Memorial services are becoming more personalized than ever. Some families choose to plan a unique or themed end-of-life service for their loved ones. These services may be in restaurants or bars, movie theaters, or parks.
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Let us help you celebrate the individual at your loved one's memorial service, from personalizing the program to finding examples of themed funerals that you might consider hosting for your family member or friend.
Special Things to Write on a Memorial Service Program
You may not be ready to forgo the comfort of having a traditional funeral for your loved one. If this describes how you feel, you may consider finding ways of tweaking the memorial service program to showcase what made your loved one special.
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1. Add poetry, verses, or quotes.
One simple way to individualize a memorial program is to add a poem, Bible verse, or quote to it. You may want to write a paragraph explaining the significance of the additional text.
For example, when including a poem in the program, you could explain why it was chosen.
"Mom and Dad met each other in their English class during their junior year of high school. They each were assigned to memorize this poem and would still recite it to each other on occasion,” or, "This was Dad's favorite Bible verse. It encouraged him when going through rough times, but it was especially at the forefront of his mind during his chemo treatments."
2. Add examples of your loved one’s artwork or writing.
Was your loved one a talented artist, photographer, or writer? Share samples of your loved one’s work in the memorial program. You may also include photographs of your loved one performing their talent.
3. Write an extended obituary.
Most obituaries read like news articles and include factual details about the life of the deceased. Since most newspapers require you to pay a per-word fee, many obituaries are often brief accounts of a person's life.
For the funeral program, consider adding more details to the obituary. You might want to write more about hobbies and interests or comment on some fun personality traits.
4. Include interesting facts.
Was your loved one a teacher for 40 years? Create an infographic that includes the number of students they taught and the number of schools they served.
Was your loved one an avid runner? Make a list of all the marathons they completed or their best running times.
Did your loved one travel for enjoyment? Make a list of all the countries they explored on their journeys.
These statistics could be used listed for military service members, farmers, or anyone else who dedicated their work or leisure life to a single pursuit. These facts could be included in your loved one's obituary or as a sidebar in the funeral program.
5. Make a list of ways to remember your loved one.
While it is common for families to request that funeral attendees make donations to a specific charity in memory of a loved one, you may also include a list of service projects that were important to your family member.
Give detailed information on how the funeral attendees can continue your loved one's work by helping at their favorite charitable organizations.
6. Offer thanks to those who went above and beyond during your loved one's illness.
Are you especially appreciative of a hospice organization that assisted with your loved one's transition to the next life? Perhaps you would like to offer thanks to the members of your church for providing meals and other support as you navigate your family member’s illness.
Include these thanks in the program but be careful if you list the names of people who offered support. In the midst of your grief, it would be easy to leave off an individual name, which could cause hurt feelings.
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Unique Memorial Service Activity Ideas
You might want to organize a unique memorial service activity instead of merely having a one-of-a-kind funeral program. Here are some activity ideas to incorporate into the service.
Some of these activities give family members and friends a chance to participate, while others provide a unique opportunity for mourners to say goodbye.
Here are some ideas.
7. Ask the children in the family to participate.
One simple way to individualize a loved one's memorial service is to ask the grandchildren to sing Grandma's favorite song or take turns reading a line of grandpa's favorite poem. The children will learn about the importance of honoring a deceased loved one and can use the experience as an emotional outlet for their grief.
8. Ask the attendees to dress in a particular way.
Another simple way to individualize a memorial service is to include instructions in your loved one's obituary on how to dress for the event. For example, you may ask that people wear jeans if your loved one was a fan of dressing comfortably. You could also request that particular sports jerseys or team colors be worn at the funeral.
9. Use your loved one's flowers at the memorial service.
Was your deceased family member known for having a green thumb? Use the garden flowers to decorate the casket or other surfaces at the funeral.
10. Ask attendees to honor your loved one by donating specific items to a charity.
Several years ago, photos of a teacher's funeral circulated on social media. Backpacks hung on the end of each church pew, filled with school supplies for needy children. Even in their death, this teacher made a difference in the life of children.
11. Have a memorial concert.
Was music important to your loved one's life? Gather their friends who perform to have a memorial service/concert to commemorate the life of your loved one. This would also be a good idea for a deceased music teacher or director.
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12. Complete a group service project.
If you are hosting a scattering service for your loved one, you may use the opportunity to complete an earth-friendly project in honor of your loved one. After you say goodbye, ask those who are interested to help plant trees or plants that your family provides. Have other eco-friendly projects going at the same time to keep everyone busy.
Don't forget to ask people to wear work clothes to the funeral so you have a maximum number of participants.
Outdoor funerals have been particularly popular lately and they provide a unique backdrop for a meaningful, special service.
13. Give a gift to the attendees.
It has been more common for families to give small tokens to those attending a funeral. Examples include seed packets, cause bracelets, or pocket charms.
Get creative when choosing what you distribute. If your loved one was known for their strawberry jam, give out a jar to every family at the funeral. Give away small pieces that made up an extensive collection, such as Pez dispensers, crocheted potholders, or Christmas tree ornaments.
14. Host a potluck.
If you are looking for an idea of a funeral alternative that still feels traditional, consider hosting a potluck meal for your loved one. In addition to (or instead of) the memorial service, invite friends and family together to share a meal.
Ask them to bring dishes that remind them of your loved one. At the event, allow people to share stories with the large group. Celebrate your loved one's life with food and fellowship.
15. Play games.
Was your loved one known for their love of a particular type of game? Consider hosting a Scrabble or chess tournament after the memorial event. Extended family and friends may enjoy having the opportunity to share memories of your deceased loved one while doing something to honor their memory.
16. Shoot off fireworks.
If you are struggling to know what to do with your loved one's cremated remains, consider reaching out to a fireworks company that will incorporate cremains in their products. After the nighttime memorial service, invite attendees to go outside to watch the display. This certainly would be a unique sendoff for a loved one.
Don't Lose Your Focus
Do you have a creative idea on how to say goodbye to your loved one? Before you start planning, consider whether your idea would genuinely honor your loved one while reflecting their spiritual beliefs. Also, think about the other participants in the event. Do they crave a traditional funeral where they can say goodbye to their loved one surrounded by family and friends?
As you personalize the event, also consider your loved one's personality. Would this be something that your family member would have enjoyed? If not, perhaps you need to rethink your memorial service program ideas.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, you have more than just the memorial to think about. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.