It's difficult enough to plan a funeral, but sometimes planning a virtual funeral may add another layer of confusion, as the need for technology often causes people to panic. If you are planning a virtual funeral, here are some ideas that will help you plan an online funeral for your loved one.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Virtual Funeral Invitation Ideas
- Virtual Funeral Ideas for the Service
- Virtual Funeral Ideas for Guest Interaction
- Virtual Funeral Reception Ideas
Below there are suggestions that may inspire you regarding invitations, service, guest interaction, and reception. Most importantly, we want you to consider the importance of being around others during this challenging time of your life.
Even though most people would prefer to have a live funeral for their loved ones, it may not be possible for everyone to gather in the same place. Although it may not be ideal to host a virtual funeral, you may be surprised to find how comforting an online service can be. Some platforms like GatheringUs even have specialists who can guide and support you through the planning process.
Funeral planning might also inspire you to start end-of-life planning so that you have all your preferences documented and available when you need it. You can ensure that your wishes will be carried out by making a will with an online will maker like Trust & Will.
Virtual Funeral Invitation Ideas
You may be unfamiliar with the idea of a funeral invitation, as some people hear about the death of an individual through the grapevine or by reading about it in an obituary or on social media.
However, with virtual funerals, it can be difficult to get people’s attention and attend one online. Here are some invitation ideas to let others know that an online funeral is scheduled.
1. Printed invitations through the mail
If your loved one chose to be cremated, you might decide to have the memorial service weeks or months after the time of death. If the service is postponed, you may choose to send out formal, printed invitations through the mail.
While other mourners may appreciate receiving a formal invitation, especially if it includes a photo of your loved one during a happy moment of his life, sending a printed invitation can involve some extra steps.
Virtual funerals require that attendees click on links. Transferring the long link from a printed source to a computer may prove to be challenging, but not impossible. Make sure to find out if you can create a shorter URL that will lead you to the proper invite. Even if you choose to send a formal invitation with the time and date details, make sure you send a digital message to the attendees with a link.
Most people have access to email. Consider sending the link and other pertinent information to the email accounts of those interested in attending your loved one's virtual funeral.
3. Social media
If you would like to make the virtual funeral accessible to everyone on your or your deceased loved one's friend list, consider sending out the details via social media. If you prefer to limit the number of attendees, send the information through a direct message.
4. Virtual invitation website
If you would like to take a more formal approach to the invitation, consider sending the access link through a virtual invitation website.
Many online obituaries now include links to the online funeral. You may prefer to send a link to the obituary through email, social media, or virtual invitation websites.
This would enable others to read the obituary, write in the online guestbook, and have access to the link all at the same time.
6. Calendar invitation
If people across several different time zones will be attending the virtual funeral, you may find that sending a calendar invitation is the simplest way to go. A person living in a different time zone will be given the correct starting time for their area, and the attendee can easily RSVP to the event.
Virtual Funeral Ideas for the Service
An online funeral service does not have to be significantly different than an in-person event. In fact, you may feel the most comfortable if the service is as standard as possible.
Here are some ideas on how to give others online access to the funeral. Those who are attending both virtually and in-person will be able to hear the music, listen to the message, and see the floral arrangements.
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7. Virtual funeral planning service
Virtual funeral planning services take a funeral live stream a step further, with the goal of engaging faraway guests and making them feel more apart of the experience. They usually offer digital invitation creation, virtual reception rooms, capacity for larger virtual audiences (up to 1,000 guests, in some cases), recordings, custom digital slideshows, and rehearsals, among others.
These services typically cost between $1,000-$3,000, but can depend on the length of the event, number of guests, and a few other factors.
Pro tip: Cake reviewed several digital memorial and funeral planning services, and GatheringUs made our list for the best virtual funeral planning service. GatheringUs offers planning, facilitation, and a complete custom virtual funeral experience.
8. Facebook Live
One easy method of broadcasting the funeral is to have someone in attendance use the Facebook Live feature. The problem with this method is that only those on Facebook would be able to access the content.
One of the most popular ways that people gain access to funerals is through Zoom.
Attendees can request access from the family or click on a link sent through email, calendar invitation, social media, or included at the bottom of an obituary.
FaceTime or another type of video conference calling may work in a pinch, especially if there are only a few online attendees.
There are plenty of other types of technology that are available for online funeral services. Talk with the funeral director, as he or she may have perfected this technology over the last year.
Virtual Funeral Ideas for Guest Interaction
While some guests may prefer to sit quietly while attending your loved one's funeral, others may want to interact with the family or other mourners.
Here are some ways that online guests can feel a part of the service.
Just because your aunt is 3,000 miles away from the funeral doesn't mean she can't perform a solo. You can live stream her contribution to the service as long as you have some technical help on both ends.
Many people enjoy singing as a congregation, and this can also be made possible through Zoom and other streaming sites. Turn on everyone's microphones and have the lyrics of the hymn available on their screens.
12. Sharing photos
In the invitation to the event, ask others to share photos of your loved one. Create a slideshow of the pictures, which you can share with others or watch before, during, or after the event.
The online mourners will feel more of a part of the service if they see that their photo contribution was used during the funeral.
13. Sharing stories
Depending on the in-person or online funeral's attendance size, you may give mourners time to share a brief memory of the deceased.
This sharing time may also be written instead of oral. Ask online funeral attendees to jot down a short memory to share with others in attendance. These memories can also be shared on online memorial sites.
14. Create a downloadable funeral program
Often a funeral program or pamphlet is passed out during a service. Online attendees may feel bad not receiving this memento.
Consider creating a downloadable funeral program using a free funeral program template.
Virtual Funeral Reception Ideas
Funerals are usually social events. Even though you may be forced to have an online funeral, that doesn't mean that you won't be able to interact with your friends and extended family. Here are some ideas for a virtual funeral reception (and if you decide you would like to create invitations for the reception, here is a guide on wording for reception invitations).
15. Organize a toast
Give online attendees plenty of notice that you will be honoring your loved one with a toast. This will give everyone a chance to find a beverage of their choice to share in the event.
16. Suggest a style or color of clothing
While those attending an in-person funeral may feel strange wearing a shirt that supports a favorite team, online attendees may like the option of wearing something in memory of the deceased.
Whether the clothing honors a team or represents a favorite color or style is up to you.
17. Talk with each virtual attendee
If time allows, attempt to talk individually with each virtual attendee. This may be difficult to do during the reception, but perhaps you could schedule a time to speak with each person later.
18. Suggest a menu
Not being able to share food with virtual attendees may be frustrating. Instead, you may share a favorite recipe of your loved one or suggestions of a preferred menu.
A Virtual Funeral Doesn’t Have to be Impersonal
There are many reasons why funerals and memorial services are essential. Of course, funerals honor the life of the person who died. But they also are held so people can show their support to the surviving family members and close friends.
If you recently lost a loved one, you may already feel adrift. Not having others surrounding you to offer comfort may make the transition incredibly difficult. You may benefit from speaking with a grief counselor, minister, or social worker. You may also want to schedule opportunities to be around others who give you comfort and will listen as you share your memories.
Going through a traumatic event without the support of others may be exceedingly difficult, especially if you are unaware of the wide variety of emotions that often come with grief. Also, reach out to others who are similarly grieving. Even if you have to offer support to each other virtually, hearing the voice of a loved one can provide loads of comfort during a trying time.