16 Creative, DIY Memorial Table Ideas For a Gathering

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If you are hosting a monumental event, you may want to include loved ones who have passed and can’t share in your celebration. If you are tight on budget or time, it’s easy to set up a DIY memorial table to honor the deceased.

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Even if you aren’t crafty or sentimental, there are many easy and simple ways to decorate a memorial table. It can be as simple as collecting the deceased’s favorite items to display on the table or framing some photos to showcase. We’ve compiled a list of 16 different DIY memorial table ideas. 

If you don’t have room for a table or decide a memorial table isn’t the right fit for your event, scroll to the bottom of this article for 12 other ways to honor passed loved ones at your gathering.

Tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, deciding how best to memorialize them may not be the only cause of stress. 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.

Memorial Table Ideas for a Funeral or Celebration of Life Event

It’s common after a funeral or during a celebration of life event for there to be a reception or gathering where people can eat and comfort each other. Here are some ideas on what you can include on a memorial table.

1. Flowers

If you decide to use flowers on the memorial table, there are several options for how you can do this. 

  • Make an arrangement: choose different flowers that have a special meaning to arrange and display on the table. Check out our flower meaning guide for inspiration.
  • Display a single flower, or a bunch of single flowers: choose the deceased’s favorite flower and display it on the memorial table. If you are headed to the cemetery after the funeral, you can opt to have a memorial table full of flowers for attendees to take with them. Then everyone can pay their respects by leaving a flower on the casket during burial.

2. Altar

Setting up an altar on a memorial table is the perfect way to honor your loved one who passed. You can use pictures, quotes, heirlooms, candles, or anything else that you think will honor the person who passed away.

3. Favorite things 

Create a table full of the deceased’s favorite things. This could be colors, foods, pictures, music, books, art, or anything else that reminds you of your loved one.

4. Religious or cultural symbols

Religious or cultural symbols are beautiful items to place on a memorial table for your loved one. For example, at a Catholic funeral, you might choose to display a cross with flowers. You can also offer memorial cards on the table for attendees to take with them.

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Memorial Table Ideas for a Wedding Ceremony or Reception

Your wedding is one of the most joyous occasions of your life. If you have loved ones who have passed and wish could be there to celebrate with you, here are some DIY ways you can honor them on your special day.

5. Flower arrangement with symbolic herbs

Create a beautiful flower arrangement and add some remembrance herbs. Rosemary and sage are popular options because they have a lovely smell and are known for supporting memory. 

You can also add white flowers to an arrangement or even to the bouquets to symbolize each of the loved ones you’re memorializing at your wedding. 

6. Create a sign

Place a sign in memory of the people in your life who can’t be at your special day on a memorial table. The sign could include names, pictures, quotes, poetry, symbols, short stories, or anything else that will help you feel like your loved ones are with you.

7. Photographs

Frame photos of the loved ones who have passed who you wish could be there on your wedding day. You can make a beautifully stylized memorial table by choosing ornamental or heirloom frames in a variety of sizes. Set them up on the memorial table on their own, or add place cards with names and relationships. 

8. Candles or lanterns 

Candles or lanterns are a beautiful way to honor loved ones who can’t be with you at your family reunion. You can make a reference to your relatives lighting the path or way for your family. If you’re interested in a lantern release, here are some safe and eco-friendly alternatives you can try. 

Memorial Table Ideas for a Class Reunion

If you are tasked with decorating your class reunion, it’s a good idea to include a memorial table to remember your classmates who have passed on.

9. Biographies

Write up biographies of your classmates who have passed. Make sure to include pictures. You can make a posterboard, frame them individually, or have print-outs for classmates to take with them.

10. Yearbook pictures

Copy or print yearbook pictures and memories of deceased classmates. You can hang these on a wall or display them on the memorial table.

11. Names along memory lane

Reach out to your classmates before the reunion and gather stories and memories of classmates who have passed away. Create a memory lane with stories, dates, and the names of your classmates who can’t be with you at your reunion.

12. Photo candles

Set up a table at your reunion and display a candle for each classmate who has passed away. Attach pictures and dates to the candles for each of your classmates. If your school had superlatives, add their superlative to the photo candle.

Memorial Table Ideas for a Family Reunion

You’re throwing a family reunion and want to honor the memory of family members who have passed. Here are some DIY ideas for a memorial table to give you some inspiration.

13. Favorite family recipes

There is nothing like delicious food to bring back memories of family. Gather favorite recipes of deceased family members and serve their dishes at the family reunion. Make cards with a description, your family member’s name, and their picture in front of each dish.

Pro-tip: If you don’t want to do all the cooking yourself, find a caterer to prepare the recipes. It’s also a nice idea to have other family members volunteer to each cook one of the recipes and have the reunion potluck style. 

14. Heirlooms

Fill a memorial table with family heirlooms belonging to your relatives who have passed. Put Grandpa’s pocket watch, Grandma’s jewelry box, or Great Uncle Ted’s shadow box on the table with note cards describing each item and who they belonged to.

Bonus: If you can find letters, a journal, or a diary that belonged to your relative, these make for fantastic and interesting additions to the table. You can even create a speech and read excerpts.

15. Life stories

If you have a lot of photos of your family members who have passed away, make scrapbooks detailing their life stories. These make for a beautiful table at a family reunion, and younger family members can learn all about the lives of ancestors that they never got to meet.

16. Family tree

Creating a family tree to display on a memorial table is a wonderful way to honor your whole family, and especially those who have passed away and can’t be with you at the reunion. 

It will be so interesting for younger generations to be able to visualize where they fit in on the family tree and how they’re related to both living and deceased family members.

Other Memorial Ideas

If you don’t have the space to set up a memorial table, here are some other ideas to incorporate loved ones who have passed into your event:

Funeral or celebration of life:

  • Show a memorial video
  • Play a special playlist
  • Open up the floor for guests to share memories
  • Hand out seeds or plantable memorial cards

Wedding:

  • Stitch fabric that belonged to the deceased into the bride’s dress or groom’s tuxedo
  • Include a picture and quote or poem in the program
  • Release butterflies

Class reunion:

  • Show a picture slideshow
  • Have a moment of silence or reflection

Family reunion: 

  • Sit in a circle and share stories
  • Memorial stones engraved with the person’s name 
  • Serve a favorite beverage
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