How to Have a Meaningful, Personal Funeral: 14 Tips


You have one opportunity to plan a funeral for a loved one. If they didn’t complete any pre-death planning, you have a lot of decisions to make in a relatively short time.

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We know how stressful this can be, and we would like to help. Let’s walk you through some of the primary decisions that you will have to make and help you consider all the options. 

If you are lucky enough to have your grandparents and parents, talk with them about their end-of-life choices. It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but you’ll appreciate having the information when the day comes to plan a memorial service. 

Tips for Planning a Meaningful Funeral Service

Your loved one was a unique individual. Think about their personality, beliefs, history, and preferences as you plan their end-of-life event.

This is easier said than done because a wide range of emotions often accompanies grief. Many say that they find it difficult to make even the most basic decision after losing someone they love, so planning a funeral can undoubtedly be challenging when in this condition.

Here are some tips to help you plan the most meaningful funeral possible.

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1. Consider your loved one’s personal preferences

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether your loved one will be buried, entombed, or cremated. There are other options available as well, such as donating the body to science.

If you never had a conversation with your loved one about this fundamental choice, think about what your loved one chose for other family members. If your mom decided to bury her mom in a cemetery, it’s reasonable to assume that would be her preference as well.

Before making the decision, look through your loved one’s personal papers to see if you can find evidence of a pre-paid cemetery plot, casket, or cremation. 

2. Choose a personalized casket or urn 

While some put little thought into the purchase of a casket or urn, others see them as an opportunity to celebrate something special about their loved ones. 

Caskets can be personalized in a variety of different ways. Hunters can be buried in a camouflaged coffin, and motorcycle enthusiasts’ cremains can be put in a Harley-Davidson urn.

You can also choose items in specific colors to show support for a country, team, or other organization.

3. Select an officiant who knew your loved one

Funerals feel much more personal when the officiant knew the deceased. If the officiant knew your loved one, they could share memories during the service.

It’s also helpful if the officiant knew your loved one’s religious beliefs so that they could be included as a part of the ceremony. 

4. Consult several people before writing the eulogy

The task of writing may fall on a family member, funeral home director, or officiant. Regardless of who is writing it, they should interview many different people who knew the deceased well before beginning.

Most eulogies describe the positive characteristics and accomplishments of an individual. The best eulogies share funny or poignant stories about the deceased.

Even if you don’t feel confident with your writing ability, make sure you share your thoughts with the person tasked with the job. You may know that person better than anyone else, and your input would be invaluable in creating a personalized tribute to your loved one. 

5. Choose a meaningful scripture or poem to share

If your loved one was a Christian, consult their Bible to see if any particular passages are marked or underlined. Your loved one may also have chosen a specific verse to display at home, which may make it easier to select a reading. 

You may also choose to have a funeral poem read during the service or printed in the program. You may know immediately which poem your loved one would have wanted, or maybe you need to find the perfect verse on your own.

The poem could describe a relationship, philosophy, belief, or preference. The poem could also tell others how much the deceased will be missed. 

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6. Choose music that your loved one enjoyed

If your loved one’s funeral is held at a place of worship, your choice of funeral music may be limited. Some religious groups may only allow sacred music to be played during services. You’ll have more flexibility in your music choice if you have the service at a funeral home. 

Regardless of the type of music, choose favorites of your loved one. 

7. Create photo displays

One of the nicest ways to celebrate your loved one is to create a display, collage, or presentation of photos. Try to find pictures of your loved one from several different age groups.

You may also want to choose photos of your loved one posed with a variety of people. Displaying pictures is one of the simplest ways to personalize a funeral.

8. Give a gift to each guest

If your grandma was known in the community for making the best peach jam, pass out the remaining jars to the people who attend her funeral. Perhaps your dad collected Coke memorabilia. If no one in the family is interested in keeping the collection intact, give out individual pieces in the collection to those attending the funeral.

You may also purchase an inexpensive item or funeral favor to give out to funeral attendees. If your loved one enjoyed a particular type of flower, give each person a seed packet with a personalized label. 

9. Choose the right floral display

Not everyone has a favorite flower, but you can still personalize the casket spray or flower arrangement, so it has extra meaning. If your loved one lived in several different states, have the display include stems that are often associated with those areas. 

Perhaps the types of flowers in the floral display are not consequential. Instead, consider the colors. The color choices can reflect the love of a favorite team or organization.

You may also design a floral display based on numbers. Perhaps the white carnations in an arrangement can represent the number of grandchildren, and the red carnations the number of great-grandchildren. 

To ensure that attendees understand the meaning behind the flowers, add a line at the bottom of the funeral program or ask the officiant to point it out during the service. 

10. Ask others to share memories

Schedule a time during the visitation or the funeral for others to share memories about your loved one.

If you think that few would want to speak in front of the group, ask them to write down their thoughts or make a video recording of them sharing.

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Tips for Planning a Meaningful Repast or Reception

There may be many different parts to your loved one’s services. You may have a visitation or wake, a funeral service, a graveside service, and a repast or reception.

Add personalized touches to each service to make it as meaningful as possible. Here are some ideas for the reception or meal. 

11. Serve your loved one’s favorite foods or drinks

Whether your loved one enjoyed the brisket from a particular BBQ joint or a specific brand of beer, serve those items during the reception or repast.

Those who knew your loved one well would understand why those items are on the menu.

12. Serve food that your loved one made

If your sister was known for her salsa or your dad made and froze apple pies each year, serve those items at the funeral dinner.

13. Toast your loved one

As the deceased’s family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors gather together for perhaps this one last time, toast your loved one. The gesture is a lovely way for people to say adieu to someone special. 

14. Choose the venue carefully

The reception doesn’t have to be at your loved one’s home or church hall. In fact, to personalize the event, you may want to consider the funeral venue carefully.

Host a picnic at a favorite park or nature area. Have the repast at a favorite bar or local hangout. Ask to rent the coffee shop that your loved one frequented each morning. 

Make Your Own Plans

We all do the best we can when planning our loved one’s funerals, but it’s sometimes hard to make all the decisions that come with planning the event.  

Make it easier on your loved ones and complete your own funeral planning. Purchase a cemetery plot or urn. Prepay for the funeral home expenses. Choose the clothing you want to on at your open-casket visitation. Select the readings and funeral music. You may even want to choose what will be served during the reception. 

Thinking about your eventual death may be unsettling, but it is an eventuality that cannot be avoided. Preplan your funeral with Cake and share it with your loved ones. They will appreciate being able to gather together with other family members to share memories instead of visiting funeral homes and mausoleums to make plans for your end-of-life services. 

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