There are many reasons, especially these days, why hosting a memorial service at home instead of in a more public or common space might be the best for you, your family, and grieving loved ones. There are a lot of things to think about following the loss of someone close to you. Not to mention the often extremely high cost of putting together and hosting a more traditional funeral or memorial service.
Choosing to host a memorial service or celebration of life at home can be both cathartic and practical for those involved for several reasons. Not only do you give your guests a chance to spend time in the home of someone that they lost and allow them the chance to be close to that person, but you are also able to personalize the event more towards your deceased loved one, making things easier on yourself by keeping things close to home and the familiar. Our memorial services planning tips will help keep you organized and calm during a difficult time.
Funerals can be costly, particularly if your loved one has no burial insurance. Even so, there are ways to save money on a heartfelt memorial service. If you plan ahead of time, funeral expenses do not have to be a financial burden.
Pre-planning For An At Home Service
If you’re considering hosting a memorial service at home, the first thing you need to confirm is that there is nothing in the deceased’s will that would prevent you from doing so. For example, some people will have a section in their will specifying what type of service, where, and other details of how they would prefer their funerary services to happen. If this is the case, the executor of their will is bound by that agreement to carry out their wishes. This isn’t to say that there can’t be an additional service held, but the wishes of the deceased must be carried out by law. So, check the will to ensure that any requirements are upheld, and if there are none, then proceed in planning something that you feel will be the best way of honoring or celebrating the person who passed on.
Once you know what the requirements are, you can go forward in planning the type of service that you feel will best represent your lost loved one. This is a highly personal choice, and it should reflect the kind of person that has been lost, their personality, style, and if there is nothing else specified, what is believed that their wishes would be in this regard.
Upon making that decision, you can assign tasks, delegate responsibilities, and ensure that the burden of organization, planning, and execution doesn’t fall on one person. Times of loss is extremely difficult, and some of us may respond by wanting more or less control over the memorial service. However, even if that’s the case, we all need some support and, more or less, depending on our personalities, support in planning this type of event. The memorial services planning tips below will help others feel involved and ensure that one person doesn’t end up doing all of the hard work.
Planning For An At Home Memorial Service
Date & Time
The main things you want to establish early on in the planning process are a date and time for your memorial service at home. This differs slightly from more traditional funeral services, which are more often than not posted at a funeral home, memorial service organization, or religious center and happen within a few days, give or take, of the passing of the deceased. In contrast, memorial service or celebration of life can be at whichever time the family, friends, and those close to the deceased decide is best for everyone who has to be involved.
The next step is deciding who will be invited to your memorial service. Depending on your space at home, this could differ somewhat from a traditional obituary publication or essentially an open invitation to anyone who wishes to pay their respects to the deceased. Hosting a memorial service at your home likely means that you will have to be slightly more selective about the guest list or have an extensive timeframe you’re willing to host many people. For example, if you have a 2000 square-foot home, you’ll likely only want to have people in your front entry, living room, kitchen, dining room. This means that you’ll only be able to fit a specific number of people in before things get to be too cramped. So, you could likely have this service at a larger facility like a funeral home within a couple of hours’ time. However,unless you limit the guest list at your home, you’ll need to probably set aside an entire day to let the number of people you’re expecting filter in and out without having things feel overcrowded.
Food, Beverages & Music
If your guest list is on the larger side, you might want to consider hiring a catering service. On the surface, it may seem like an unnecessary cost; however, once you look into the price, both in time and the actual cost of food and necessary supplies like plates, napkins, and cutlery, having someone cater your event is going to seem much more reasonable. There are several reasons why this will take a lot of stress and worry off your plate on the day of your at-home memorial. You are likely going to be caught up in both the hecticness of planning for the day, as well as your own personal grief for the loss of your loved one. The last thing you want to be doing is worrying about how many cheese cubes are available for your guests, if there is enough, and what you should do for the lactose intolerant of your crowd. You don’t have to go with a super fancy or high-budget caterer, but whatever you can swing will help take some stress, worry, and responsibility off your plate on the day of your at-home memorial service.
Music is always an important element of our environment. It can set a mood, remind us of a person or a time, and is a key element of your memorial service planning. This might seem like a simple task to delegate to someone less close to the deceased. However, putting some time into thinking about the music for your service, maybe even researching or asking other people what your lost loved one related to or liked in terms of music, can go a long way towards personalizing your at-home memorial service.
Guest Speakers & Technology
Another thing you want to be sure that you have arranged before the day of your at-home memorial service is at least one person to speak at your event that has the time and availability to plan their speech. It’s great to have an open mic style for anyone to come up and share a memory. However, you’ll want to have at least one person who has a heads up before the day of. This is for a couple of reasons. First, it usually takes one person at least to make others feel comfortable in taking the stage at this kind of event (even if the stage is your living room). Having someone pre-arranged to give a speech or a eulogy both ensures that you will not hear crickets due to the nerves of your guests, you’ll have someone preplanned for your own peace of mind, and more likely than not, that person will make others feel more comfortable by sharing their memories with a group.
The extension of having a pre-planned speaker is ensuring that you have the proper microphone and or space for that person to be heard on, even in your house. Unless you’re living in a gigantic mansion, it likely won’t take too much in the way of microphones and speakers to make sure that this can happen. Work with the size of your space and any built-in theatre system, speakers, or anything you have available to make sure that your guests aren’t struggling to get over here the nostalgic and heartwarming stories being shared.
The last thing on the tech front — decide ahead of time if you want to record the service for people who can’t attend. If you do, take some time to decide on where the placement of your recording device (likely a phone, laptop, or tablet) will be, who will be responsible for starting and stopping the recording and whose device will be used.
After Your At Home Memorial Service
For many families, the memorial service is a favorable time to note who would appreciate a memento of the deceased. Once your service is complete and you have time to think about a keepsake like a photo, piece of jewelry, or another physical memento, consider who of your guests who attended would appreciate something like that.
Another great option is to have a piece of artwork commissioned or created by a friend or relative to honor the person who passed on. This can be something that can be shared with a larger group or kept within the family. Either way, it’s a chance to create a lasting reminder of your loved one.
Ideas for An Informal Memorial Service at Home
An at-home memorial service is, in its very idea, less conventional than a funeral service held in a religious facility or a funeral home. So, if you’re departing from tradition, why not make it even more personal by choosing to have an event that reflects the personality of the departed? Below we’ll go through a few memorial services planning tips to help you put together a day that reflects the character of the person you’re celebrating.
Maybe your loved one was an entertainer, musician, or avid card player. Why not have an event to cherish their passions and prompt stories from your guests? Tailor your at-home memorial service to the person it’s honoring, and you’ll be creating a lasting memory for everyone who attends. Here are some ideas to get your creativity going:
- 1. Hold a memorial potluck
- 2. Have a friend and family game night
- 3. Have a memorial jam session
- 4. Screen a memorial video
- 5. Compile a memorial slideshow
- 6. Bring in a civil celebrant
Memorial services planning is a tough job, and hosting a memorial service at home is an extensive choice that needs to be made to reflect both the preferences of the deceased as well as the needs of those hosting and attending. The options are as versatile and unique as the person they’ll be honoring. Trust your instincts and use our memorial services planning advice, and you’ll do a beautiful job hosting a ceremony that honors and respects your lost loved one.
How to Plan a Memorial Service