10 Things to Think About When Planning a Funeral Service After COVID Lockdown

If your loved one died during the era of COVID-19, you’ve been through an especially challenging time. Losing someone is difficult, but losing someone with restrictions on gathering and travel was likely something you’d never imagined.

The inability to hold the kind of service that your loved one wanted or that you felt conveyed the proper dignity may have added to your grief. However, with restrictions lifting, there are new possibilities—and with extra time to plan every detail (and every safety measure)—something extraordinary can take place.

A Celebration of Remembrance is a funeral or memorial service that takes place weeks or months after it normally would. Unlike a traditional funeral, the body of your loved one likely won't be present. But the event still serves the same purpose: to honor your loved one's memory, surrounded by family and friends, following the traditions and rituals you hold dear.

We're here to help you plan the celebration of a lifetime. Here are a few things to consider as you get started.

1. The day that wasn’t—but can be

Think about your loved one’s funeral wishes. Maybe you’d discussed it. Maybe it was written down. With COVID restrictions lifting, it will be easier to carry out those wishes. If you’re not sure what your loved one wanted, think about his or her perfect day—all the people, places and things that made his or her heart sing. We’ll use those ideas as inspiration for a deeply personal memorial.

2. Your comfort level

It’s more important than ever that you feel safe and at ease. Let your comfort level guide your planning. Here’s what our families tell us are the most important considerations:

  • Timing. Are you comfortable having a service in the next couple of weeks or would you rather wait a little longer? Is there a phased opening plan from your state or local government to consider?
  • Size of gathering. Are you comfortable planning a large gathering now or would you rather keep the celebration on the smaller side regardless of the timing? Government restrictions may halve the usual capacity of inside venues.
  • Inside or outside. Do you feel confident about an indoor gathering with appropriate social distancing, or do you want to plan an outdoor event where shared space is less of a concern? Many modern funeral homes offer both types of spaces, while graveside ceremonies can be held outdoors at any time.

Olinger Chapel Hill Mortuary & Cemetery

3. COVID precautions

At Dignity Memorial®, we are committed to honoring your loved one in any way possible. And we will ensure you and your guests feel safe conducting services with us.

Each Dignity Memorial location has implemented rigorous health and safety procedures that exceed local, state, provincial and CDC guidelines. Some things will be yours to decide, such as whether you want to ask guests to wear masks. Handshakes and hugs are also your call. As the host, you set the parameters for the day.

Read about contactless ways to greet others, instead of a handshake.

woman wearing a mask reading a book outside

Ready to get started?

Speak with a Dignity Memorial planning advisor today.

4. A date

traditional funeral service usually takes place within a few days after a loved one’s death. Even cremation memorials are often held within days or weeks of cremation. With a Celebration of Remembrance, you can choose any future date.

Tying the funeral to another upcoming event, like a birthday, anniversary or holiday, adds an extra element to the celebration. This also allows you to take advantage of a time distant relatives usually gather together. In some faiths, there is an unveiling ceremony after the cemetery marker is installed, usually about three months after the burial. Your funeral arranger can help you pencil in the right date—contact us so we can help.

5. Your guests

You may wonder if people will come to a funeral held months after a death. Many will. In fact, there are likely a number of your loved one’s friends and family who both need and want the opportunity to share their cherished memories with you and others in order to continue processing their grief. It’s also likely that you need that, too.

Some, especially the elderly and immunocompromised, will not feel ready to gather with a group, and that’s OK. Or they may find difficulty in traveling long distances to the service. You don’t have to host a big service for a service to have big meaning, and livestreaming or video-calling the people who cannot be present in person is still an option.

Learn more about live-streamed funeral etiquette.

senior couple at home in the kitchen watching a live stream on their laptop


Dealing with the death of a loved one is always traumatic especially during this pandemic, but Babione Funeral home was with me every step of the way to make it as less stressful as possible. And since I was in a different state than where my mother in law passed and was buried, I still got to see her entombment live through their live-stream!

—Barbara S., Boca Raton, FL


6. The location

Social distancing is important to preventing the spread of COVID, so you’ll want to choose a location with plenty of space for the number of guests you expect. With local regulations mandating limited capacity of indoor spaces, you may find your funeral home spaces out chairs or blocks off every other pew to ensure appropriate distances are maintained.

Funeral homes are experienced with groups of all sizes, and one with a sizable chapel or a flexible reception space is a great choice. Still, some people may not be comfortable with an indoor event even months from now. If that’s you and your family and friends, let us help you plan an outdoor event.

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Even for families who haven't chosen a permanent resting place for their loved ones, cemeteries can offer a serene, park-like setting to honor their memories. Some cemeteries offer outdoor covered areas in addition to shaded spaces under trees and expansive gardens for tents.

Funeral homes also have outdoor spaces for gatherings. Some funeral homes have outdoor reception areas custom made for celebrations of life. Others can use lawn space combined with tables and umbrellas or canopies and tents to make for a comfortable outdoor event. If you’re thinking of an event at the beach or lake, a golf course or winery, or any other outdoor venue, we can get permissions and permits. 

Pavilion at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens.
Tower of Memories | Premium reception venue at Olinger Funeral, Cremation & Cemetery - Crown Hill

7. Updated obituary and invitations

Invitations aren’t part of traditional funeral planning, but they are critical for informing guests not only about the date and location of a Celebration of Remembrance but also of any COVID precautions that you’d like to observe at the event. For an informal celebration, digital invitations can be emailed and shared on social media. A more formal occasion may call for custom paper invites mailed to people’s homes. Your funeral arranger can help you with either option, and he or she can make phone calls or send reminder texts.

Also, don't forget to update the service details on your Dignity Memorial obituary. Family and friends who signed up for notifications will automatically get an email when service details are added.

8. A video tribute

If your loved one was cremated, you may have the ashes present at the memorial, but that’s not necessarily the case. If a loved one’s ashes or body has been buried or entombed, a well-producedvideo tribute is key. When you play the video tribute is also important.

With plenty of time to plan, you can carefully select the photos and footage that best tell your loved one’s story and choose the perfect music to tie it all together. Though often a slideshow tribute is displayed before and after a funeral, at a Celebration of Remembrance, you’ll want to set a dedicated time for the video tribute, so that everyone can give it their undivided attention. As an alternative or an addition, a large, framed photo print can stand in for your loved one when proudly displayed at the front of the room.

A framed portrait sits among candles, flowers and customized take-away pencils.


The accommodations that [Dugan Kramer] made for my family were perfect in every way, despite the restrictions relating to Covid19. My husband looked so handsome and so much at peace. The video you created was so beautiful. You went that extra mile to print out his picture cards with a prayer in the back. WOW! I will never forget the kindness, care, attention and the dignity you gave to our family.

—Rosie C., Scottsbluff, NE


9. The decor and more

Great events start with a theme, and great themes are developed by focusing on the senses. Think about your loved one’s favorite music, foods, colors, passions. We will use those to inform a theme that drives design, and we will incorporate COVID precautions where appropriate. For example, a catered event may include serving stations instead of a buffet.

Read about planning a memorable memorial.

A table of food and beverages at a tailgate celebration.

10. Creating a lasting legacy—and a tradition for generations to come

A Celebration of Remembrance marks the end of a life. It can also be the beginning of a beautiful new family tradition. Within the funeral, consider having a short ceremony that can be repeated every year on the same day. A champagne toast at a sunrise brunch, a special poem or prayer before a picnic lunch, or a candle lighting ceremony after dinner are all moments that can be used to create a lasting legacy and keep memories of loved ones lost alive across generations.

people toasting in celebration of remembrance at a picnic table outdoors at night

In-person or remote planning

We offer multiple options for arrangements and services, including:

  • In-person arrangements and pre-planning consultations at the location or your home
  • Phone, email and web remote arrangements
  • Complimentary live-streamed funeral and graveside services
  • In-person or no-contact cemetery visitation and tours

Contact us and we'll make your arrangements in whatever way feels right to you.