A guide to planning a memorial service for your Loved One

January 18, 2021
Vase with pink white and green flowers on cushioned seat
end of life planning
anticipate life
supporting others
Bernadette Fulton

At some point in our lives we may be faced with the task of planning a memorial service for a loved one.

Some memorial services are held in conjunction with a funeral. But others take place at a later time often as a ‘Celebration’ of the life of the deceased.

Funeral organisers can often provide advice on conducting a memorial service. But decisions about such a private and individual event are best made by loved ones or those closest to the deceased.

So if your loved one has already indicated any memorial service preferences you have a great advantage. And this will make your decisions and responsibilities easier. You will then have peace of mind knowing you are respecting their personal wishes.

Recording our wishes for our funeral or memorial service is one way we can help those we leave behind. So it is one of the important end of life planning issues that Anticipate Life addresses.

Anticipate Life’s app allows us to indicate in advance to our loved ones or legal representatives our wishes for an event which we will not be here to manage ourselves.

So what do you do if your loved ones have not provided any advance instructions about their memorial service? Then where do you start? What should you keep in mind?

Perhaps the following brief guidelines to planning a memorial service will prove useful.

Guidelines to planning a memorial service

  • Make of list of the people you think would wish to have input in planning the memorial service.
  • Arrange to consult or inform them and request their input.  
  • Decide on the date, time, and venue of the memorial service.
  • Keep in mind accessibility to the service. Some attendees may be older people or have impaired mobility or who must travel some distance.
  • Who will conduct or MC the service? Do you need to arrange for a religious or lay celebrant?
  • Will there be a video link to the memorial service? Remote access helps those who cannot attend in person feel included. It may also be useful if social distancing rules are in place.
  • Who can give an address or speak at the service? A limited number, or will anyone attending be welcome to say a few words?
  • So who will deliver the eulogy or ‘keynote’ address or other tributes? This usually summarises the life story of your loved one. It can include key life events and maybe anecdotes which reflect the personality of your loved one. Also references to important personal relationships such as a partner, children, friends and colleagues.
  • If you are planning to have a photo slideshow or DVD, decide what to include. And check there are video facilities at the service venue.
  • You may like to compile a Memorial Service Booklet or Card to distribute to those attending and send to those unable to be at the service.

What else do I need to consider?

Do you need to arrange for flowers, music?  If you plan to have a social gathering or wake after the service then think about a location and catering.

A memorial service can be formal or a more relaxed event. So there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to conduct it. But good planning is important because you will want the service to be respectful of your loved one. And you will want it to run smoothly.