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How to Plan an Informal Memorial Service

In charge of planning a memorial service but don't know where to start? You do not need to be a professional event organizer to put together a memorial service. In fact, many people choose to hold informal memorial services in their own homes or at a public venue. Here's how to plan an informal memorial service in 7 easy steps.

Step 1: Choose the date, time, and location.

The first step is to decide when and where the memorial service will take place. You'll need to choose a date and time that will work for most people to be able to attend. Memorial services typically take place within a few weeks of the person's death, but this is not always possible or necessary. If you're having trouble deciding on a date or time, consider reaching out to family and friends for input. Once you have a general date in mind, you'll need to choose a location. Some venues may only be available during certain times, so be prepared to have some flexibility surrounding the possible dates and times. For locations, start by considering the person's favorite places, their home, or a public venue like a park or community center.

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Step 2: Choose who will lead the service.

The next step is to choose who will lead the service. This can be a family member, friend, religious figure or professional celebrant. If you're not sure who to choose, consider asking the funeral home for assistance.

Step 3: Choose readings and music.

Once you have a person leading the service, you'll need to choose readings and music. This can be done by thinking about what the person loved and what would be appropriate for a memorial service. You may want to consider including personal writings, favorite poems, or scriptures that were meaningful to the person. As for music, you can choose from a variety of genres and styles. If you're not sure what to choose, consider reaching out to family and friends for input. For a more informal service, you can skip the readings and scriptures and rely on the stories of friends and family to make up the bulk of readings. If someone has written a eulogy or would like to give a speech, this would be the time to identify who you’d like to ask to write a eulogy or a speech. Since a eulogy is typically read at a more formal service, it may be worth asking someone to simply say a few words about the person who passed away.

Step 4: Plan an order of service or events.

The next step is to plan an order of service or events. This can include things like who will speak, when people will be asked to share memories, and what type of activities will be taking place. If you need assistance with creating an order of service, read through these Sample Memorial Service Outlines for inspiration.

Step 5: Send out invitations.

The next step is to send out invitations.The easiest way to invite people to the memorial service is to set up a memorial website, especially on Ever Loved. Ever Loved memorial websites let you share event information, keep in contact with attendees, collect RSVPs, and much more. If you’re sending invitations to folks who don’t have access to a computer or a smartphone, you can send a mailed invitation or give them a call.

Step 6: Organize food and refreshments.

The fifth step is to handle food and refreshments (if you’d like to serve them). This can be done by either providing a light meal or snacks, or asking people to bring their own food and drinks. If you're providing food and drinks, you'll need to decide on what type of menu you want. You may also want to consider hiring a caterer to take care of everything for you. (If you're worried about food and refreshments, it may be a good idea to host the memorial service at a restaurant or bar.) You can also consider hosting a barbeque or a potluck.

Step 7: Decorate the venue.

The last step is to decorate the venue. This can be done by using the person's favorite colors, flowers, or other decorations. You may also want to consider using photos or mementos of the person. If you're decorating a public venue, be sure to check with the staff first to see what is allowed.

Unique funeral ideas

For those looking for memorial services ideas, there are plenty of unique locations you can consider hosting a memorial service at.

Stargazing

One of the most unique funeral ideas is to host a memorial service that takes place under the stars. This can be done in a backyard, at a local park, or even at an astronomy center. If the deceased had a favorite spot to look at the stars, consider hosting the memorial service there. Supply blankets to keep everyone warm and ask that folks share favorite stories or memories of the deceased while looking up at the night sky. If you own (or someone owns) a telescope, this can add to the experience for those attending.

Hiking

If the deceased loved nature and being outdoors, hosting a memorial service hiking could be a wonderful idea. This can be done at a local park or forest preserve, or even in the mountains if there are trails suitable for a memorial service. Ask friends and family to share favorite memories of the deceased while hiking, and provide some sandwiches and snacks for those attending. (Try to keep in mind the hiking difficulty for attendees who may be unable to handle a difficult hike or rocky terrain.)

At a restaurant

If the deceased had a favorite restaurant, consider holding the memorial service there instead of at a funeral home. This can be a great way to keep things informal and relaxed while still paying tribute to the deceased. You can even contact the restaurant ahead of time to see if they’re able to accommodate a larger group than usual or to see if they have experience hosting memorial services. Ask friends and family to partake in sharing stories, memories, photos, and laughs in memory of the person who passed away.

At a bar

Another unique idea for a memorial service is to hold it at a bar. This can be especially fitting if the deceased was a fan of spending time there or was a frequent visitor at the bar or pub. Ask friends and family to share favorite memories and stories of the deceased while enjoying drinks and snacks in their honor. If you’re able to, try to reserve a section of the bar or pub ahead of time so that everyone attending has a place to sit.

At a garden

If the deceased loved spending time outdoors surrounded by nature, hosting a memorial service at a garden could be a wonderful idea. This can be done at a botanical garden, community garden, or even someone’s personal backyard garden if it’s large enough to accommodate a group of people. Have friends and family share memories of the deceased while surrounded by plants and flowers. If you’re able to, provide a small snack or light lunch for those in attendance. If you're considering a local community garden or botanical garden, you should get in touch with the venue beforehand to ask about accommodations for larger parties.

At a beach or lake

If the deceased loved spending time by the water, hosting a memorial service at a beach or lake could be a beautiful way to honor their memory. This can be done at a public beach or park, or even at someone’s private beach home if it’s large enough to accommodate a group of people. Have friends and family share memories of the deceased while enjoying the sun and sand (or water, if it's a beach) in their honor. If you're able to, provide a small snack or light lunch for those in attendance.

Memorial service ideas at home

Don't want to rent a venue? Here are some simple memorial service ideas for those looking to host a service at home.

Host a potluck

A potluck is a great way to bring people together while keeping things informal. If you’re considering hosting a memorial service at home, consider asking friends and family to each bring a dish to share. This can be a great way to save on costs while still providing food for those attending. You can also ask people to bring a favorite dish of the deceased as a way to honor their memory.

Host a barbeque

Another great idea for a memorial service at home is to host a barbeque. This can be done in someone’s backyard or even in a park if you’re able to secure a permit ahead of time. Ask friends and family to bring their favorite dish to share, and provide drinks and games for those in attendance. This can be a great way to celebrate the life of the deceased while spending time with friends and family.

Host a pool party

If the deceased was a fan of summer and pool parties, hosting a memorial service at home could be a great way to celebrate their life. You’ll need access to a pool or you can rent a pool for the day if you don’t have one. Ask friends and family to bring their favorite pool games and snacks. This can be a fun and informal way to say goodbye to the deceased.

Host a candlelight vigil

A candlelight vigil is a beautiful way to honor the memory of the deceased. This can be done inside or outside, depending on your preference. If you’re hosting it outside, make sure to check the weather forecast ahead of time and have a backup plan in case of rain. Provide candle holders and candles for those in attendance, and ask friends and family to share memories of the deceased. This is a more solemn option, but it can be very powerful for those in attendance.

Host a movie night

If the deceased was a fan of movies, hosting a movie night in their honor could be a great idea. Ask friends and family to bring their favorite snacks and drinks, and set up a projector or TV to play the deceased’s favorite movie. You can also ask people to share their favorite memories of the deceased before or after the movie. This is a more low-key option, but it can be a great way to spend time with friends and family while honoring the memory of the deceased.

Ready to plan a memorial service? Browse event venues on Ever Loved for some inspiration and ideas on where to host the memorial service. Event venues posted on Ever Loved have been used by other folks in your area. You'll be able to easily read reviews, see information about the location and get in touch with the venue when ready.

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Last updated March 21, 2022
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