A helpful guide

Ways to Personalize a Funeral Service

Gone are the days of boilerplate funerals, where the service was the same regardless of who was being honored. Instead, today's funerals and memorial services offer nearly endless options to honor your loved one.

As you begin making plans for a loved one's service, we suggest following these simple four steps:

  1. Gather:
    1. List tangible activities of the deceased: favorite activities or hobbies, favorite sayings, achievements, special events
    2. List the character traits that you will most remember
    3. Talk to family and friends, gathering stories and memories that tell a life story in ways that are most memorable
    4. Remember that it doesn't matter why this person was important to the world; it matters why he or she was important to you, your family and close friends
  2. Meet:
    1. Meet with the clergy or selected person who will officiate at the funeral or memorial service
    2. Include at this meeting anyone whose voice needs to be heard in the planning. Some families delegate this meeting to one or two people; others include a larger gathering so all can participate in the planning.
  3. Plan:
    1. At your meeting, identify special elements you would like to include in the service
    2. Examples include:
      1. Favorite music: two or three selections during the service, though you may be able to include additional selections during the gathering time before the service
      2. Special readings - scripture, poetry, quotations
      3. Involvement of selected individuals: children, grandchildren, friends
      4. Tribute video, featuring images from across a lifetime
      5. Stories or remembrances told by family and friends
      6. Memory table
  4. Celebrate:
    1. Besides the memorial or funeral service, other gathering times may be appropriate for your situation, such as a reception or meal for family and friends
    2. For some individuals, a non-traditional setting may be most appropriate. There is no "right" way; you are free to remember your loved one in the manner that best represent that person's life

Keep in mind...

  1. The location of the service may impact what you can do; some churches, for example, do not allow secular music or pre-recorded music tracks
  2. Some stories may not be appropriate for a funeral setting and would be best saved for a smaller setting or a reception
  3. Most services last less than an hour. If you would like a more extensive celebration, talk to your funeral director about having a separate event that allows greater time flexibility