Did you recently lose a loved one? Are you planning a memorial service? When confronted with this task, consider the alternatives to a traditional memorial service. The high cost of a funeral can be a challenge for many people. And it can be difficult to negotiate or work to find lower-priced options.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Ideas for Memorial Service Locations
- Memorial Service Ideas for Mom or Grandma
- Memorial Service Ideas for Dad or Grandpa
- Memorial Service Ideas for Child or Baby
- Memorial Service Ideas for a Dog, Cat, or Other Pet
- Memorial Service Ideas for Another Loved One
When you are experiencing deep grief, it can be hard to think outside the box. Perhaps you would like to have an alternative memorial service, like the unusual traditions around the world. But you might only know about some of the popular alternatives. Playing contemporary funeral songs during the ceremony is one. Calling the funeral a celebration of life is another. Those are both great options, but there are many others to consider.
Here are some unique memorial service ideas. Maybe one will speak to you.
COVID-19 tip: If you're planning a Zoom memorial service using a service like GatheringUs, the order of service, etiquette, and timing will vary. Consult with the funeral director, event planner, or religious leader to see what changes will be made to the ceremony, wake, and reception. And, make sure to add the proper links, passcodes, online funeral etiquette, and troubleshooting instructions to your online guests at least a day or two before the funeral.
Ideas for Memorial Service Locations
Before you plan a memorial service at an alternative location, think about who will attend and how they’ll react to something less traditional. As the person planning the service, the ultimate choice of location is yours. But remember that others will be mourning the loss, too.
You’ll also want to make sure you are honoring the wishes of the deceased. It can be easy to let your hang-ups on organized religion get in the way of planning a service at a church, temple, or synagogue. If you know the deceased practiced a religion, you should try to honor that And the same can be said for people who weren’t religious.
If they wanted an alternate memorial, feel free to choose a unique location. Here are some places to consider.
Many people feel a spiritual connection to the ocean. Its constant movement and timelessness can make our lives feel insignificant. And, for those who grew up near the beach, it can bring back comforting, warm childhood memories filled with laughter and sun.
Although a beach would be a lovely setting for a funeral, they’re usually public places, so it might be hard to force everyone visiting the beach to behave as if they’re at a funeral. Be sure to check with the local park services before scattering your loved one’s remains. Some cities have strict rules about the scattering of ashes.
Some people choose to have memorial services in their homes. This was standard practice at earlier points in human history — and it’s starting to become commonplace again in some communities.
Maybe you like the idea of saying goodbye in such a comforting place. If you plan on having the body on display, you’ll need to review the state-specific laws on how to handle a body after death.
At a farm
Perhaps your loved one had rural roots and wished to celebrate their life on the family farm. No matter the time of the year, most farms would provide a beautiful backdrop to celebrate the life of a loved one.
If you own a farm you could consider burying your loved one on the property— most states allow for home burials. This may be something you consider if you’re sure that the land will stay in the family for generations. But make sure you review the laws for your area first. Most states have specific laws about the burial of human remains.
At a campground
Gather friends and family at a campground or national park to celebrate the life of your loved one.
This would be an appropriate choice to celebrate some who was an avid camper and outdoor enthusiast. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to control the behavior of the public around you. But you should be able to find a peaceful space to reflect. Even if it’s only for a few minutes.
At a sports stadium
Having a memorial service at a sports stadium might be a tricky process. Some states do not have restrictions on where you can scatter ashes. But most stadiums are privately owned. And officials would probably prefer that remains aren't spread on the playing fields.
Of course, no one would stop you from attending a game. Invite friends and family of the deceased to attend a game together. It can be a great way to honor the deceased. But remember, even though it’s a special occasion, there’s no guarantee that your favorite team will win.
At a local bar or coffee shop
Perhaps you want to celebrate your loved one’s life where everybody knew their name. Why not ask the owner of your local establishment if you can have a memorial service at their business? You can sip on their favorite beverage, play some uplifting memorial service songs, sit back, and reminisce about your loved one.
Remember that you should expect to pay the owner for the use of the facility, especially if you’re renting the entire space.
Do you want your funeral to be a traditional funeral service or a memorial service?
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Memorial Service Ideas for Mom or Grandma
How do you say goodbye to a mother or grandmother? It will probably be one of the hardest things you ever have to do. Here are some alternatives to consider instead of a regular memorial service.
Gather for a special meal
Many mourners gather for a meal when saying goodbye to friends and family. Why not make something special of it? Set up long tables in someone’s back yard or garden.
Decorate the table with cherished possessions of the family member you lost. Ask guests to bring a token or a dish that represents the deceased. As you dine, go around the table and have everyone share a favorite memory of your mom or grandma.
Celebrate her life in her garden
Did your loved one spend a great deal of time in her garden? Consider having a memorial service in that space. Mourning near her favorite bushes, perennials, and annuals can help you grieve. Celebrating her life in a spot that she cherished is a wonderful way to honor her.
Plant a tree
Consider celebrating the life of a loved one by planting a tree. If you want to plant the tree in a park, you’ll probably need to get permission from local officials first.
You can approach this two ways. First, you could dig the hole during the ceremony. Consider sprinkling the ashes at the base before putting dirt around the new tree.
Or you could have someone plant the tree before you arrive. Then have each attendee take a turn watering the tree with a watering can. You can also have guests share their favorite memory instead of watering the tree — just don’t overwater it!
Memorial Service Ideas for Dad or Grandpa
Saying goodbye to Dad or Grandpa is something people dread to do. Make his passing easier by choosing a memorial service that fits his personality.
Gather at the clubhouse
If your dad or grandpa was an avid golfer, host the memorial service at his favorite golf course. See if you can rent out the clubhouse. Or ask if you can sprinkle his ashes under that tricky tree located near the 17th hole. If you can’t do either, play a round in his honor.
Take a ride on grandpa’s boat
Does thinking of your grandpa lead to memories of early mornings in a boat? If your grandpa’s happy place always involved a fishing pole, celebrate this by gathering at the dock.
You may consider sprinkling the ashes near his favorite fishing spot. Or you could take a family fishing trip to his favorite place. Use the time to reminisce about everything your Grandpa meant to you. And maybe you’ll catch a fish too.
Surround yourself with your dad’s favorite possessions
If your dad was an avid collector, consider having his memorial service at the site of his collection. You can display the items in a unique way to share. Make sure to share your dad’s passion with everyone that way. Plus, it’ll likely be easier than moving the collection to a funeral home.
Memorial Service Ideas for Child or Baby
Nothing is easy about losing a child or baby. There’s no right or wrong way to say goodbye. Whether the service private or open to the public is up to the parents. Here are some ideas to consider.
Do a butterfly release
Ask your friends and family members to gather. Spend some time reflecting on the life of the child. Listen to some music, and have someone lead the group in prayers or final words. Before dispersing, give everyone an envelope with a butterfly inside. Ask everyone to open the envelope at the same time. You’ll be surrounded by butterflies taking flight.
Those who take part will forever associate the child with butterflies. The child’s memory will be honored through that connection.
Organize a project in your child’s honor
Ask your friends and family members to complete a project in the name of your child. Perhaps you’ll create a fairy garden at a local park. Or a little free library outside of your home. Place a commemorative plaque at the location. It will honor your child. And it lets those who visit know how important this space is.
Share a token
There’s a special grieving involved when a life ends too soon. More than anything else, parents want others to remember the life of their child. Consider sharing a token with friends, family, and even the schoolmates of your child.
You don’t have to give away your child’s possessions to do this. Buy something you can give to everyone as a token of remembrance. Rocks shaped like hearts or a special bracelet can be a meaningful, simple gift.
Memorial Service Ideas for a Dog, Cat, or Other Pet
Losing a pet is devastating for many. How do you say goodbye to a pet when you are reminded of its absence every time you enter your home? Here are some ideas to consider.
Host a poetry reading
Others in your community might also be grieving the loss of a favorite dog, cat, or other pet. Consider hosting a poetry reading. People can bring photos of their deceased pet. Everyone can share a poem, song lyrics, or some other text that describes their loss.
Raise funds for a shelter
At some point, you may be ready to commemorate the passing of your furry friend. Although your grief may be too fresh to undertake a project immediately, you can do this anytime. You could host a fundraiser. Or gather supplies to donate to your favorite local pet charity. Name the event after your pet that passed.
Donate a pet watering station
Ask local officials how much it would cost to add a pet watering station to your local dog park. Most of the time, these can be added to any drinking fountain. Don’t forget to ask if you can add a memorial plaque near the site. Others will know you donated the watering station in honor of your dog.
Memorial Service Ideas for Another Loved One
It can be hard to know how to celebrate the life of someone who was an important person in your community. Consider using these ideas. It can help you to share your grief.
Create a scholarship
Teachers and school administrators touch so many lives. Honor them by funding the education of future teachers in your community. Create a fundraiser or ask for donations to create a scholarship in the deceased’s name. Administrators at your local high school should be able to help you set up a scholarship.
Publish a book
If you are trying to think of a way to commemorate the life of a great person, why not write about their life? Interview friends and family members. Ask others to recall their favorite stories. Include photographs and self-publish a book online.
Everyday heroes deserve commemoration. Share the story of your favorite person in the community to inspire others to live full lives.
Host a concert
Perhaps you are organizing an event for a music lover. The person may have been a performer or a music teacher. Invite friends, students, and cohorts to perform pieces in memory of your friend.
This can be a fundraiser for a charity. Or it can be a commemorative event.
A Memorial Your Loved One Wanted
People handle grief differently. A traditional memorial service may help ease the pain of some people. Others need to manage their grief differently.
It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to observe a loved one’s passing. Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you plan a memorial service for someone close to you.