Funeral & Memorial Service Ideas

Each of us is unique and deserves to be remembered in a special way. A funeral or memorial service can be a tribute that truly reflects the life it commemorates. Some people live big, bold lives and want big, bold end-of-life celebrations. Others wish for quiet ceremonies with little fanfare.

It's important to honor the wishes of each person, and that can mean personal touches that create a meaningful and lasting remembrance for family members and friends who attend the service.

How do I customize a funeral?

Including meaningful reflections of your or your loved one’s personality in a service makes it a one-of-a-kind celebration. Ideas for a customized funeral or memorial service could include a favorite song or style of music played, a favorite color worn by attendees, special food served after the service or mementos provided as tokens of remembrance. Options are limited only by your imagination, and even the most traditional service can be customized to reflect a personality and passion.

 A group of men sitting in the back of a pick-up truck share stories.

Outdoor memorial service ideas

A picnic, a barbecue, an evening under the stars. Some events naturally lend themselves to being held outside, but families plan all kinds of funerals and celebrations outdoors. They're generally more casual affairs, but this doesn't have to be the case. A cattle drive for a rancher can be as low-key as it comes, while a rooftop dinner for a socialite may call for only the finest of everything. Everything depends on the person, and more and more funeral homes are offering outdoor venues.

Cremation scattering ceremonies are also outdoor events. Though a family might opt for a cremation memorial indoors, scattering a loved one's ashes generally takes place outside. A family may take a hike to a favorite forest spot or to the top of a mountain to share a few moments and say goodbye. Some families hire a boat for a scattering at sea. Others may gather on the bank of a lake or stream.


Graveside memorial service ideas

Another outdoor option, the graveside memorial service takes friends and family right to the cemetery to say goodbye.

Though many people plan the decor and speeches at a funeral, unique and personal touches can be incorporated at the gravesite as well, starting with the funeral procession. An avid cyclist, for example, might like riding club friends to escort the procession across town, while a musician might choose a band to lead the way from a chapel to the nearby cemetery.

Once everyone has arrived at the cemetery, music reflecting a loved one's culture, heritage or passion could be performed or played. A mariachi band brings festive energy. A lone bagpiper can be deeply moving. A funeral for a veteran can include a military salute and the playing of Taps.

Some families incorporate a symbolic gesture associated with their beliefs. Releasing butterflies or doves or blowing bubbles is a way to represent a person's spirit being released from their body.

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Imagine funeral planning differently

A funeral or memorial service should be a one-of-a-kind celebration. Everyone has their own unique story. How do you want to tell yours? Imagine is a book full of ideas for creating a beautiful and unforgettable remembrance for yourself or a loved one. Download Imagine to begin planning an unforgettable tribute today.


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Home memorial service ideas

Most funerals in North America today take place at a funeral home or house of worship. That wasn't always the case, however. Until the 1860s, funerals were mostly held at the homes of families who'd lost loved ones. This changed after the Civil War, but there are modern families who want to hold their loved one's service at home. This may be a matter of comfort or a matter of cost. As the saying goes: Home is where the heart is—and home may be just the place a family wants to welcome friends and relatives in a time of grief.

A memorial service at home can be a simple event with a potluck of favorite foods, or it could be a catered event complete with cleanup, so the family doesn't have to concern themselves with anything other than being with those they love. A few decorations can make a backyard celebration of life special. Such an event could include the planting of a tree or garden in honor of the recently departed loved one.

A home memorial can include many of the personalized details a service elsewhere would. Show a tribute video on the flat-screen, have friends tell touching stories, hold a candle-lighting ceremony, display the loved one's personal treasures and share a few hours remembering a special person.

Special touches for any service

Attire. Think about the favorite color of your loved one—or your favorite color if planning ahead. Consider asking funeral guests to wear that color as a tribute in lieu of traditional black. The type of clothing worn is another idea. Friends of a horse-racing enthusiast could wear Derby-style hats. Jerseys, T-shirts and colors of a beloved sports team are also a way to personalize a service. Requests for certain attire can be made in the online obituary, along with details of the service time and location.

Charitable giving. Some families prefer that friends and family donate time or money to a favorite charity in lieu of sending flowers. It could be a church, a homeless mission, a humanitarian outreach or a pet rescue, just to name a few.

Mementos of yellow packet of seeds

Decor and keepsakes. Any interest, hobby or favorite place or thing can be an idea or inspiration for personalizing a funeral or memorial service. From cooking to traveling, running to reading, acting to origami, there are endless ways to tell special stories. Start by choosing a theme to inspire decor that reflects a passion and personality. Take it to the next level with favors or keepsakes for guests.

For a golfing enthusiast, bring in his or her golf bag—clubs and all—and hand out personalized golf balls to guests. Place a world-class quilter’s cherished work on display. Let family members choose a blanket to take home. If gardening was a passion, decorate the service with flowers and plants, and hand out personalized seed packets for guests to take home in remembrance. These are only a few ideas.

Flowers. Flowers have special meaning. Bouquets of a favorite flower can be placed throughout the service area and a bloom can be given to each guest as a special memento. Pallbearers can wear boutonnieres or place flowers in their hair. Flowers can be displayed in a way that carries out a theme as well—think floral arrangements in teapots, watering cans, cowboy boots, coffee cups and more. As an alternative to flowers, display arrangements of other greenery or fresh fruits or vegetables.

Catering display at Crist Mortuary & Cremation & Mountain View Memorial Park

Food. Many Dignity Memorial locations offer catering services. A menu that reflects your loved one’s passion for cooking or a favorite cuisine sets a special tone for those who gather to remember. This could range from light hors d’oeuvres to a buffet to a sit-down meal with table service. If you or your loved one had a special sauce or a beloved cookie recipe, share it with your Dignity Memorial professional and incorporate it into the menu or use it to make takeaway mementos. Favorite foods can also even be served on someone’s treasured dishes.

Eulogy. As you share stories and memories about yourself or your family member, you offer your Dignity Memorial professional an important glimpse into personal qualities, interests and personality. The moments that stand out for you or the things you remember about someone can often be incorporated into the service to become poignant pieces of a eulogy.

Music. Music can evoke memories of special times. If you're planning a funeral ahead of time, think about songs that are meaningful to you. Write them down in your planning guide and share them with your family and a funeral planning professional to ensure your wishes are known.

If you're planning a funeral for a friend or family member, think about a song he or she always hummed when happy or sang in the shower. Did he have a favorite band? Did she identify with a certain singer? Our funeral planning professionals can help create a custom playlist or organize live musicians to play at the service. We have a list of popular celebration of life songs to get you started.

We're here to help

Planning a special celebration for a loved one—or for yourself before the time of need—is easier with the help of a funeral planning professional. Start with your memories, stories and ideas to begin creating a unique tribute. Personalizing a service or memorial can mean adding small details to a traditional event or creating a more elaborate affair. Whatever your preference, Dignity Memorial® professionals are here to help you design a personalized service that will leave an indelible mark on the hearts of family and friends. Offerings vary by location, so be sure to discuss your desires with your planner.