Speeches, eulogies, elegies — all of these things can make for a beautiful, moving funeral service. Sometimes, however, asking for these performances from yourself, your friends, or your family may not feel quite right. Perhaps you’re all too emotional to deliver anything on the spot, or you’d like to take a more creative approach with a memorial video.
A memorial video can fulfill all of what you typically expect from a traditional or even non-traditional funeral service — it’s all up to you as a creative. It can share memories of you, your family, and your loved one with music, words, photos, clips, and more.
While we’ve organized the 14 tips for you below, you may find that following a different order makes more sense for your process — go for it! Do whatever works best for you and your crew.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom memorial service using a service like GatheringUs, ask if you can create a digital memorial slideshow or video to share with your virtual guests. You can scan physical photos to add, upload live videos, add songs, and other digital mementos to your slideshow.
When it comes to creative projects, brainstorming sessions are crucial to allow your ideas to flow freely. Gather the team helping you create the video and have a shared session. Or, request that everyone brainstorms on their own.
If you’re creating the video as a solo project, be sure to be patient with yourself. If you hit a mental block or get emotional, try not to get frustrated. Allow yourself to feel.
Give yourself some time to do something you enjoy and step away from the project for a bit. Some of your greatest ideas may come to you at odd times, such as when you’re falling asleep or in the shower (hopefully not at the same time).
2. Compile as Much as You Can
Once you have a few (or many) solid topics, stories, or ideas in place for what you’d like your memorial video to cover, it’s important to now figure out how you’re going to convey these things.
Do you have access to the right photographs? Do you need to write out a story or two and do a voice over? What family members do you need to reach out to for input? How tech-savvy are they? Do you need to help them digitize their photos?
There are many things to consider when gathering content for this video. That being said, you don’t have to overcomplicate things or pressure yourself to create a Sundance-worthy film. It’s about highlighting and honoring your family member in the best, yet most honest light.
3. Determine the Highlights
Once you’ve compiled enough resources or planned for additional things you’d like to shoot or create (discussed below) it’s time to determine the highlights of the video. What are the most impactful moments?
How can you let them speak as loudly as they need to? Take these things into consideration when you’re choosing music, pauses, effects, and anything else you feel comfortable with.
4. Make Time for Other Additions
Highlights can’t shine without content in between. Think deeply about your time spent with your loved one.
If this time was brief or “uneventful,” enlist other friends and family members to help. Ask if you can record them speaking about what your loved one meant to them or if they can share a special memory.
5. Narrate the Video, If You Choose
Adding a voice over to your video can allow you to rehearse any words too difficult to share in-person. This way, you can help fill any gaps in content that may be present as well.
You don’t have to necessarily write and read an entire commemorative speech But, this may make the rest of the video's content easier to compile. Play to your strengths.
If you’re uncertain about your video editing or music mixing skills, a voice over can be just as impactful, if not more so. If you mess up while recording, no one will know how many takes you needed.
6. Find the Right Music
You’re more than welcome to feature organ music in your video, as this type of music is common at funerals. However, you may wish to feature something a little more soothing, uplifting, or special.
On the other hand, perhaps you’d like to feature music your late loved one enjoyed. After all, it’s about their wishes. If they loved underground rap, then, by all means, go for it. You may also be interested in these modern funeral songs.
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7. Coordinate the Rest of the Service’s Schedule
When considering how long the video should be as well as what should be in it, it’s important to consider the rest of the service.
Are you having any live speakers? Is there time set aside for any cultural traditions? You don’t want your video to overshadow anything — on the contrary, you want your video to complement everything else planned. That being said, you can plan for your video to be all-encompassing and serve as the star of the service instead.
8. Figure Out How Long the Video Should Be
As we discussed above, determining how long your video should be may come down to the rest of the service. If you were asked by a loved one who’s planning the rest of the memorial to create a video, you should respect their wishes or guidance for how long the video should be.
If you’re unsure of any timeframe while planning or even creating your video, it may be wise to over-plan. You can always trim the video or share an extended version with friends and family after the service. Your best estimate, however, can make many of these tips go more smoothly.
9. Determine the Appropriate Amount of Pictures
It’s difficult to gauge how much is too much sometimes. Choosing the appropriate amount of photos to showcase your loved one’s life may be tricky. You want the important moments to shine as well as the ordinary ones. Jamming too many photographs into your video and skipping through them too quickly won’t be effective.
On the other hand, it’s also possible your loved one eluded photographers for much of their life. In this case, fill any gaps with spoken portions or other content you can think of. Talk about your loved one’s favorite things, for example.
You may consider sharing your video with a trusted loved one prior to the service and ask him or her if they thought it ran too long. You may also be interested in how to make a funeral slideshow.
10. Pick a Good Title for Your Memorial Video
Picking the title for your memorial video may come easily, or you may have to wait until the video is complete to really know what to call it. The title may be something creative and non-descriptive, or you may consider simply titling the video with your loved one’s name.
11. Edit Your Video as Necessary
Though you may have already done so, editing your video throughout its creation is important. You should also take some time away from your “finished” video or your work in progress. Afterward, edit again accordingly.
Time spent away from projects allows you to look at them with fresh eyes and more easily spot any errors or areas that could use improvement.
12. Preview It to a Small Audience
Previewing your video may be nerve-wracking. When you create anything, especially something as personal as a memorial video, it’s understandable to be wary of criticism.
However, selecting the right viewing party who has you and your loved one’s best interests at heart can take the production to the next level.
13. Make Sure You Have the Right Equipment
If you’re showing your memorial video at a funeral home, a church, or other event space, it’s crucial to ensure you have the right equipment to do so.
You can likely coordinate with any of these places, as video- and presentation-sharing is more common than ever. You may even choose to have a trial run of showing your video prior to the service, just to make sure everything’s working as it should.
14. Allow Shareability (If You Choose)
One of the best things about video content — versus speeches or anything else — is that it will likely be able to last forever. It’s not so much about reliving the death of a loved one. In fact, it’s about reliving the beautiful memorial you created and shared with others.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to watch this video again later on. If you go about it right, your guests will be much more struck by the value of your loved one’s life, not the circumstances of their death. Their memory can live on in a powerful way in a video, especially if you have clips of them.
All of that being said, making your video shareable is a powerful gift to provide funeral guests. If you don’t feel comfortable making the video open to public use, you can always choose platforms that are private, such as a memorial account online or with social media.
Honor Your Loved One with Confidence
As we’ve discussed prior, a memorial video may not be the first thing you think of as the right way to honor your loved one. However, at times when you feel that your words may fail, be forgotten, or are simply too difficult to share to an audience, a prepared video can convey everything you need to.