitating virtual receptions for online guests, and day-of-funeral coordination. These extras do come with a cost - most virtual funeral planning services will start at around $1,000 per funeral.
If you do it yourself, you'll need to make sure you have the right equipment and connection to make the live stream run smoothly. Assign one or two point people to make a list of the equipment, tech, and live stream URLs to send to guests. One of these people will also need to be prepared to field emails, calls, or texts from guests right before and during the service.
Test the technology before you promise that it will be available
Before you tell your dad’s elderly sister that she needn’t make the trip to your father’s funeral, make sure you can deliver.
Most cities have reliable internet but some small towns and rural areas do not. Check the internet connection in the specific building where the funeral will be held.
Pro tip: There may be ways to enhance the quality of your internet connection, but it may require some work. Make sure this is taken care of days before the funeral, not the morning of the service.
Announce that live streaming is available… if you choose
Use the usual communication channels to announce that you will be live streaming the funeral of your loved one. If you are specifically doing this to benefit an elderly person, make sure he or she has someone on the other end to assist.
Pro tip: Some families may choose not to announce that live streaming is available. Perhaps they feel that having that option would discourage people from attending the service.
Choose a person to film the events
As you plan the funeral for your loved one, remember to find someone who is not a member of the immediate family to take care of the live streaming process. Those in mourning should not have to focus on battery life and microphones during their loved one’s funeral.
Pro tip: Ask a tech-savvy teenager who is not a member of the immediate family to take care of the live stream.
Make sure all speakers use a microphone at the event
If you are streaming an event through your smartphone, make sure each funeral participant uses a microphone.
Pro tip: Don’t rely on your cellphone’s microphone for the live stream. It will only work well if you are incredibly close to the speakers, which would not be an appropriate position at a funeral.
Follow good filming practices
Make sure the person filming the funeral has a general understanding of how to shoot an event. Even if the person is using a cell phone, using a tripod or stabilizer is a good idea.
Now that we have given you some general tips for live streaming a funeral, here are instructions on how you complete the process using two different platforms — Facebook and Skype.
How to Set Up a Facebook Live Funeral
One of the easiest ways to live stream a funeral is to do it via Facebook. All parties involved in the funeral must have a Facebook account.
Facebook is also a great option if you want to make the live stream available to the general public. You can easily control the privacy settings as you go live.
Live streaming through Facebook can be as simple or complicated as you wish. Professional news organizations use multiple cameras and microphones. Non-professionals can stream using only a cellphone. We’ll discuss the cellphone method for this article.
1. Log into the appropriate Facebook account
When you shared that you’d be live streaming your loved one’s funeral, you should have also shared whose account you would use. Make sure that the person filming is logged into the appropriate account.
Pro tip: Make sure both the sender and receiver are Facebook friends. As mentioned, you can also allow anyone to access your live feed if you choose.
2. Click on “Live”
When you log into Facebook on your cellphone, you will see three options listed under “What’s on your mind? The options are “live,” “photo,” and “check in.”
Click on the “live” button.
Pro tip: Once you choose to go live, you will have to give Facebook access to your phone’s microphone.
3. Determine who has access to the live stream
Who do you want to have access to your video? Do you want all your Facebook friends to see that you are streaming the funeral? Do you want to send the stream to a specific group of people? Make those selections.
You will also be able to write a description of the event and show the event’s location.
Pro tip: It may be a good idea to limit who has access to the event. The casual scroller may not feel comfortable running across a funeral. Also, criminals have been known to hit up homes of people who they know will be attending the funeral of a loved one.
How to Set Up a Live Stream through Skype
Looking for another simple way to live stream a funeral? Use Skype.
Skype allows you to specifically choose who you want to have access to the live stream. Only people you call will receive the video feed that you send.
1. Make sure all parties involved have a Skype account and can log into it
Don’t wait for the moment the funeral begins to make sure you remember your Skype password. Funerals are often high-stress environments. Don’t make it more stressful by resetting passwords at the last minute.
Pro tip: If the receiving party is not tech-savvy, make sure he or she has assistance on the other end.
2. Go to the “Contacts” tab at the bottom of the Skype home page
Search for the person (or people) that will attend the virtual funeral. You can choose multiple participants in one call.
Pro tip: Up to 50 people can be on the same call.
3. Choose the video button
Once you have chosen who will be receiving the call, select the video button.
Pro tip: The video button looks like a movie camera. It is a rectangle with a small triangle next to it.
4. Make sure you have the appropriate settings selected
When you initially make your call via Skype, you may want to quickly chat with the recipients to make sure they are there.
Pro tip: Make sure you turn off the microphone of the people receiving the call. You don’t want the solemnity of the funeral to be interrupted by the voices of those following the service over the phone.
Of course, if your loved one chose to have a celebration of life party for his final services, this consideration may not be necessary.
More Services That Offer Funeral Live Streaming
Besides GatheringUs, other companies specialize in planning virtual funerals or offer live streaming services. Here are a few.
If you represent a house of worship or funeral home and are looking for a more reliable streaming service, check out BoxCast. This company uses technology that allows companies to stream live professional-quality video seamlessly. One benefit of working with this company is that their technology can be used even if the internet connection is less than ideal.
This company has a team of video professionals across the country who can assist you in live streaming your loved one’s service. Their service can set up live streaming through Zoom, YouTube, or Facebook. Company employees will take care of the filming and equipment and provide a mobile hotspot if needed. After the service is complete, the family will be given a recording of the event.
Afterword offers virtual funeral planning starting at $995. Please understand that this isn’t a live streaming service. Instead, Afterword creates a professional-quality online event that connects all participants from wherever they are located in the world.
Besides taking care of the technology for this interactive, virtual event, a professional facilitator will lead the service. Afterword will also create a memory slideshow, an online memorial page, and an event recording.
This company will help you host a fully digital tribute for your loved one or an in-person event with online options. The entirely virtual option includes a dedicated producer to lead the event, a photo slideshow with music, an online memorial page, an interactive chat feature for attendees, and a recording of the event.
TribuCast is a remote attendance system that is offered through funeral homes. The company creates a personal website in honor of the deceased, which includes the program and other shared items from the service and family photographs and memories. Visitors to the website can leave messages of condolences on the online memorial page.
Other Ways You Can Get People Involved Who Can’t Make the Funeral
We know that attending online events isn’t as satisfying as attending an event in person, but sometimes it can’t be helped. So if you know that you will have virtual attendees for your loved one’s funeral, how do you get them involved in the event? Here are some ideas.
Create an online memorial page
One way to encourage people to share memories of the deceased is to create an online memorial page. You can invite anyone to contribute to an online memorial page – even those who don’t have a social media presence. Because random strangers aren’t able to see the content, people are more likely to share memories, videos, and photos of their loved ones during happy moments.
We understand that interacting with others through an online memorial page isn’t as satisfying as being with other mourners. However, this is a viable and cheap alternative when not everyone can get together for an event.
Ask an online participant to contribute music to the event
If your aunt in Phoenix is a fantastic pianist but can’t attend the funeral of a loved one in Toledo, ask her to perform a song live online at the event. Of course, this will require that you have a video feed available to in-person attendees (which isn’t always necessary for virtual events.) However, this is one way to improve virtual participation during an online event.
Unmute participants during group singing
Provide the words to the songs sung during the funeral service and give online participants the option of unmuting during the singing.
Ask an online participant to share a memory
If your in-person event has a screen that shows online participants, you might allow virtual attendees to share a memory of the deceased live during the event. Ask virtual participants to raise their hands if they wish to speak and give each one the chance to offer a message to the crowd.
Ask an online participant to pray or read a poem during the service
Online attendees can easily offer prayers or read a poem during the service. In fact, a virtual attendee could also give the eulogy. In fact, some may find it easier to speak in front of others through a screen rather than standing up in front of a congregation.
Frequently Asked Questions: Live Streaming a Funeral
You may have never attended a live stream funeral, so you probably have many questions about planning or attending such an event. Here are questions Google users often ask about this new form of funeral service.
How do you watch a funeral live stream?
There are a lot of different ways to watch a live stream of a funeral service. Before the funeral is scheduled, make sure you understand how to connect.
Some funeral homes offer live streaming on their websites. Participants may simply visit the funeral home website during the appropriate time and click on the link – which may be through YouTube.
Some funeral homes or religious institutions use Zoom or Skype for virtual events. Accessing this requires you to have a link and perhaps a password. Other virtual funerals are live-streamed on Facebook Live, requiring you to have access to a Facebook account.
There are a lot of companies that assist families with virtual funerals or hybrid funerals (live streaming in-person events). As a part of their fees, the moderator is supposed to help people connect to the event.
Once you have figured out how to connect, you can sit in front of your screen at home and watch and listen to the proceedings. You might choose to view the event with the camera and microphone set to the off position. Others choose to dress for the funeral as they would an in-person occasion and keep their cameras on during the live stream.
How much does it cost to live stream a funeral?
Hiring a virtual funeral planning service to host a professional live stream for your loved one’s event will cost between $900 to $4,000.
Some companies will hire a subcontracted videographer to send to your event. Other companies will organize a completely virtual funeral.
The cost of live streaming a funeral can also increase if you purchase add-on items, such as an online memorial page, photo slideshow, or a recording of the event.
Can you record a funeral live stream?
Yes, it is possible to record a funeral live stream. If you are interested in recording the funeral, make sure you talk with event organizers before the event takes place.
Filming a Funeral
Not everyone will agree that cameras are appropriate for a funeral. Some may not like the idea of the deceased’s open casket shown during filming. Others may feel that it is not appropriate to film mourners in their time of grief. Try to get the consensus of all members of the immediate family before you decide to allow the service to be filmed.
The tricky thing about planning a funeral is that everyone has an idea of what is appropriate and what is not. Some like the idea of having a living funeral, while others feel that funerals should be solemn and dignified occasions.
Make sure your funeral is planned exactly as you would want it to be. Make the arrangements for it before you die. When you pre-plan your funeral, you can tell others whether you are okay with a live stream funeral or not. You can choose the music that will be played and whether you want the service in a church or a funeral home.
Start your end-of-life planning today so you can be sure that your final wishes will be followed.