The Complete and Ultimate Guide to a Memorial Service

Everything you need to need-to-know, think-about and plan for a successful Memorial Service.

This Guide is so big about organizing a Memorial Service, if we created it as one long page, it would take-forever to load on you mobile, tablet or PC .  As a result, we have split the Guide into several bite-size chunks. This guide is well over 25,000 words long!  As a comparison, the average fiction novel starts at around 30,000 words.

How high?

Memorial Service - complicated or simple by Arek Socha

Organizing a Memorial Service can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Memorial Services can be as big or as small as you would like it to be (simple or multi-layered). It can seem daunting if not tackled in a logical and structured way.  This Guide is here to help  as I am here for you too.

This guide is only a taster of what is possible and contains a great many ideas, suggestions along with what one needs to think about and ultimately do.

I am here as a Funeral and Memorial Service Celebrant to help and guide you; to take away the stress and create the memorial Service you want.

Having someone who has ‘done this before’ is half the battle.  There is no need to struggle trying to think of everything or even worry about organizing ‘everything’ yourself. With this Guide and me helping every step of the way, the Memorial Service will be exactly as you want it.

Let’s get started.

The Memorial Service - The BASICS

When do Memorial Services take place?

Memorial services take place after a Direct Cremation, Flame Cremation, Water Cremation (Eco/Green funeral) or Burial (Cemetery, Natural Burial Ground and other places).  The timescale of when it can take place is very flexible.  It can be planned and take place weeks, or even months after the cremation or burial.

When is the best time to hold a Memorial Service?

The key to a successful, joyful, and wonderful Service is down to you and your feelings.  When YOU feel it is the right time to have the service, that is when it will be perfect, and everything will come together (with me to lean on, give advice, suggest things and generally help if you wish).

What are the benefits of a Memorial Service?

There are many benefits from holding a Memorial Service. For some people, a Memorial Service is just the Closure they need.  The Memorial Service allows you to say what you want to say, do what you want to do and gives the freedom and feeling once the service is over, to move on with life. You have done all you can and you have done it well.

Just like a Baptism, a Birthday or even a Wedding they are all rituals we need. Rituals bind us all together as humans. It is what makes or, differentiates us as human beings.  A 30-minute Crematorium service for some may be fine and all they need to grieve.  For many other people a longer tribute is needed to express or show our love, our beliefs, thoughts and close feelings for, and about the person who has passed away.

A Memorial Service shows our values and thoughts about the person that has passed away.  It provides a support mechanism for all the mourners - not just wives, husbands, family members and so forth. 

A Memorial Service holds a much wider meaning for people such as colleagues, friends, admirers, acquaintances and so forth.  As social beings, the loss of someone close can be absolutely devastating. A Memorial Services takes place sometime after the initial shock of the loss of someone close. The planning, the organizing, the remembering and collating of 'things' can all play an important part in moving on with life.

This is such a huge topic, there will be more articles, resources, references and links later.

Are there any time constraints on a Memorial Service?

At the Crematorium, a 30-minute service for most people is not long enough to do and say what they want to say.  A separate Memorial Service can be 30-minutes in length, but is generally or usually longer. Some venues may put a time-limit on the hire or use of the venue - this is purely logistics and can be over come if need be.

A Memorial Service can be deeply moving and be difficult emotionally for you - you may wish the service never to end.  For a number of other guests/attendees this may not be the case.  Careful timings, content and what is appropriate to 'say and do',  must be planned and thought about.

As a Funeral Celebrant, many people ask me, 'How can I say everything about him in 30 minutes?' Although the allotted time for a Crematorium Service is 30-minutes, in reality the Eulogy is the main stay of the service; the life of the person passed away and is only 5 to 10 minutes long.  The rest of the service is taken-up by music, poetry, readings and even short  spoken tributes. A Memorial Service allows YOU to tailor the goodbye, the Celebration and others to take part if they wish in a time scale YOU think is appropriate and feels comfortable.

It's a Life Party

Memorial services do not have to be a formal, stuffy, or deeply sombre event as they have seen to be in the past.  These days services reflect the person that has passed away.  There is no one-hat-fits-all scenario and thus can follow-on from the idea of a Celebration of Life service you may have had at the Crematorium.

You may have had a Wake, but here,  I like to create what I call, a Life Party.  A Celebration of Life Service at a Crematorium can be very difficult because of, for example:

  • The Crematorium - an unfamiliar and uncomfortable venue for some.
  • The knowledge of what is going to happen after the Catafalque curtains  are closed.
  • The ambiance and setting of the Chapel.
  • On colder days, everyone is wearing rainwear or raincoats.
  • The Crematorium is a formal and can be a stark setting.
  • Not overly inducive for smiling or celebrating.
  • Seeing mourners leave from the previous service.

A Memorial Service sounds likle a 'Grand Affair'

We are still using terminology from the Victorian era – ‘Memorial Service’.  It is only now (in the last few years) that terms and ideas are changing. Anyone can have or organize a Memorial Service: from any walk-of-life, no matter how rich or poor.  It does not have to be an expensive event, happening or gathering.  

A Memorial Service can be DIY with friends and family helping to save on costs; to make it more of a family, personal gathering.  On the opposite side of the coin, it can be a lavish affair with hundreds if not thousands of pounds spent. There is no minimum or maximum budget to be spent. A Memorial Service is NOT about how much you spend. It is all about doing what is right, what is comfortable for you and what is fitting.

BUDGET - What Do You Want To Spend?

Most people do not know what they want to spend or even know how much they have personally got (in their bank account) to spend on a Memorial Service. This is fine and perfectly normal. This should not be embarrassing or something to ignore. Money should not be a stumbling block to having a  Memorial Service for a loved one.  There are ways around almost everything!

Before embarking on a Memorial Service, glance through this Guide and especially the sections that most interest you or, sections you are most concerned about .  The Guide is long and covers most things – not everything (because their are so many different options, ideas and ways you could organize a Memorial Service).  Give me a call and I can outline things to be done based on what you tell me. There is no charge for an initial conversation what-so-ever.

Let's move on to some logistical aspects and things to think about...


Let's move on to SECTION TWO - The Logistics


Sections to The Ultimate and Complete Memorial Service Guide:

Section ONE - The Basics
Section TWO - The Logistics
Section THREE - The Room
Section FOUR - Equipment
Section FIVE - The Bar
Section SIX - Catering and Food
Section SEVEN - The Invitation
Section EIGHT - The Service
Section NINE - Decorations
Section TEN - Give-away, Take-Aways and Afterwards
Section ELEVEN - Memorial Service Summary