How to Plan a Memorial Service for Your Loved One

How to Plan a Memorial Service for Your Loved One

When a loved one passes, it’s hard to think straight, let alone plan a funeral or memorial. Even when the deceased organizes their own funeral before passing, conducting the actual celebration is typically left to survivors. In this blog post, we’ll take you through the steps to help you plan a memorial service, whether in-person or remote.

Take a breath before choosing the date

Unlike most funeral services, a memorial service can take place at any time following the death, especially when the deceased chooses cremation. That can be a comfort to those too paralyzed by grief to make immediate plans. Find a convenient date for the attendees, but also good for you. You might choose a date or season that best represents the deceased. Did they love the Summer or Spring flowers? Were they Autumn leaf peepers or Winter skiers?

Choose a budget

Perhaps the deceased left a budget for a memorial, or maybe it’s coming out of your pocket. Be sure your budget takes the venue, officiant, decorations, and food into account. Memorials don’t have to be expensive. There’s no shame in an at-home potluck or no-cost virtual service.

Plan the type and location of the memorial service

There are no rules for memorial services. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with “funeral,” but more broadly, it describes a time when people get together to share memories.

Memorial services can be religious or secular. They can be held indoors or outdoors, at the gravesite, in a church, in a home, or even at a bar. Some memorial services, often called a “celebration of life,” feel more like parties than funerals. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote or hybrid memorials have also gained popularity.

The most important thing is to consider the deceased; how would they want to be remembered?

Create a guest list

Invite everyone close with the deceased. Today that might include family, friends, and coworkers, but it might also include social media friends and followers. In fact, a dedicated Facebook or Instagram page is a great way to reach a wide number of people.


A printed or online program should include the ceremony’s details, including times, speaking order, music, etc. It should also include a personal tribute to the deceased, with pictures and/or videos.


Display pictures, flowers, or anything the deceased would have wanted. If they were cremated, prominently display the urn that holds the ashes. Oaktree offers a wide selection of handcrafted urns and memorials for cremated remains that highlight individuality and complement any home décor.


Some services include a formal eulogy, delivered by clergy or someone close to the deceased. Others simply ask that people share life memories.


Play music that was meaningful to the deceased. Creating a playlist on Spotify with family and friends of the decedent's favorite songs can be a beautiful way to honor their life.


Memorial attendees often want to help. Asking them to bring refreshments is an excellent way to help manage costs while making guests feel useful.

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