18 DIY Memory Tree Ideas, Themes & Tips


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Visiting the Redwood groves of Northern California is truly a magical experience. The woods are eerily quiet, as most of the visitors simply walk around with their eyes pointed to the top of the mammoth trees. It’s mind-blowing to think some Redwoods may have been alive when Jesus walked the Earth. Some of these fantastic trees have been around since before the invention of paper.

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Even the trees in your area could be 50 or 100 years old. Your grandparents may have been able to picnic under the same tree that you see on your walks through a local park. 

Their longevity is part of the magic of trees. Perhaps that’s why tree imagery is often used in genealogy. Just as trees live on for decades, families stretch from generation to generation. Maybe that’s why people are drawn to trees, especially those that live for centuries, when thinking about the brevity of life. 

Let’s discuss the concept of a memory tree. We’ll give you ideas on both outdoor and indoor memory trees. We will also give you ideas for holiday memory trees and ways that trees can be used at a memorial service. 

Outdoor Memory Tree Ideas

How would you like to commemorate the life of someone you loved? Some people start scholarship funds in the names of their loved ones while others donate items to a local animal shelter in their loved one’s name. Still, others plant trees.

Here are some ideas on how to celebrate the life of a person you loved by planting a tree.

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1. Add your loved one’s cremains to the base of a newly-planted tree

Some families struggle to know what to do with the cremains of their loved ones. While some are happy to scatter the remains at sea, others want to have a specific place to visit to think about the deceased.

Placing your loved one’s cremains in the hole of a newly-planted tree would give you such a place to visit. If the tree is located on your property or in your backyard, you may want to add a plaque at the base of the tree with your loved one’s name or image. Add bird feeders and windchimes to make it a special place to visit. 

2. Donate a tree to a local church, school, or park

If your loved one or your family had special ties to a particular church, school, or park, you might consider collecting memorial funds to purchase a tree to plant in that location.

You may ask the non-profit organization if you can add a bench under the tree, engraved with your loved one’s name.

3. Purchase a memorial tree or bush for a grieving family

While it is commonplace for people to purchase flowers for a funeral, those blooms never last. Instead, you may look for local or online businesses that will deliver a tree or hardy bush to the grieving family.

Make sure you share the general location of the family, so the horticulture experts can pick a tree that is known to thrive in that particular location.

To make the process easier, employ the services of a company such as Better Place Forests.

Indoor Memory Tree Ideas

In some metropolitan areas, purchasing large trees in memory of a loved one is not an option. If you like the idea of this eco-friendly way to commemorate your loved one, but you can’t plant a tree outside, here are some indoor options.

4. Buy or gift an indoor tree

Trees come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and even though an indoor ficus tree or lemon tree may not be around for centuries like a Redwood, one of these plants could remind you of your loved one for at least 15 or 20 years.

Consider buying an indoor tree and placing a plant stake in its base that would remind you of the one you lost. 

5. Display your family tree

Perhaps your indoor “memorial tree” is not really a tree. Instead, you could create an indoor display of your family tree.

There are lots of examples of such displays on Pinterest and other DIY websites. Not only will your loved one’s name be displayed, but other family members and ancestors will as well. 

6. Purchase a living urn

For those who want to keep their loved one’s cremains, but don’t want to have them on display in an urn on the mantle, you may consider purchasing a Living Urn. A living urn is a large pot that you can use to store the cremains as well as plant a small indoor tree. 

One company that specializes in living urns allows you to purchase one with a bonsai tree. 

Holiday Memory Tree Ideas

The holidays are particularly difficult for those who recently lost a loved one. Instead of powering through the holidays, why don’t you create a holiday memory tree for the loved ones you lost?

7. Give memorial holiday ornaments to friends and family members

As you create your gift list this year, you may think about purchasing or making memorial ornaments that commemorate the life of the one you lost.

Some people choose ornaments in the shape of cardinals or hearts, while others choose angels or crosses. You may decide to put your loved one’s image on the ornament, or merely the deceased’s name and the words “In Loving Memory.”

8. Create a paper chain with the names of those you love

Remember all your living and deceased family and friends by creating a paper chain each year at Christmas.

Cut decorative paper into rectangles, and on each one, write the name of a person you love. Connect the rectangles with tape or glue, and wrap your Christmas tree with the paper chain.

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9. Decorate a tree with your loved one’s favorite items

To give yourself peace during the holiday season, you may consider decorating a separate holiday tree in memory of your loved one.

You may place items on and around the tree that belonged to your loved one or that simply remind you of him or her. Perhaps your wife’s favorite scarf could go around the trunk, or your son’s favorite football team can be represented on an ornament. 

Funeral or Memorial Service Memory Tree Ideas

Funerals and memorial services are much more creative than they used to be. Before you plan one for your family member, research memorial service ideas to find unique ways to celebrate the one you love. Here are some ideas on how to utilize memory trees in the service, visitation, or reception. 

10. Create a memorial tree guest book

Instead of having a traditional guest book at your loved one’s funeral, you may consider having a memorial tree guest book instead.

These guest books are simple branches that are placed somewhere near the entrance of the service location. The guests are instructed to write their names on small ornaments, or maybe even share a written memory of your loved one. The ornaments are placed on the tree, and the survivors can take theirs home to display.

11. Create a photo display on a memorial tree

We are sure that you have been to funerals and have seen a memory board with photos. Instead of placing the pictures on a simple poster board, why not create small photo “ornaments” made from old photos to hang from a cluster of branches?

Such a display is more attractive than the traditional boards. Don’t forget to use current images as well. Check your Facebook or Instagram accounts to find photos to print. 

12. Distribute small trees for mourners to plant

Although large trees are expensive to buy, tiny seedlings are inexpensive. Consider giving a seedling to each person who comes to the memorial service.

Instruct each person to plant the tree and think about your loved one every time they see it. Some companies specialize in preparing this small gift. 

Funeral Memory Tree Ideas

We have additional ideas on how to incorporate trees in your loved one's end-of-life services. Here are some to consider. 

13. Display a family tree at your loved one's end-of-life service

Most of the time, a family chooses to highlight photos and memorabilia of and about the deceased at a funeral. However, if family history and genealogy were a passion of your loved one, consider displaying what may have been their life's work – a completed family tree.

Immediate and extended relatives may be interested to look at photos or read information about common ancestors. In fact, seeing the family tree may encourage others to continue the work that your loved one started.

Look for ideas on Pinterest on how to display a family tree at a funeral. It may take the form of a display, or you might simply place notebooks full of photographs, research, and documentation about your loved one's ancestors for all to see. 

14. Spread your loved one's ashes at the foot of a tree

While we earlier recommended that you sprinkle cremated remains in with the soil of a newly planted tree, there are other options to consider. After all, mixing cremains in the soil of a freshly planted tree may cause the tree not to thrive if you don't take proper precautions, such as using a Living Urn.

One other choice to consider is to sprinkle your loved one's remains at the base of an already established tree. This may be a special tree on someone's private property or one that your loved one admired at a local park. 

Before you make plans to use the base of a tree as a permanent resting place for your loved one's cremated remains, make sure you examine your choice from a variety of angles.

For one thing, the tree on private property may not always be owned by yourself, your family member, or friend. So will you be okay knowing that you may not always be able to visit that location whenever you wish?

Also, before you plan to sprinkle your loved one's ashes at a tree located in a local, state, or national park, make sure you understand the regulations and laws that prohibit or permit the act. You don't want the scattering ceremony to be disturbed by a member of law enforcement who is required to do their job of upholding the laws of the area. 

If you would like professional assistance with the scattering of remains of a loved one, consider using a company such as Better Place Forests. This company has purchased small portions of forests throughout the United States. You can purchase a tree on one of their properties and have a scattering ceremony at the base of the tree.

15. Purchase a tree urn or tree headstone

Another way to incorporate the tree theme for your loved one's funeral service is to purchase an urn decorated with a tree. Nature-themed urns are easy to find and available at most urn retailers, as are urns that are decorated with the "Tree of Life."  

Although the "Tree of Life" phrase may refer to the tree described in the creation account in the Book of Genesis, it is also a Celtic symbol representing the connection between Heaven and Earth.

Your loved one's tree urn may be displayed at their services if they were cremated before the funeral.

You can also choose to include a tree on the headstone design for your loved one. However, unlike what is typically shown in movies and TV funeral scenes, the headstone takes time to create. Typically, it is installed well after the funeral takes place. Regardless, your local headstone company will be able to create a tree headstone design perfect for your loved one.

Wedding Memory Tree Ideas

We know the comparison may make you uncomfortable, but any memory tree ideas that can be done at a funeral can also be done to celebrate a wedding. Here are some wedding-specific memory tree ideas.

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16. Fingerprint tree

In addition to a guestbook, you could also have a fingerprint tree station available at your wedding reception. An artistic member of your party can create the trunk and branches of a tree. Then, guests can be given a variety of colors of ink pads and use their thumbprints to make the tree's leaves. The result would be a wall hanging that the happy couple could choose to display for years to come.

17. Memory tree centerpieces

Those who enjoy the rustic farmhouse design themes may use a memory tree as table centerpieces. The branches can be decorated with photos of the couple throughout their lives. 

18. Tree of Life mason jar

We like this customizable mason jar that you can order through Etsy. The jar features the Celtic Tree of Life design and can be used to hold drinks at your wedding and/or as wedding favors. 

How to Make a Memory Tree

As you can see, there are many ideas for "memory trees." However, for this section, we will discuss creating a memory tree that can be used as a guest book or an avenue for guests to share memories at a graduation party, wedding, or funeral.

Step 1: Create your leaves

Using a heavy-duty piece of paper, cut out four to six leaves per sheet. You can use an online leaf template or cut the leaf "freestyle." You might also be able to find the perfect size punch for your project. 

Step 2: Attach a piece of jute twine to the leaves

You can choose a variety of methods to attach a piece of twine or ribbon to the leaves. For example, you could use a hole punch to attach the string or ribbon to each leaf or add the cord using a bit of hot glue. 

Step 3: Saw small limb segments off of a tree

When you choose limb segments to use for your memory tree, make sure you select limbs with many small branches. You may need to cut off several similar-sized segments to have a fuller tree.

Step 4: Place the limb segments in a large pot

It is suggested that you wait to assemble your tree until you arrive at the site of the event. Once there, place limbs into a large pot and place large river rocks or large decorative stones to hold the branches at the base.

Step 5: Give guests supplies and the opportunity to share a memory

Leave plenty of "leaves" and writing utensils at the memory tree station to encourage attendees to write memories about the graduate, couple, or deceased. In addition, you might want to assign someone with the job to provide support and instruction to the guests. Otherwise, they might overlook the station or choose not to participate. 

The resulting memory tree will be a beautiful display for the guests to enjoy. 

Finding the Perfect Tree

None of us will be alive in 150 years, but the tree outside your window may be. As you think about the generations that will follow yours, you may dream about how you want to be remembered.

Do you want your great-grandchildren to find your headstone in a nearby cemetery? Or do you want them to have a picnic under a giant oak tree that was planted in your name?

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