People who choose cremation do so for a variety of reasons – including the fact that others in their family have been cremated or the desire for an environmentally friendly option. But what doesn’t change when a family chooses cremation is their wish to plan a meaningful, memorable service.
Whether or not a family wants to include a traditional casket viewing (and don’t assume families who choose cremation know this option is available to them), your funeral home can incorporate many customizable memorial service ideas. Here are a few ways to create a service that allows families to support one another and celebrate a life well lived.
Customized displays at funeral services and celebration of life ceremonies give funeral directors an opportunity to exhibit their creativity. This is why it’s important to ask leading questions about the person’s interests and hobbies – you may uncover an idea that ends up being the most memorable part of the service.
Themed displays can be incorporated throughout the event venue to provide an immersive experience for families and friends. If a person built model airplanes, why not hang a collection of them in the entrance to the service for visitors to admire and reminisce about? Some individuals have been honored on an even larger scale – for example, with exhibitions of classic cars in the funeral home parking lot.
Robert Fields, President/Owner of Brown Funeral Home in West Virginia, described a recent service that honored a motorcycle enthusiast: “We wheeled his Harley Davidson into the funeral home and set the urn on the driver’s seat. That’s how he lived his life, and that’s how the family wanted to remember him.” Memorial service ideas like these can have a tremendously positive impact on a family’s experience.
Funeral professionals can also help families develop photo memory boards that provide a timeline of the person’s life or themed boards that focus on particular relationships or interests. Photos in these displays become an even more important way to establish visual memories for families who choose cremation and don’t choose to have a traditional viewing.
Also, consider alternative methods of displaying photos at a service. One example of this is to attach photos to the strings of helium-filled balloons above the guestbook table. Ideas such as this will be particularly appreciated by families who want the service to have a hope-filled, celebratory environment.
A personalized urn will help a family convey their loved one’s unique personality, especially if they would like to have the urn present at the service. Customization can be as simple as engraving the urn or an affixed plaque, or take the form of a more elaborate urn with a unique shape or image. Veterans’ service may be honored with special embellishments on the urn.
Don’t forget to work with the family to decide how the urn should be displayed – this will provide some additional opportunities to personalize the memorial service. Many families choose to display a photo, but other meaningful items can also be displayed to create a more memorable tribute. For example, the urn could be placed on a stand covered with a handmade quilt that was special to the loved one. Specially designed floral arrangements and candles can contribute to a reflective atmosphere.
There’s a reason that video presentations are a popular element for memorial services, regardless of whether a family chooses cremation or burial. These videos can help them connect over shared memories and find joy in the experience. While most of these videos are photo based, it’s also possible to incorporate home movies and interviews with family members.
Video presentations are also a great topic to discuss with families who prearrange funerals. By planning in advance, they’ll have the opportunity to capture video of the person who will be honored at the service. In turn, that person will have a remarkable way to tell their story in their own words and share messages of love to help their family through the difficult time.
After the service
Some families may wish to hold a scattering ceremony at a later date after the memorial service. If this is the case, you can work with them to plan an event that incorporates elements from the service – such as a second, smaller balloon release (where permitted). This is also a good opportunity to confirm local laws about scattering and serve as a resource for families who want more information about what is allowed.
Families have more options than ever for what they can do with cremated remains. Many cremation jewelry choices are available for families who wish to keep their loved ones close. Other options include cremation art glass pieces, which turn cremated remains into an object that’s both beautiful and meaningful and biodegradable urns that allow a tree to grow in the earth where they’re placed.