How to Plan a Memorial Service
Over the centuries, human beings have discovered something very important: when a community loses someone special, it's extremely beneficial for everyone to come together to acknowledge the loss and find mutual support. No matter how prepared you are, the loss of a loved one will still take a great toll on you emotionally. Traditionally, funerals were the occasions when this would occur; now (with the rising number of cremation arrangements) it is memorial services.
Our team of knowledgeable, experienced, and compassionate staff take pride in providing the families we serve with the highest quality of service and care. We will take care of all of the details, paperwork and planning for your loved one’s memorial service so that you can take the time that you need to grieve.
Please take your time to read through the information provided below on ideas for a meaningful memorial service as well as a checklist of planning ideas. Potomac Valley Cremation Center can plan a memorable memorial service at either our upscale and comfortable facilities, or at a location of your choosing. Whether it's writing a will, gathering other legal documents, or coming up with some unique memorial ideas, this section is aimed at helping you prepare and plan for a loss.
Whether you are planning an elaborate service or a simple one, know that our team is here to help.
If you are planning a memorial service on our own, and only require our services for direct cremation and the necessary legalities and paperwork, we are also happy to assist you. If you are seeking information on our services or cremation products, we have provided cremation pricing information and details of what each package includes, as well as pricing and information on the types of cremation urns available.
Click on a topic we have provided for you to read more information on How to Plan a Memorial Service.
The best date and time for the event
The most suitable location for the memorial service
Who will be invited to the service
Create the order of service
Select individuals to lead and/or participate
Who wishes to speak at the event
Creating a tribute video or choose any memorial stationary items
Will there be a reception after the service
Memorial Service Planning Ideas
Every day, we hear stories about how people are struggling to find meaningful ceremonies to honor a loved one who has been cremated. Somehow they think that cremation means there can be no memorial service, or commemorative event – and that’s simply not true.
A memorial service or cremation ceremony simply sets aside time to celebrate the personality and accomplishments of someone you loved. And, it gives comfort and support to those left behind. It can take place prior to the cremation, or afterwards. It can also be part of a scattering ceremony.
Here are some popular places for memorial services:
A Local Park
The Family Backyard
A River or Creek Side
A Favorite Restaurant
A Golf Course
Onboard a Boat
The memorial service you create should be full of experiences: sights, sounds, word, music; good food, and good friends. You could incorporate:
A photo slideshow of your loved one's life
A playlist of favorite songs
A time for guests to come forward to tell stories: they could light a candle or incense before or after story or offering has been shared.
Scattering the ashes during the ceremony
Distributing ashes in small containers so that guests take a memento to keep
Placing ashes in biodegradable balloons, to be released as a group
Placing small amount of ashes in floatable, biodegradable structure, to be released into water
Arranging for a dove or butterfly release
Gathering friends for a blessing of a garden or special spot in honor of your loved one
Blessings of various faiths or spiritual practices
Date & Time - Because you've chosen cremation, your family can postpone their memorial service until a time when important family members and guests can attend. Where, and when, should the event take place? Here's where your imagination is tempered by any scheduling or travel-related issues facing those who will be invited. Be sure to check in with out-of-town relatives and friends about their situation before settling on these critical details.
Location - Memorial services can be held almost anywhere; public parks, churches, social centers–and of course, here in our facility. What's a special location from your loved one's life? Would it provide a meaningful backdrop to their memorial service? Those are the questions we'll ask and answer, together.
Guests - Who will be invited? The number of guests define the where, when, and how of your memorial service. Write down the names of everyone you think would want to be there and then set it aside. You can add new names to the list as you go along.
Order of Service - What activities should be a part of your loved one's memorial service? Should there be special readings, musical selections, or displays of their treasured collectibles? Music is an integral part of life for many people, and a memorial service is the perfect event in which to showcase the meaningful music of your loved one's life. But, if your loved one didn't appreciate music (and many don’t), it may be more appropriate to read chosen spiritual selections, or excerpts from literature. Would you like to showcase their artistic talents or personal interests? Don't forget to build in time for everyone to share their feelings openly.
Conducting the Service - Who will orchestrate or conduct the memorial service? It may be a minister or trained celebrant; even a member of the immediate family. We will ensure they are willing and able to take part in the memorial service, and support them in fulfilling their duties. Will you want a eulogy written and read aloud? If memory-sharing is to be a part of the event, you'll want to confer with your intended speakers well in advance of the service to ensure their cooperation. If your loved one was religious, you may opt to have their pastor or church minister perform these tasks. However, many families today hire a non-denominational celebrant to oversee the memorial service.
Eulogies - Many times family members or friends will be very direct about their desire to make a short presentation at the memorial service; other times you need to come out and ask folks if they would be willing to publicly share their thoughts and feelings. Either way, you'll want to select those people who have shared a close relationship with the deceased and have something meaningful to contribute. What details of your loved one's life do you want to share with guests? Not every biographical detail needs to be highlighted; rather you're trying to capture their essence by telling revealing anecdotes or stories. Sometimes you can reveal their character by detailing one short moment in their life experience.
Memoribilia - What decorations will you have? Many families create a tribute video and use it as the centerpiece of the event. Others choose to use a memory table of photographs and other memorabilia instead. As part of our work together, we'll depend on your family to provide us with a collection of treasured family photos which we will then turn into an eye-catching tribute video we can show during your loved one's memorial service. During the cremation arrangement conference we'll also review our memorial stationary selection so you can see the memorial folders; prayer cards, bookmarks and other print items which can become part of your loved one's service.
Activities & Reception - What group activities would be appropriate? We've heard some exciting memorial service ideas over the years. This question involves thinking about what your loved one liked most about their life and gives everyone a remarkable space to share memories, laugh, and even cry together. Will there be a reception afterwards at your loved one's favourite restaurant or pub? If you choose a reception after the service - what food or beverages should be served? What you serve may depend on the theme of your memorial service, or may be based on your loved one's favorite dishes. It's entirely up to you; we've even seen "pot luck" memorial services where guests actually sign up to bring select foods and beverages.
Before You go...
While we are an area leader in affordable cremation; we are also recognized funeral professionals who really understand the significance of a communal gathering after a death. Not just any gathering will do; we know a well-planned, personally meaningful memorial service can make all the difference for those left behind to grieve. It redefines and reinforces the social and the emotional connections between them. Not only that, memorial services provide everyone there with a special time to share fond memories, along with tears and laughter; all the while receiving compassionate support in one another's presence.
If you'd rather work with one of our caring team members, you can contact us online or call us anytime at (301) 739-5498. We also allow you to pre-plan online if that is what you are looking to accomplish.