During the pandemic, many activities moved online. Remote work skyrocketed. Friend groups hosted online game nights instead of getting together in person. Older adults learned how to use Zoom and Skype to talk to family and even attend doctor’s appointments. Along with fun outings and necessary appointments, many people also attended virtual memorial services when pandemic guidelines kept them from being with their loved ones in person.
Now that we’re beginning to come out the other side of the pandemic, however, we’re seeing that digital memorials for loved ones may be here to stay. They’re often convenient for friends and family members who live far away and can’t make a funeral, but who still want to participate in a memorial. They’re affordable, as you don’t have to worry about seating, refreshments, and parking, which can be a plus for those on a budget. Virtual memorial services are easy to organize and they can be personalized to be anything you want them to be, just like traditional memorial service ideas. So where do you begin?
8 tips for hosting an online memorial service
Below we've added some advice for hosting your own virtual memorial service.
1. Choose your platform
Zoom and Skype are two popular platforms for virtual memorial services, although the free accounts do have limitations. For example, Zoom is only free for 40 minutes and up to 100 people. With the ability to present slideshows and videos, create virtual backgrounds, and send virtual invitations, it could be worth it to get a paid account for this occasion. There are also companies you can hire who will host the service for you so that you don’t have to worry about the technical details.
2. Create an event page
To personalize your event, it’s always nice to have an event page. A quick internet search will help you find a platform that will allow you to host an online memorial. Include information like the date and time, attendance link, and an itinerary, so people know what to expect. You can allow people to post photos or stories as well, turning it into a memorial “wall.” This website should also contain the obituary and any last wishes such as where to send donations or gifts in remembrance, all in one place.
3. Send the invitations
There are many options for sending out the details of the online memorial service, including creating a social media event or group or using a virtual invitation website. These have the advantage that you can easily update information if anything changes, for example, the attendance link. However, you may want to use multiple methods for sending invitations to ensure that you reach everyone you’d like to invite, including sending invitations through the mail or by email.
4. Explore tools
A virtual memorial service is an ideal opportunity to share a slideshow or a video montage, and there are plenty of tools to help you do it. Animoto, Vimeo, and Adobe all offer easy and free ways to make video slideshows. Or use a tool like Tribute to collect videos from friends and family and stitch them together into a video commemorating a life well-lived. Provide the slideshow or video in a downloadable form as a takeaway for memorial attendees.
5. Organize speakers
Storytelling about your loved one is always a special part of a memorial service, and you should organize it the same way for an online memorial as you would in person. You’ll want to make sure that each speaker tells a different, yet related story, and that they’re told in an order that makes sense and ultimately presents a holistic view of your loved one’s legacy. Make sure each speaker knows the order they are speaking in — you can even record their speeches ahead of time to ensure everything goes smoothly.
6. Have a live activity
One difficult part of virtual memorial services is to ensure that guests don’t feel isolated and alone, but rather engaged. Plan a few live activities throughout the service, such as lighting candles, enjoying a meal together, having children or grandchildren sing a song or perform a dance, sharing scenes from their favorite movie or lines from their favorite poem, or any number of other special activities to help you remember your loved one.
7. Share memories
When your scheduled activities and speakers are done, open the floor to anyone who would like to share a memory. Ask that people share using the chat function, then have a moderator read the stories aloud. Or, create an organized, inclusive activity, for example asking everyone to share one word in the chat that perfectly describes the deceased. Assign someone to read them aloud or to create a collage on the screen.
8. Include a reception
When the scheduled portion of your virtual memorial service is complete, leave time at the end for people to linger and mingle just as they would in real life. You can even use breakout groups to create smaller, more intimate circles for sharing memories and toasting your loved one. Do put a time limit on your reception, but don’t make people feel rushed to leave.
Whether you’re planning a memorial for yourself, or a loved one has recently passed, online memorial services can be an excellent option. With these expert tips, you can host a digital memorial for loved ones that is personalized and modern.