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7 Things to Consider When Planning Memorialization

As our traditions change over time, so do the ways in which we choose to express our grief and honor the memory of those who have died. Today, there are no rules when it comes to planning a funeral or memorial service (except that in New Jersey funeral arrangements DO have to be made with a licensed funeral director). From funeral venues to body disposition, there are several things to consider that may seem like a fresh perspective when it comes to planning memorialization.

1. Disposition

Most of us grew up knowing burials as the default form of how we say goodbye to the deceased. But there are other options like cremation, entombment and body donation to consider that, once decided, can shape the way you choose to commemorate.

2. Venue

The location where you choose to gather with friends and family does not have to be in “traditional” event spaces. While churches and funeral homes will always be common choices for funerals and memorials, you are not limited to only those venues.

Depending on whether the body will be present during the service, you can gather pretty much anywhere. That’s correct–the body does not have to be present for the service. Beaches, parks, museums, scenic locations or even a family member’s boat would serve as a suitable space to gather. If you do choose to have the service at the funeral home, family and friends also can gather after the service to comfort each other and share memories.

3. Celebrants

Families who do not wish to have a religious funeral service may decide not to attend a place of worship or invite clergy to speak. Instead, you may choose to organize friends and family to conduct a service or engage a Certified Celebrant, which many funeral homes offer. Celebrants are storytellers who work closely with families to customize memorialization in fresh and unique ways.

4. Personalization

Consider personalizing elements of the service. Say the deceased was an antique car collector. Imagine all of their cars parked at the funeral home on the night of the visitation for all to appreciate. Readings, poems, prayers and music can be easily incorporated into any service. Maybe the deceased was a Jazz musician and their fellow band mates would be interested in playing live music during the time the family chooses to gather.

Personal memorabilia such as photo displays or a tribute video that presents the life and shared memories allows family and friends to feel as though they are part of the service. Your funeral director can assist you in creating a tribute video from photos of memories that capture the deceased’s personality and their life’s best moments.

5. Memorial Gifts

Favors or gifts can be a nice gesture and keep your loved one in the hearts and minds of those who attended the memorial service. If the deceased was a wonderful chef you could hand out recipe cards of their homemade classics at the funeral.

6. Flowers

Floral displays are a great way to transform any room into a warm inviting space. The flowers themselves can even tell a story. Creative, personalized floral displays can showcase a hobby of the deceased, such as a love for sports. Personal items like a baseball and glove can be incorporated into the floral arrangement or you can simply ask the florist to create a wreath with flowers and personal mementos.  

7. Donations

Have you ever noticed that some people request memorial contributions "in lieu of flowers" after someone dies? The premise is that flowers are not permanent and a contribution to a charity or favorite cause can provide help to those in need. Asking for donations can be a humble way to have those who want to show support for your family contribute.

Planning a funeral or memorial service is a deeply personal process. It is likely that your decisions will be shaped by your own life experiences and your relationship to the deceased. The options may seem overwhelming but you won’t go wrong if you focus on what made your loved one special.