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Planning a Memorial Service — A Celebration of Life
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Planning a Celebration of Life Memorial Service for a loved one takes time, yet it can be a wonderful way of expressing that love and affection in a meaningful ceremony. The loss will result in a myriad of emotions with no one person affected the same way. Yes there certainly will be sadness and grief. Many suffer debilitating grief that makes them unable to cope with planning of the service. This is the time to lean on friends and families as well as the professionals with the experience and sensitivity to help the families through these trying times.

The process of planning the service is often overwhelming considering:
  • Scheduling - With all of the crazy work schedules that people have it may require some coordination to get everyone together for a service following a death.
  • Preplanning - Often times Memorial Services can be planned by the person prior to his or her death. (This can be of great benefit for the family.)
  • Creativity - Memorial Services allow people to be more creative with the elements that they wish to include compared to the more traditional funeral.
  • Focus - Celebration of Life, rather than Mourning a Death

Sometimes, loved ones have expressed or even written their wishes of what they would like to see happen at their memorial service. Other times, the family is left to plan the ceremony. With a bit of thoughtful planning you can create a service which would have made your loved one very happy.

Planning a Memorial Service or Celebration of Life Ceremony can be divided up into several areas:
  • Practical
  • People
  • Service
  • Decorations
  • Music
  • Food and Beverages
  • Activities

It may be easier to divide up the different areas to different reliable family members or friends so one person doesn't have to do it all.

The Practical

Settling the practical matters first helps in the rest of the planning. The practical aspects to determine are the When, Where and Who.

Memorial services may be held days, weeks or months after the death.

The People

Selecting people to participate is another key part to the service. The people to include are divided into three main categories.

The Officiant is the person who officiates at, presides or leads a service or ceremony. This is often a clergy member or trusted friends.

Speakers would be those delivering memorial speeches or eulogies.

Other participants could be singers, poetry readers or candle lighters. These roles may be good for those with special talents and younger members who may not be able to give a speech.

The Service

Decide on the components, the flow and the order of the service or the program.
  • What is included?
  • Will there be speeches or a eulogy?
  • Will additional readings, poems, scripture passages be included?
  • Will there be music?
  • What is the order of the speeches, readings and music?
  • What will happen afterwards?


Once a location has been determined the next step is planning the decorations or picking a theme. What sorts of things will be included in decorations?
  • Plants
  • Flowers
  • Candles
  • Displays
  • Photos
  • Military Decorations
  • Symbolic Elements
  • Other special touches - printed program, photograph displays

Potted flowers or plants and decorative candles can be offered to guests as mementos of the service.


Decide on the type of music you want. Choosing favorite musical numbers of the deceased can be played as reminders. Music also has a healing quality. There are many beautiful musical numbers that can help the participants in the healing process.

Determine how the music will be performed.
  • Will it be sung or played by a performer?
  • Will there be live music or will you use a CD of the music?
  • Will the participants sing along?

Food and Beverages

Sharing food during times of bereavement is an old practice that is still popular. Many people start cooking and bringing the casseroles the minute there is news of a death.

Food and refreshments can range from serving light refreshments to pot-lucks, seated luncheons or elaborate catered dinners. Favorite foods of the deceased can incorporate into the food and refreshment part of the ceremony.

Serve water, juice, tea or coffee. Distraught people and alcohol are not a good combination.


Activities can be included as a way of sharing memories and preserving memories. An activity is also a good way to close the service.

There are a variety of different activities that guests can participate in
  • Sign a guest book.
  • Light a candle.
  • Have everyone bring a favorite memento, photos, news clippings or recollections that can be assembled into a memory book.
  • Write down favorite memories that are collected into a memory book.
  • Participate in a butterfly or a dove release.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Unveil a plaque or a bench

London and the surrounding area is blessed with a number of highly recommended Funeral Homes with professionals available for providing advice to the full organization and implementation of the service.

Allow others to help you with sadness of death and the celebration of life.

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
Psalm 126