Memorial services are bittersweet events. We are given the opportunity to celebrate the life of someone that we love and care for dearly but are stuck with the reality that they are no longer with us.
Sometimes we may find ourselves in a position of not knowing what they would have wanted in terms of memorial ideas. This article will provide unique memorial service ideas that celebrate life from parents to a husband or wife or even a brother or sister. It will give you ideas on specialized celebrations of your loved ones, from the decorations to games, to grand gestures that honor every unique piece of them like their culture, imagination, values, wishes, purpose, all the way down to their sense of humor.
One of the first decisions that needs to be made is whether you will have a memorial service or a funeral memorial service. Now, this may be a confusing sentence but there is an important difference in regard to funerals and memorial services. For funeral memorials, the bodies or urns with the cremated remains are usually present while that is not expected at a memorial service. There are times when their presence may not be an option though, such as the manner of how a person died. So, whether there will be a funeral or memorial service, there are unique ways that you will be able to honor your loved one.
Another important task is the obituary. Writing obituaries for our loved ones will always be a difficult task. There is a lot of pressure and emotion, and even pain we are experiencing. It is important for us to process these feelings. We want to document the important information and memories but the smallest details are important now because we no longer have the option to create new memories.
Finding the words to best describe the life of our loved one to everyone that picks up the local newspaper is not easy, but it is healing because we get to reflect on all our memories with them. A good idea would be to have a gathering of family and friends and write it together.
Considering obituaries are typically short and sweet, you may be worried that yours could end up being the length of a book. If it does end up being long, you can always format it but it also means that you will have pages filled with moments and memories of your loved one that you can hold in your heart and revisit for reflection over the years to keep your relationship strong with the departed.
The Memorial Tribute
The entire memorial service or funeral is an event to honor a person’s life. We call family and friends to gather and spend time speaking about the one who has passed and the life that they lived. However, sometimes we want to make more of the occasion. Sometimes we want to do a grand, singular act that pays tribute to them.
For those that loved space, naming a star after them would be a beautiful way to memorialize them. It will also put their name down in history. Another way to honor our space-loving ancestors is with the grand act of sending them on a spaceflight. A portion of their ashes will be placed on a rocket and they will be sent into space. Family members will be able to have a memorial on the days leading up to the launch. On launch day, the families can gather at the liftoff site to say their goodbyes and watch as their loved one is sent into space toward locations such as Earth orbit, the Moon, or even deep space.
If space is not an option, a fireworks display could be a beautiful alternative. Fireworks are a perfect addition to any celebration including a celebration of life memorial. This grand gesture is a great way to bring everyone together to watch the night sky light up in honor of your loved one.
A memorial tree is a beautiful way to honor your loved one. This living tribute could provide significant joy, comfort, and hope in the years to come and even touch later generations. A memorial tree is a perfect reason to start a new family tradition. Close family members can join together for an annual memorial service to witness the growth of the tree. They can have a picnic, have a conversation about their loved one or simply enjoy the breeze. You can even have the family do an activity like build wind chimes or other remembrances to hang on the tree. A memorial tree would also be a good place to light remembrance candles for your loved one on special occasions. Even more, planting a memorial tree could help sustain local wildlife such as birds.
A memorial park or memorial gardens are another endearing way to pay tribute to those that have passed, especially the ones that loved nature. They are similar to cemeteries but instead of the traditional headstone, simple markers are placed on the ground in honor of the deceased with their names and the dates of their birth and death. There is a certain peace that can be felt in the silence of these places. This would be an option for those working with a budget but also would like a place to visit their loved one. There is more flexibility in memory gardens than a memorial park as you are able to plant a variety of plants and flowers in a garden while parks are mainly trees. If your loved one enjoyed gardening and if you own your own property, you can also build your own memory garden as a tribute. Some people would even spread the ashes of their loved one in the garden. If you do build your own garden, an important tip to keep in mind is that you may not be able to visit the memorial if the property is sold.
Another way to pay respect to a nature-lover after their passing is to have an eco reef memorial. The process for this involves having their remains placed in a concrete memorial eco reef. The eco reef will then be placed into a body of water such as the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, making your loved one’s final resting place the seafloor. Similar to memorial trees, these memorials create an environment in which marine life is able to thrive.
Since we are living in the digital age, many people have taken to online tributes in addition to in-person memorials. A good place to start would be to create a tribute video. You can request everyone, from a cousin to a parent to family friends to contribute their own pictures or videos and put together a slideshow or video montage in honor of the deceased. To add more of their personality to it, you can include music such as their favorite song in the background. You can then post the videos and slideshows online to a memorial page, whether that is a website or a personal social media page such as FaceBook or Instagram. Another trend is to create a memorial hashtag for your loved one. By clicking on the hashtag, you will be automatically linked to all of the content that is posted in remembrance of your loved one.
The act of releasing something, whether physically or figuratively can be very powerful when processing the loss of a loved one. The floating up toward the sky is symbolic of their departure from the earth and into the universe or heaven. A balloon release is a beautiful way to collectively say goodbye to the deceased. If you do not want to do helium balloons, paper lanterns or sky lanterns are becoming very popular. Lighting a lantern and then releasing it into the night sky is a moment that everyone will be able to treasure for the rest of their lives. A lantern release can also be symbolic of us releasing them. When planning a celebration life memorial like this, we need to take the environment into consideration. Biodegradable balloons are a great alternative to the traditional latex balloons. You will also want to look for paper lanterns that are made from a sustainable resource such as bamboo. If you are concerned about the impact on the environment you have the option of a live release such as a butterfly release. You can choose locations like public parks to release them or if you are worried about a problem occurring, you can release them in your own backyard. Doves are also an option that carry a strong symbolism of peace. If these releases are not options for you, you can always choose a less expensive option, like bubbles for everyone to blow.
A memory capsule is another way to honor your loved one. You can make it a large capsule and place anything that you want in it. You can also make several small capsules that everyone can contribute to. Here are some examples of what you can include: notes from their personal writings like a letter to someone special, letters family and friends have written to them, a bottle of their perfume or cologne, a picture of them and their family and friends, the possibilities are endless.
Planning a trip to your loved ones favorite places is an exciting way to celebrate them. If they liked to travel the world, this could be a great way to feel closer to them as the years pass. You could start the journey in their birth city and work your way through all the places they lived or traveled. If you choose to do a memory capsule, you can bury one in each place that you visit. You could also scatter their ashes, leaving a small piece of them behind in the places that they loved.
If you want everyone to be able to take part, a memory or treasure hunt is an activity that can get everyone involved from children to siblings to friends. You will have to create a search guide with instructions on how to get to all of the locations and you could even provide a story that explains what made the spot special. If the memory or treasure hunt is taking place in a public area, clear communication of the rules or regulations should be noted in the guide to keep people from getting into any trouble with the law.
Depending on the traditions of your loved one, a viking sendoff could be the most honorable memorial you can give them. This option isn’t just for those that practiced Old Norse religion or those seeking to enter Valhalla. This could also be for someone that is considered a warrior, such as a veteran or someone who battled a chronic disease or it could be for someone who simply loved the sea.
For those that are interested in having a more unique funeral service, an ideal venue would be a funeral home. Funeral homes are great choices for a memorial funeral as they will be able to help with a majority of the funeral arrangements and have likely heard many creative funeral ideas. You will work with a funeral director, funeral celebrant or other staff who will be able to answer questions and support you in planning funeral ideas such as offering virtual funeral services or standard services like building funeral programs. Funeral homes also offer procession services for families that plan to bury the body or ashes.
A church would be a good option for those with an interest in a more traditional funeral service. A church funeral home would be able to provide many of the services that funeral homes do. In addition, if your loved one was religious, a church service funeral would be able to take the appropriate steps to ensure their rites (rights) of passage after their death. A church service can also be followed with a procession to an outdoor funeral. Traditionally, an outdoor memorial service funeral would take place at the burial location such as a cemetery where a religious minister would lead the ceremony. The ceremony could have a reading or singing of hymns and finish with a final prayer as the casket or coffin is lowered into the ground. It should be noted that although churches more often offer a more traditional memorial service, there are many churches that would be happy to cater to creative and unique funeral ideas.
If you do not plan on having your loved one present or if a cremation memorial service has been chosen, there is an endless selection of venue options available. One special place to have a life celebration service memorial could be at your home or the home of the person that has passed. A home memorial service is similar to a wake and guaranteed to be filled with the memory of your loved one. This location is ideal for families that are working within a budget. This is also a great place for those interested in virtual memorial ceremonies.
Another great idea for a venue could be a place that your loved one enjoyed to go. This could be their favorite restaurant, a garden, museums, or state or national parks. If the deceased loved beer or wine, you could even hold the memorial service at a brewery or winery. If your loved one was into sports or played a sport, you could hold the memorial at a local baseball field and dress in baseball attire. You could even ask to hold it at their favorite golf course. Depending on your resources, you could even try to hold the memorial at professional sport fields or arenas. If fishing was something that your loved one enjoyed, you can rent boats and spend the day out of the water. Activities like these are certain to bring family and friends closer to their loved one.
Ideas to Include in a Memorial Service
There are many celebration of life ideas out there with themes that can be tailored to create a memorial service that honors our loved ones for the individuals that they were. Here is a list of common elements as well as tips and unique selections you can include at a memorial service.
Memory tables can be found at any celebration, a birthday, a marriage, an anniversary, and even a celebration of life service. A memory table is a perfect way to share your loved one’s life and legacy with all attendees. There are various things that can be placed on a memory table such as their urn, but the goal is to tell their story and capture their essence, everything from their hobbies, interests, values, passions, etc. Here is a small list of examples that you can include on a memory table: a guestbook, a centerpiece such as flowers or an urn, and a memorial photo in a frame, a photo album, or a photo collage. Another way folks have been placing pictures on a balloon and tying them to tables or chairs with string or ribbon, which is a space saver. You can include tags on the balloons with the year on them so people can see their timeline. You can then add some of their personal belongings such as their favorite books, sports jerseys or ball, jewelry, a candle in their favorite smell, a service flag, a favorite outfit, or even pieces from their prized Star Wars collection. There really are endless possibilities for a memory table.
Funeral flowers, also called sympathy flowers, are another staple decor item in life memorial services. Flowers can help with setting the mood and tone for the service. People are able to purchase a variety of different styles, colors, and designs. You can order a personalized arrangement or bouquet of their favorite flower, like roses, in their favorite color from a florist. Whatever theme that has been chosen, there many ways that you can display the flowers for viewing. You can place them in a large vase in the center of the room. You can separate them into smaller portions and place them into something small like a mason jar throughout the room. If there is a large amount, you can place them in a pot that is near the entry and exit door. There are things that you can do with the flowers after the service. You can press and add them to a memory book or a locket creating a necklace keepsake. Depending on your style, you can also create beads from the flowers to make jewelry with. You can dry the flowers and place them in ornaments to give as Christmas gifts.
In lieu of flowers, guests could be asked to donate to the deceased’s favorite charity, organization, or even a scholarship fund. If your loved one didn’t have a favorite charity, you can research and provide guests with a general outline of the types of organizations that your loved one may have chosen to donate to themselves. For example, if your loved one had pets throughout their life, you could ask people to make a donation or donations to organizations that work with animals. You can put this information in the invitation as well as the plans to announce the amount of funds that have been donated in honor of your loved one at the memorial service or online.
Another personalized addition you can have is a quote board. This board, such as a chalkboard or canvas, can have your loved one’s favorite quote or motto written on it. You can also choose to write a quote that they were known to always say with their name signed at the bottom. You can even leave spaces where family and friends can add additional quotes or sayings that they may find meaningful.
Many standard memorial services will offer food and beverages at the reception. To send their condolences, everyone from neighbors to colleagues from the office could send dishes for the family to have at a gathering or for dinner. A unique twist to this would be to offer a menu of your loved one’s favorite foods. If your loved one had a talent for cooking and kept a recipe book then serving a meal that they were famous for such as the most decadent cupcakes your grandmother would make, is a sure way to touch the hearts of those in attendance. You could also serve an individual dish in which your loved one was the inspiration for, like a coffee cake for your aunt who would always drink coffee. Food has a certain power, so adding touches of their charm to any creations in the kitchen could help us with feeling closer to those that have passed.
Allowing guests to contribute to the memorial service is a great way to honor our loved ones while also providing closure to those wanting to say goodbye. A memory guest book is a simple way for guests to share how the deceased played a role in their life. You can place signs on the entrance doors or next to the book asking them to share their name and a memory they have of the person who has passed. Sharing memories is a great way for us to be able to experience new parts of our loved ones. If sharing a memory is too hard, you could always suggest that they share messages instead.
Memorial stones are another addition to make the service special. For this, you will need to have a variety of rocks that are smooth and large enough for people to be able to write a note on. You can give guests the choice of writing whatever they like or you can set guidelines such as a special memory, blessings, prayers, a message or simply have them sign their names on it. Another thing you can do is create cairns with the memory stones. The building of cairns takes patience while placing each rock carefully and can be used as a time to reflect on our loved one’s life.
A combination of memory stones and thank you cards, memory cards are a great experience that gives friends and family a chance to share memories, stories, or even give thanks to the person that has passed away. If your loved one was religious, you have the choice to do prayer cards instead where guests write down their prayers for the deceased, their family members, or other relatives.
You can ask family members and other guests to bring a photograph or photographs to the memorial service for them to display and share with others. A daughter could bring the photo of her and her father dancing at her wedding or a son with his mother. A friend could bring in photos of them as kids. A colleague from their job can bring a picture of them getting an achievement in their office. With these pictures, family and friends will be able to see their loved one’s life displayed over the years. Gathering pictures from many people will be able to better capture how they loved life from all different perspectives.These pictures could also be added to a video or slide show that can be presented at the memorial or placed online.
Another way to make the memorial special is to give guests mementos or keepsakes that they can take home. This can be something small like a pin or button with their picture on it, charms, or trinkets like a small heart that can be placed on necklaces or bracelets. It could be a package of mementos that includes things such as a pack of their favorite candy bar along with their favorite movie. You could include pencils and a notebook for them to write down things they want to remember about the person. You can even provide guests with a fun fact card about your loved one that could guarantee a smile or some laughter. A memento that costs very little that can be sent home with guests are copies of the obituary. The obituary could even be printed on the program to reduce the amount of paper being used. Another low cost memento could be seeds to plant a tree or flowers in honor of the person who passed. Giving away certains objects from your loved one’s collections is a great way for guests to have a special memento. People are also having things like a shirt with a memorial photo or hats and wristbands made to give to friends and family. The wristbands are customizable and can have anything written on them, such as the person’s name and the dates that they were born and died. There are many types of mementos to choose from and whether they are custom made or products from Amazon, your guests will appreciate the token that you have chosen to represent the spirit of your loved one.
Having a stage with a microphone is a great addition to a memorial service. Preparing and sharing a speech such as a eulogy gives mourners an opportunity to talk about how the deceased impacted their lives. Funeral poems would also be a special addition. Readings from a poem can be a beautiful way for a speaker to express their emotions, thoughts, and grief in a safe space among those that are sharing their pain. Depending on your family member, like if music were one of their passions, a dance party with their favorite songs or playlist may be an appropriate use of the stage and speakers after the eulogies and memory speeches are completed. You could even hire a DJ or a band with instruments that provides live music . The audience would be able to provide the musicians with special requests.
Playing your loved ones favorite game is another way to pay tribute to them. If your loved one didn’t have a favorite game, another thing you could do is play an ice breaker game at their memorial. You can ask things such as “When mom was a child, what were her goals for when she grew up?” or “What did dad desire in life?” or “What were your favorite recipes that grandma would make?” There are lots of questions that you can ask that will help bring friends and family closer to the one who has parted.
A fabric memory wreath is a simple memorial idea that will allow everyone to contribute while also repurposing your loved ones clothes. You can gather your loved one’s old shirts, cut them into strips, and tie them around a circle or loop to create this unique keepsake. Depending on how many articles of old, undonatable clothes there are, you can plan several projects where you create small wreaths or a larger wreath with friends and family members. The wreaths can have all different fabric, colors and patterns. Another suggestion is to create a quilt with the clothing of your loved one.
You can also commission an artist to create a memorial painting of your loved one. Having a painted portrait of your grandfather when he was young or your spouse at your wedding is a one-of-a-kind gift that you can give or receive. There are professionals that can also do live paintings in which they bring in an easel and canvas to paint the portrait during the memorial service.
As you can see, there are lots of unique memorial service ideas for our loved one. We can choose to honor them with something as spectacular as a spaceflight. Or something as simple as an in-home memorial service where you gather around and play a beloved board game.
No matter how our celebration of life pans out, there are many options to make it a personal, unique, and intimate experience that all will cherish for years to come.
When Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols died in late July at age 89, she was lauded as the trailblazer she was during her lifetime. However, her story is far from over. In early 2023, she will fly alongside the DNA of her son, Kyle Johnson, aboard Celestis’ Enterprise Flight. In addition, the Nichelle Nichols Foundation – announced today, on what would have been her 90th birthday – will continue to promote diversity in STEM fields.By Celestis on 12/28/2022
Why did Celestis' Director of Content, Emily Carney, purchase her own Celestis MindFile™? The answer is not as apparent as it might seem.By Emily Carney on 11/25/2022