Preparing for a Memorial Service

Traditionally there were specific lines of distinction between a funeral service and a memorial service. Funeral services were held at the church or funeral home with the casket present, while memorial services were held elsewhere without the casket present. Memorial services may include many of the same things as funerals, but are flavored more specifically for the special crowd gathered. Today the lines are not as distinct and the casket may be present.

In preparing for a memorial service, you are planning an event that will not only honor the deceased but will help many make strides as they progress through the grieving process. This article, “Essentials: Preparing for a Memorial Service” corresponds with the Checklist “Preparing for a Memorial Service.”

Here are some things you may want to include in planning the memorial service.

Choose someone to be the conductor or master of the ceremony. Because many different people may be asked to read a Scripture, offer a prayer, or present a eulogy, the service can be better tied together if someone serves to conduct the service. It is often nice to have this person introduce the people by not only telling the name, but giving a brief explanation of how this person was connected to the deceased.

If the casket is going to be present, select pallbearers to carry or escort it. Prepare for this in advance, rather than trying to find six people just before the service gets started.

Decide what music will be used during the service. Some of the musicians may have special songs that they want to offer in tribute to the deceased. If they do not, select meaningful songs that connected at various times to the life of the deceased.

Decide what special flavor (religious, fraternal, military, etc.) the service should have. Secure representatives from those groups to give the service a more personal touch. Remember that the memorial service is usually shorter than the funeral service. Ask the representatives how long they anticipate their portion will be so that you can plan the service accordingly.

Select people to deliver the eulogies. The eulogy is a vital and integral part of a funeral or memorial service. Deciding who should give the eulogy is an important decision. The person does not have to be the best speaker in the world, but one who is comfortable speaking under emotion and pressure. It should be someone who was well-connected with the deceased. The decision of whom to ask should be deliberate. Several of those closest family members should be consulted prior to the decision.

Choose the kind of setting or stage from which the service can be conducted. You may want to include pictures of the deceased, mementos, flowers or chairs for those who will deliver messages. Close friends and family members may be called upon to add other items to the setting.

Decide if you want certain kinds of readings, poems or scriptures presented during the service. Select the individuals you would like to read them. These readings should be short, but meaningful tributes to the deceased or encouragements to those who are grieving.

Decide on an order of events. You may wish to print programs for the service.

Purchase a guestbook and pen. Select someone to stand with them and encourage people to sign. This adds a personal touch to the service and allows the guests to all be personally greeted.