When a loved one passes, it’s likely that the more traditional options for memorializing them come to mind first: Arranging a burial, holding a wake and funeral, or organizing a memorial service at a church or funeral home. Yet end-of-life customs are changing, and with the onset of the pandemic, virtual memorials are growing in popularity.
Many people are also looking to host memorial services at home. Coming together in a family home for a memorial service can feel more personal and welcoming than hosting a memorial at a traditional venue like a church or funeral home. If you’re thinking about hosting this type of service, you probably have plenty of questions — and we have plenty of ideas for memorial services at home.
7 tips for hosting an at-home memorial service
1. Send digital invitations
Once you’ve chosen your date, time, and location, use email, social media, or an invitation website to get the word out. This makes it easy for you to track respondents, as well as provide updates if anything changes. If you have the budget, you can also send printed invitations, but it isn’t necessary for an informal memorial service.
2. Provide refreshments
Like a traditional memorial, you’ll need to provide food and drinks for your guests. Appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks like iced tea will do just fine. If you’re on a budget, hosting a potluck is one of the best cheap memorial service ideas. Ask each guest to bring your loved one’s favorite foods — you’ll honor them and stay within your budget.
3. Create a program
Ideas for memorial services at home are typically informal, but you may still choose to include things like eulogies, readings of poems or prayers, a photo or video showing, a moment of silence, or even a butterfly release or tree planting. To keep everything running smoothly, assign a master of ceremonies to lead your service and provide your guests with a program so they know what to expect.
4. Decorate appropriately
At-home memorial services don’t have to be extravagant, but you’ll likely want to decorate a little bit. Personalize your service with your loved one’s favorite flowers or their favorite color. You can also use affordable alternatives like baby’s breath, fabric or tissue paper flowers, and even feathers. Photos, candles, quote boards, or your loved one’s favorite books, sports or college memorabilia, and other keepsakes make great decorations.
5. Save the memories
In addition to decorations, interactive ways to memorialize your loved one are always a good choice. Memory tables, with photos and mementos of the deceased as well as a guest book, are popular. More unique memorial service ideas include memory trees, where each guest hangs a note on the tree’s branches, and memorial stones, where guests write notes on stones so the family can take them home to place in their garden or scatter them in a place that reminds them of their loved one.
6. Build your playlist
Playing soft music creates a serene atmosphere to welcome guests to the memorial service. You can choose to play your loved one’s favorite songs or play relaxing music like classical or new age. As the service continues, your playlist can change to support the activities that are happening. If you can afford it, a quality sound system with multiple speakers and a microphone can be an excellent idea for a memorial service at home.
7. Don’t forget about the logistics
It’s easy to forget about logistics like parking and seating when you’re grieving the loss of your loved one, but those details are important. You may need to ask neighbors if they’ll allow guests to park in their driveways or make it clear that street parking is allowed. If you don’t have enough chairs, you can rent them or ask guests and neighbors if you can borrow theirs. Most people will be happy to oblige.
Remember that at-home memorial services are all about creating an event that not only honors your loved one, but incorporates aspects of their personality and the things they most enjoyed in life. When you keep your loved one front and center in your planning, their memorial service is bound to be personal and memorable.