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How to Plan and Personalize a Memorial
Service and Turn it into a Celebration of Life
page contains ideas for creating a personal memorial service. Use one
or several of them to turn a run of the mill funeral into a memorable
celebration of life.
Idea: Create a Memory Table and Memory Boards
about your loved ones hobbies and passions. Gather some of the key things
that were important to your loved one. At the entrance to the service,
have the items displayed on a large table. Place items reflecting their
hobbies or interests, perhaps a bowl with their favorite candy or treat,
and friends and family can help themselves. You may want to take 3x5 cards
and label the items and explain the significance.
Albert Litwin proudly served as a Captain in the Army during WWII. He
helped plan the D-Day invasion with General Eisenhower. By the looks of
those boots, he wasn't just sitting behind a desk!
Can I Put on a Memory Table?
a table and bring in things that your loved one liked to do. For example,
if they liked to paint, bring in their artwork, their paints and brushes
and smock. You could even bring in their easels and put the artwork on
their easels. If they were gardeners you could bring in their gardening
tools and pots of flowers. If they liked football you could bring any
logo memorabilia of the team that they supported that you or they may
have. If they liked photography, set their favorite cameras on the table
with some of their photographs. You may want to write on a notecard, “Sarah
always found time to craft the perfect photo and then share them with
us.” “Look at Sarah's hole in one on hole 7.” If they
liked golf bring in the clubs, tees, scorecards and golf balls.
Dave Daly's hobby was carving wood, on his memorial table his tools and
works of art were on display. As you can see by his memorial table he
was also a sailor and was in the service and a proud American.
A memory table of a golf lover, the chalk board announces that
the lantern is lit loving
Something tells me Albert Litwin played a mean game of cribbage.
That enlarged cribbage board is great, I also like the diploma, his eye
glasses and funny t-shirt.
If your loved one was a traveler, consider making a travel themed memory
table. How about a map with pins in all the places they visited? Don't
forget to include their passport and suitcases too.
This is a creative way to display postcards from your loved ones' travel
using flowers and various sizes of trees stumps to create some height.
Memory boards are used similarly to memory tables but items are posted
on a board. Many funeral homes and event locations will have boards for
you to use. You can also purchase them at stationary supply stores or
you can order memory board kits.
Everything you need is conveniently located in one kit. Often photos are
put on the boards but as you'll see below Albert Litwin's family displayed
his favorite crossword puzzles.
Seeing a person's hand writing really makes you feel their presence, Albert
loved crosswords and seeing his hand writing as he filled in the correct
answers is perfect!
Gather friends and family around and make it a group effort to put together
memory boards. Working on it together can be very therapeutic.
How Can I have Family and Friends Share Their Memories?
You only have one chance to collect everyone’s memories. Consider
lined 3” x 5” cards that say, “My Special Memory of
You ” These cards and pens are handed to friends and family as they
walk into the service. The celebrant or funeral director can be responsible
for handing them out and collecting them at the end of the service. These
cards can be put in a pouch and taken out and shared at family gatherings
for years to come. They become a reflection of ancestors' lives for generations
They are available for purchase here: Memorial gifts and cards
Guest books are not very practical as they require people to wait in line
at the service. Unless feelings and memories are shared, what is the long
term use of a guest book? If feelings and memories are shared, the wait
could become very long and delay the service.
may want to consider a memory book/guest
book/photo album combination that is ideal for capturing the essence of
the person- their passions, hobbies, interests, accomplishments and family
history. You'll want to make completing the book a family activity...
encourage children, grandchildren and all family members to partcipate.
It will be therapeutic and rewarding; collecting photos, memory cards,
notes and letters. Share friends and family's personal memories by inserting
the "My Special Memory of You" cards into the book. Additionally,
the book can be used as a guest book at the life celebration. This book
will be treasured for generations to come.
grief counselors recommend letter writing as a way to begin to work through
the grief process. It's becoming more popular for the host of the memorial
service/life celebration to suggest attendees bring a letter to the departed.
By writing their thoughts they will often feel like they have been able
to document how they are feeling while contributing to the service. The
letters are commonly placed in the casket (some caskets now have drawers
especially for this purpose) and if the person is cremated the letters
are included placed inside the urn.
Did your loved one like to write? How about setting up vintage typewriters
and invite family and friends to share their memories. It would be really
wonderful if the typewriter(s) belonged to the departed.
Unique Funeral Flower Arrangements:
people now say, "In Lieu of Flowers send a donation to...".
Florists are missing an opportunity to provide you with a personalized
unique floral tribute to your loved one. Below you will find four tasteful
funeral floral arrangements that are ideal for a life celebration. It's
not easy to find such personalized floral tributes with photos and personal
momentos so you may have to print off this page and bring it into a progressive
florist. The yellow roses and daisies could be given to family members
or attendees in remembrance of the deceased. Because each person is unique,
floral designs should not be limited by FTD or the funeral director. A
special photograph or an artist's favorite painting can be added. Check
out these examples where personal belongings like a baseball glove or
golf clubs are incorporated into the arrangement.
What a wonderful memorial floral tribute that incorporates photos
as well as flowers
placed in mason jars hanging from the tree. If your loved one was a gardener,
you could pick the flowers from thier garden. Fabulous way to add a special
DIY personal touch to the service.
Elaine LaLanne, Jack’s wife of 51 years, poses next to his portrait and barbell funeral floral arrangement in a similar pose as Jack always sported
Add a photo to this unique funeral arrangement with daisies and yellow and orange roses for an
uplifting display For the baseball fan, a creative floral display with a baseball
bat, glove, ball and cap - ticket stubs could be added too
A photo display combined with flowers creates a personal flower arrangement
What a creative way to pay
tribute to your Dad
This is a nice life celebration floral arrangement because the roses can
be shared with family friends as they are leaving. Much nicer than leaving
the arrangement for the staff to throw away.
We know it's traditional to send flowers for a funeral as an expression
of sympathy, so consider asking attendees to the service to bring a flower
as a tribute to your lost loved one. The flowers can be placed into a
wreath and either placed on the casket or if the person is cremated and
the remains are scattered, you could put the wreath out to sea along with
the ashes. The flowered wreath will gently float away.
can purchase a straw or biodegradable wreath form at any craft store such
as Michaels. See sample above:
Consider putting pocket
charms on the table that reflect your loved one. Guests are encouraged
to take one, they will put them on their pocket or purse and when they
run across it they will remember the departed. Pewter Heart pocket charms More memorial charms
You may also want
to consider personalized seeded cards that contain wildflowers. The cards
can be placed on the memory table and friends and family can take them
and keep the card as a keepsake and plant the seeds.
Another idea for the person who liked to read, bring their favorite books
to the service. Consider placing them on or next to the memory table.
Next to the books create a sign that says, JOHN WAS AN AVID READER. PLEASE
FEEL FREE TO TAKE ONE OF HIS BOOKS AND ENJOY IN HIS MEMORY.
Here is what a customer said about the cards,
"I just wanted to let you know-we had my mom's memorial service/celebration
of life Sept 2 at HoChunk Casino/Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells,
Wisconsin (one of mom's favorite places :-) I placed a dollar casino token
and one of the wildflower seed inscribed heart cards that I ordered from
you at each place setting at the tables. People commented and really thought
they were great. Thanks for offering such a wonderful website-you were
a godsend at a really difficult time." Kimberly T.
How can I help my guests connect?
One of our customers named
Linda Lee provided everyone with name tags when they walked in. Her mother
was 85 years old and most of her friends were about the same age and many
were suffering from memory loss. She didn't want her mother's friends
to be embarrassed for not remembering names of people they hadn't seen
in years. Her mother's favorite color was pink so she got plain white
labels from the office supply store and put a pink border on them using
the computer. The pink bordered tags were then given to a couple close
friends who sat at the front on the reception area at a table writing
out name tags. The tags not only said the person's name but the relationship
to her mother. For example, Esther Hodges (High School Friend, Class of
1938). It's rare that everyone knows each other at a service. If everyone
has a name tag that says not only the person's name but the relation to
the deceased it makes the service much more personal as well as helps
the guests to make conversation.
If your loved one loved to bake, serve their favorite cookie and
provide the recipe
If your loved one like to bake or just to eat cookies, consider serving
their favorite treat. If they were known for a special cookie, provide
the recipe and set up a cookie bar at the service. What a sweet way to
make people feel a little better during a difficult time. Don't have time
to bake? When people say, "how can I help?", provide the recipe
and have them bring a couple dozen cookies to the service. Next to the
cookies you can have a note that says, EVERYONE ALWAYS LOVED SUSAN'S CHOCOLATE
CHIP COOKIES ~ ENJOY HER SPECIAL RECIPE.
Have you found these
ideas helpful? Check out this book with everything you need to create
a personalized memorial service. It is only $9.95 and will ship the same
day it is ordered for quick delivery. It is also available for immediate
a Celebration of Life