Checklist For Planning A Memorial Service

Ceremony is, as it has been throughout history, a way to mark those special occasions that occur in our lives. Weddings, birthdays, graduations, retirements, and yes, death of a friend or loved one, are appropriate events to mark with a ceremony.  Whether the ceremony is religious or secular, in a church, funeral home, park, banquet facility, or hotel ballroom, the following guide is designed to assist you in preparing for the ceremony.  It is impossible to create a list that answers every question for every occasion, but these checklists will help guide you through the process of arranging for whatever type of memorial ceremony you desire.

 

1. Planning the service at the venue of your choosing

  • Choose the location and time of the ceremony and reserve the location
  • Choose what type of service (e.g. religious, formal, casual, life celebration, humanistic)
  • Identify clergy, celebrant or person of your choosing to officiate the service
  • Select the elements of the service (music (live or taped), sermon, prayers, scripture readings, poems, eulogy, sharing memories, video, etc.)
  • Decide on the order and timing of the service (when are songs played, prayers read, etc.)
  • Pick individual(s) to do readings, give eulogy and share memories or thoughts (if desired)
  • Purchase floral arrangement(s), memorial guest book and cards and any other items you will need for the service
  • Arrange for catering (decide on menu, number of guests)
  • Prepare any video and/or audio that will be used during the service (if not provided by the church or facility) and designate someone to run the equipment during the service
  • Ensure floral tributes are delivered and displayed at the church or facility at least one hour  prior to service
  • Determine where cremated remains will be displayed during the service and designate someone to deliver the urn to the facility along with urn display table (if not provided by facility) and other items such as a pictures, at least one hour prior to service
  • Verify with church or facility that there are adequate stands and tables to display the floral arrangements and determine where flowers can be displayed
  • If the service is to take place in a church, make sure you are familiar with the specific customs and funeral rites of the religion and the specific church as it pertains to cremated remains and the ceremony
  • Assign person(s) to remove flowers from church or facility following ceremony and delivery of arrangements to family residence, cemetery or designated donation site
  • Meet with clergy/celebrant and musicians (if applicable) prior to service to review order of service, making sure they are aware of anyone else doing readings or speaking
  • Place memorial register book, memorial cards, donation tray and any other materials at entry point of facility and designate person to direct attendees to sign book as they enter
  • Coordinate how family will process and recess at the beginning and end of service
  • Reserve adequate seating for immediate family members and any special guests
  • Designate usher(s) to be available to seat guests and answer questions (location of rest rooms, nursery, etc.) 
  • Have someone make appropriate announcements at the beginning and conclusion of services (e.g. requesting everyone to turn off cell phone, inviting friends to attend luncheon/gathering after ceremony)
  • Make sure all honorariums are distributed to appropriate persons well in advance of service (clergy, musicians, AV person, luncheon)

 2. Planning the cemetery service

  • Contact cemetery at least two days in advance of service to schedule burial
  • Pay cemetery fee for grave opening and closing and ask if there are any other requirements such as an urn vault, weekend fee or use of cemetery chapel fee
  • Decide on location of committal at cemetery (graveside, cemetery chapel)
  • If deceased was a veteran, schedule military honors (make sure to bring flag)
  • Designate someone to bring urn to gravesite or cemetery chapel along with flowers and any other items such as personal mementos
  • Make arrangements for any special events such as balloon or butterfly releases, bag piper or other personalized tribute
  • If you are expecting a large number of people at the service, you may want to consider arranging for a portable sound system.
  • Make sure flowers have been delivered to gravesite and professionally displayed
  • Designate a person to make any necessary announcements such as a luncheon following
  • Make arrangements for lettering on monument or marker or if there is no marker, then purchase monument