Losing a loved one is difficult no matter the circumstances, and it’s important that their memorial service reflects the good memories that you shared. When choosing whether to go for a traditional service or alternative arrangements, there are a few things to bear in mind. In this article, we’ve produced a guide to planning a memorial service for a loved one, that will cover the initial planning stages and budget considerations right through to what you need to prepare for the day itself.
Plan The Service In Advance
The first thing to do when planning a memorial service for a loved one is to confirm the specifics as quickly as possible in order to give guests time to plan ahead and yourself time to focus on other preparations. There are a few things that are vital to consider around the service, including:
Timing is another important factor to consider when planning the service. If guests are travelling a long distance to attend, then an afternoon service might make the day run more smoothly. If the venue cannot accommodate an afternoon slot, then you’ll need to relay this to any guests who may struggle to make it on time and as a result may have to arrange accommodation nearby.
When planning a memorial service, choosing the right venue is a key factor, as it will be where family and friends gather to pay their respects to your lost loved one. Comfort is paramount here, and when choosing a venue, it’s important that you feel secure and confident with your decision. It is worth considering multiple venue options and discussing them with friends and family if you’re having difficulty making up your mind.
Consider Alternatives To A Traditional Service
With the cost of funerals in the UK rising year on year, it can be difficult to meet the high prices without breaking the bank. Fortunately, there are some budget-friendly reliable alternatives to a traditional service that you can personalise based on your family circumstances.
One of the most popular cost-effective ways of planning a memorial service is going for a direct cremation, sometimes known as a pure cremation. These simple cremations take place without a funeral service and describe the process of the body being cremated in a lower cost cardboard coffin without a follow-up ceremony. Despite some commentators arguing that direct cremations are less personal, more and more individuals are actually requesting direct cremations as part of their end-of-life plan, as these services are fantastic for those who wish to avoid a fuss being made over their passing or pushing a financial burden onto their loved ones.
Direct cremations also diminish the need for embalming, which averages between £75-£200. They are completed with the body in a cardboard coffin rather than a traditional wooden one, so they provide a helpful way for you to ensure a low cost funeral during this difficult period.
However, despite the lower price point, if you opt for a low cost cremation without a traditional service, you can still hold a memorial to celebrate their life, you just need to get creative. Rather than paying for venue hire, you can host a wake at your home after the cremation. This is a much more intimate way of getting family and friends together and allows people to mourn in an environment where they feel safe and secure.
Whether you go for a traditional funeral service or a direct cremation followed by a personalised memorial, once you’ve made your decision it’s time to invite the guests. Generally, the expectation for funerals, even a low cost funeral, is that those who wish to pay their respects, regardless of their relationship to the deceased, should be welcomed to the event. However, it might be a nice touch to send personalised invitations to those who were closest to your loved one. Often, funeral invitations will be the first confirmation that some guests receive of the person’s death, so it’s crucial that they are worded respectfully.
You can also use funeral invitations to make clear any wishes that the deceased had regarding their memorial arrangements – for example, if they requested as part of their end-of-life plans that they wished to have donations to a specific cause in lieu of flowers, then a note on the invitations serves as the best way to convey this message. If the deceased did not lay out any specific wishes to this nature, it is common for a family member to choose an organisation to receive donations in their memory.
The design of any invitations is also important – remember to add a photograph of the deceased along with their full name, date of birth and death, and a note of thanks to the family and friends who have offered their support during this time. These details will be well received by those who were closest to your loved one and will make the memorial service run seamlessly.
Decide Whether You Need A Professional Caterer
Once you’ve sent the invites and have a rough idea of how many guests will be attending, you can start to make plans for the catering at the memorial service, and this can take many forms. If you opt for a traditional service followed by a wake at a hired venue, or you have a very large funeral party, then you may wish to hire a professional funeral catering team for the event, to streamline the plan and leave you room to concentrate on other areas of the planning. However, if you’re holding the wake at home, or you’re trying to cut back on costs after venue hire, then going self-catered is a fantastic option that is not as stressful as it may seem.
Even professional funeral caterers will often serve a buffet. This may be something that you can gather friends and family together for support, so that the guests closer to your loved one can each bring a different item to set up a table. Items should include sweet and savoury finger food like sandwiches, sausage rolls and cakes, as well as drinks like tea and coffee. By working together, you can create a delicious buffet at a fraction of the cost!
Create A Memory Bank For The Service
Finally, the last thing that you should plan for the memorial service is how you will keep a reminder of the day and the way respects were paid to your loved one. There are a variety of ways that you can do this, either by offering a guestbook for individuals to note down their messages of condolence or their favourite memories with the person or moving online to see what technology can offer to the modern-day memorial service.
A good example of the way the internet can support a memorial service is through social media – a Facebook group dedicated to the memory of the deceased is a wonderful and accessible way for friends and family to join together in posting messages of remembrance and pictures of their times with your loved one.
If you like the idea of a memory bank, but would still prefer a more physical alternative, then a scrapbook is a wonderful way to store pictures and writing snippets, and others can write their own notes in it to represent the life of the deceased. Making a scrapbook also means you’re in for a trip down memory lane, so get the tissues ready and celebrate everything that made your loved one so special!
Planning the ‘right’ memorial service for your loved one will vary between different individuals, but as long as you follow these tips and think closely about how you can make the service special for your friends and family, you’ll be honouring the memory of the deceased in a thoughtful and considerate way. Make sure that you’ve planned extensively in advance, chosen the right venue, and taken the time to reach out to any guests with compassion. That way, you’ll run the perfect memorial service.