What is a Memorial Service and How to Plan One

Photo by Oliver Hotakainen

In the days and weeks after a loved one passes away, you may feel like every decision is fraught with meaning. Where to hold the memorial service? Who should I invite? What do I do with the ashes? These are difficult questions, but they’re also ones worth thinking through carefully. A memorial service can be a meaningful opportunity to offer support to your family members who are grieving. And even better perhaps, it can be an opportunity for them to reconnect with each other. But what is a memorial service, exactly?

We answer all your questions below!

Where to have a memorial service

The location of your memorial service can be any place you choose. Maybe you are following any religious traditions. It may then be more comfortable for you to hold the memorial service at your place of worship. However, you don’t wish to spend as much money on this event as having it done at a funeral home or religious place of worship. In that case,  consider hosting it at an outdoor location like a park or beach. These locations offer  plenty of room for guests to sit down and enjoy themselves while they remember their loved one’s life.

Post-memorial service reception

The post-memorial reception is a time to celebrate the life of the deceased. It’s also a time to offer support to the family. For example, if you’re close friends with the deceased’s kids, it might be comforting for them to see you there. If you’ve known them since they were little consider attending to offer support during this difficult time.

If you didn’t know the deceased well or at all, it may be better for you to hold off on attending. At least until next year when emotions have calmed down and everyone has had time to heal from their loss. If this is your situation (or even if it isn’t), think about how much food should we bring? Do we bring flowers too? How do I dress myself appropriately for this event?

Who should I invite to a memorial service?

A memorial service should be an occasion to honor the deceased and celebrate their life. You’ll want to invite those who were closest with them or had a special relationship with them. This can include:

  • Family members of loved ones (especially if they’re still living).
  • Close friends and other loved ones of the deceased.
  • Anyone who was close to family members of the deceased.
  • And finally, anyone who was close to friends of the deceased.

How do I choose a memorial service officiant?

Choosing a memorial service officiant is a very personal choice. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this person related to my loved one? No. Then organize the ceremony in a place where people who were not close with the deceased can feel comfortable attending. This way, you’re not closing out friends and family members who have difficulty attending. This is useful for people who would have liked to be there but couldn’t because of their relationship with the deceased.
  • Does this person have a close relationship with the person who passed away? Yes! You want someone who knows them well enough to understand what kind of service they would want. This will help them feel most at ease during their last goodbye.
  • Is this person a spiritual leader at their church or mosque? No! If your loved one belonged to an organized religion speak with someone else in their clergy. That’s a good idea even if they didn’t attend services regularly (or ever). This way, they can provide guidance on how best honor your loved one’s religious beliefs and wishes for their final resting place as part of your ceremony.

Should I have a catered meal at the reception?

A catered meal is a meal that you do not provide for the guests. You can either order the food from a professional catering company or hire a personal chef.

Benefits of having a catered meal:

  • Guests don’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning and shopping for the food. In some cases, they may not even have to leave their homes!
  • You can choose any type of cuisine you like. This way you avoid worrying about how much time cooking takes or finding the ingredients.

Disadvantages of having a catered meal include:

  • It is often more expensive than preparing your own food (although this depends on the type of cuisine).

What if I want my family to contribute to the meal?

If you’re looking to ask your guests to contribute to the meal, it’s a good idea to make it clear in your invitation. Otherwise they’ll end up wondering what they should do. They may also feel awkward if they don’t know how much (or little) you expect of them. It will also make the planning process easier on yourself and any helpers.

If you want people to pitch in financially, simply state something like “Please bring beverages and/or desserts” on your invitation. At the very least mention this in an accompanying email. The more specific you are about what kind of food items would be most helpful, the better. For example: “Please bring vegetables (or vegetarian dishes), salads/soup, dessert”. This makes it easier for guests who aren’t sure what kinds of foods might be appropriate for this type of gathering. Otherwise there will likely end up being multiple bags full of chips or crackers alongside some fancier fare.

Should children attend a memorial service?

The death of a loved ones affects children in much the same way as adults. However, their physical and emotional responses may differ. Young children may be less able to understand what has happened or why it’s so upsetting for everyone.

Regardless of age, it’s a good idea to include children in the memorial service. You should also allow them to ask questions about what happened and why their parent or grandparent died. They should also have an opportunity to say goodbye or share memories with those who attended the memorial service. It’s important that you provide your child with answers that are appropriate for them. Don’t try to shield them from reality by pretending everything is okay when it isn’t!

A memorial service is an opportunity to offer support to your family members who are grieving

If you’re planning a memorial service, be sure to have a reception after the memorial service. Ask family and friends of the deceased to come to the reception and bring along their children if they would like. A catered meal is appropriate at this time because it allows people time to talk with each other in an informal setting. It also gives grieving family members an opportunity for some down time without feeling rushed or pressured into anything else.

Finally, if you’re unsure about what you should include in your memorial service, don’t hesitate to ask! There are plenty qualified funeral homes and cremation centers that are ready to give you recommendations.

Final Thoughts

A memorial service is an important part of the grieving process. It’s a chance for family and friends to gather together and remember your loved one in a meaningful way. At the same time, it also offers support to those who are grieving. If you’re planning on hosting one soon, we hope this blog post has given you some helpful tips!

With Myend’s end-of-life planning services you can include a memorial service in your Funeral Plan! Curious to experience it for yourself? Sign up today for free and create your own end-of-life documents.

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Myend is not a law firm, it does not engage in the practice of law, and it does not render any official legal advice. Therefore, you are hereby advised to seek your own legal counsel regarding any legal issues. Myend’s articles are meant to be taken as suggestions and therefore Myend carries no responsibility for the user’s actions.