posted on Aug 10, 2017

While most of our work revolves around planning events to celebrate some of our most happiest times, there are times when our planning touches on life’s difficult moments. It can be a tough topic, but one that we all may face when planning a loved one’s memorial.

First, if you are planning a memorial or know of someone who is, we want you to know that we understand. We understand the emotions and numbness, the desire to honor a loved one’s life admirably, and the profound moment that this is in all of your lives.

We understand because we’ve been there ourselves.

In saying that, we know how important it is to you to plan a special and meaningful memorial. Following are three concepts that may provide inspiration for just that.

1. Offer a Way for Everyone To Share If They Desire

Although closure may never come, those who are in attendance at the memorial may find a healing moment in sharing (whether privately or publicly) a memory or legacy aspect of the loved one who has passed.

For a public sharing: Select 3-4 words that represent the legacy of the loved one (such as love, laughter, faith, adventure, travel, family, fun, etc.). Light a candle at the front of the service/altar area for each word (you may want to print the word, frame it, and set it in front of its candle).

As guests arrive, provide them an unlit candle with candle wax protector. At some point during the service or reception, invite guests to light their candle. They may do so by coming to the front, lighting it from the candle/word that means the most to the relationship they had with the loved one and allow them to share a brief story or reasoning why they chose that word.

This works well with smaller groups and intimate settings. It can be done at either the service or reception and if someone chooses not to share, they can just light their candle and be seated.

Once all candles are lit, offer a prayer or wish to the loved one in which afterwards, all the candles can be blown out. This can be a meaningful way to end a service or start a food reception after the service.

For a private sharing: allow guests to write a message or memory to the loved one or in honor of him/her. At the end of the service or reception, start a small fire in a fire pit and allow guests to carefully place their wishes/prayers/messages in the fire. Guests can watch their messages dissolve into the atmosphere and taken into the universe.

2. Intertwine Personalized Elements 

In addition to pictures and special items that may be placed about, consider weaving personalized elements throughout the memorial that reflects the loved one. Some things we’ve seen, have helped plan, and suggest are:

Use Preferred Music of the Loved One. Consider adding some of your loved ones favorite music to the memorial in ways such as: song versus or titles used to layout the memorial program; verses from a favorite song to be printed or read aloud as a poem; favorite music to be played in instrumental form.

Select One Favorite to Share. For receptions after the memorial service, think about offering the loved one’s favorite drink, dish, or dessert. If homemade lemonade, brownies, or fried chicken  were a favorite, make one (or a few) a highlight.  

Collect for charity. So many times, guests want to help but don’t know how.  By selecting a charity or organization that was of importance to the loved one and asking others to contribute or donate encourages positive action during times of suffering.  These can be monetary contributions or things such as school supplies for underprivileged kids, pet toys/food for local humane societies, or books for new families to be given out at the hospital.

3. Provide a Keepsake.

One of the most unique and personalized aspects you can have at a memorial is a keepsake for guests to take with them. A small token of remembrance that can be kept can be helpful to keeping memories alive and helping heal. These don’t have to be expensive and can be as simple as an item from nature that can be kept in a special place.

Some ideas for a keepsake are:

A bowl of river rocks guests can select from with a small note in front of the bowl (these can be kept in pockets and purses, cars and homes as a remembrance token.

The loved one’s favorite recipe printed on card stock.

A favorite poem or saying (with his/her picture if you’d like) printed and laminated to be used as a bookmark.

A small candle that can be lit in remembrance of the loved one on a holiday, his/her birthday, or whenever the guest feels desire to do so.

Planning a memorial service can be difficult. During a time when you want to honor someone in special and meaningful ways, there is typically little time and energy to fulfill everything.

If you or someone you know is planning a memorial service in Orlando or Central Florida and is need of assistance, we are here to help. We can work to find locations, select food and beverages, and plan a unique and memorable memorial service that honors your loved one and the legacy he or she has left behind.

Contact me at to relieve the planning stress and ensure all is planned kindly, creatively, and appropriately.