Group of guests at a forest memorial read a program as they stand at the memorial tree of a loved one. Programs often contain excerpts from obituaries.

10 alternative memorial service ideas

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When it comes to planning a memorial, there are many options to choose from, ranging from traditional to unique. The important thing is to plan something that aligns with your loved one’s wishes and who they were as a person. Start by thinking about what they would like — were they the kind of person who marched to the beat of their own drum and often defied traditional expectations? If so, then perhaps exploring non-traditional memorial service ideas is the best way to properly honor their memory

Nowadays it’s quite common for people to seek out a unique memorial alternative to do instead of a funeral. A good way to memorialize someone is by doing, seeing, or experiencing something they loved. This can help you feel connected to the person and pay tribute to their spirit in a meaningful way. 

10 non-traditional memorial service ideas

1. Backyard barbeque

If you’re looking for simple memorial service ideas, there’s nothing like an intimate barbeque with friends, family, and delicious food. Plan a menu of the deceased’s favorite foods, blast their favorite songs, and play their favorite party games. An informal gathering will keep everyone’s spirits up while you share memories and honor your loved one together by doing something they’d love.

2. Karaoke night

Did your loved one enjoy belting out a hit tune in front of strangers and friends? Arrange a karaoke night and take turns singing all their favorite songs, and share some laughs with friends and family. You can find a local bar that hosts karaoke nights, or you can rent a karaoke machine to sing in private instead. 

3. Group hike 

If your person loved being outdoors, arrange for everyone to go on one of their favorite hikes. Plan to stop and have a picnic and share cherished memories. If your friend or family member wanted to have their ashes scattered outdoors, this could be the time to do that and say goodbye, together. 

A family hikes through a Memorial forest on a fall day when the leaves are turning colors. Their dog and multiple generations of the family are together to honor a loved one.

4. Themed memorial

When it comes to alternative memorial service ideas, going all out with a theme is definitely “non-traditional.” Decorate and plan the menu around something they loved, like a certain movie, sport, or band. Encourage costumes and use the theme as an ice-breaker for sharing memories. 

5. Toast to their life

If your loved one was a regular at a neighborhood bar or a big fan of wine, gather their friends and family to raise a glass in their honor. Host the memorial at their favorite pub, or go on a beer, spirit, or wine-tasting outing and take turns giving toasts to their memory throughout the event. 

6. Root for their team together

If the departed was a big sports fan, celebrate them by going to watch their favorite team play. Have team jerseys made with their last name on the back, and hand out programs to memorial attendees that feature their obituary, photos, and special tributes. 

7. Movie night

Did your loved one obsessively quote a favorite movie? A movie night is a great memorial alternative that helps you connect with the deceased via something they loved. Host a screening either at home or rent out a local movie theatre for a private showing. 

8. Decorate memorial stones

Purchase or gather river rocks, set out markers and paint, and ask memorial attendees to write or draw something that reminds them of the person who passed away. This could be a significant date, a word that describes the person, or a drawing that captures a specific memory. Ask everyone to share the meaning of what they created and encourage them to take the rocks home as a keepsake.

9. Online memorial service

If they had friends and family all over the globe, a virtual memorial service is a good opportunity for everyone to be included. Hosting a memorial service online allows you to easily share photo montages and videos, and people can make speeches and share happy memories from the comfort of their own homes. Read for our tips on how to host a memorial service online

10. Send love through the sky

A popular alternative memorial service idea is to go outside and send your goodbyes into the universe. Some people choose to release butterflies or doves as a symbolic parting, while others release paper lanterns, or arrange a fireworks display. All of these are lovely gestures to say goodbye. 

While it’s common to make memorial plans after a friend or family member has passed, discussing end-of-life plans early eases the burden on the bereaved. Gather your friends and family to discuss end-of-life wishes while everyone is still able to have a say. Everyone should write down their wishes and communicate them with friends and family to ensure they understand — it may feel awkward to talk about, but it’s a kind thing to do for the people you care about.

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