Planning Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies
Why do we have funerals?
Every culture throughout history has marked death with a ritual or ceremony. Funerals play an important role in helping family and friends cope with loss, heal the pain, and understand death. A funeral provides a place for family and friends to gather for mutual support and to celebrate the life. However, because our society has become fast-paced, youth-focused and death-denying, the traditional funeral has lost meaning for some. Successfully planning a meaningful service does not require a religious affiliation or a huge budget. It takes a thoughtful awareness of the practical requirements and emotional needs.
How might I create a meaningful funeral ceremony?
Personalization of the ceremonies is a good way to make a funeral more meaningful. Elements that portray the uniqueness of the individual will personalize the funeral. For example, memory tables are used to display photos and personal effects, trophies, and other momentos. Also, memorial videos can provide a moving tribute of a life. Even the casket can be decorated to reflect hobbies or interests of the deceased. Music, poetry and other readings add much to the ceremony. Selections can be favorites of the deceased or be chosen because they evoke certain memories, ideals or feelings.
Funeral ceremonies often follow the traditional practices of a particular culture or religious faith that may be very meaningful to mourners. In most cases, elements of personalization can be added to complement the traditional ceremonies.
Do funerals have to be sad?
Although the trend in funeral planning is sometimes to make the event upbeat and celebratory, experts in grief believe that mourners also need an appropriate opportunity to grieve. Funerals provide the friends and family with an opportunity to experience their pain and share it with each other. To discourage sadness is to delay the healing process.
How do I select meaningful music for the ceremonies?
Music is an effective way to create a mood and evoke memories during funeral ceremonies. Selections may include favorites of the deceased, traditional religious music, and uplifting songs as well as those with lyrics that acknowledge death. Music selections can be performed live and featured during the services and/or played in the background. Most funeral homes have sound systems to play pre-recorded music. The meaning and relevance of specific music selections can be described in the program.
Go to Ceremonies - Funeral Music in our Learn About Funerals section for a list of funeral songs for your consideration.
How do I select meaningful readings for the ceremonies?
Readings during funeral ceremonies can affirm religious faith, be thought-provoking, and reflect the personality and philosophies of the deceased. The selections of readings may include traditional religious literature, favorite poetry of the deceased, and selections that deal with life and death. Readings can be further personalized by involving family and friends in reading passages and explaining their specific meaning.
Go to Ceremonies - Funeral Readings in our Learn About Funerals section for a list of funeral readings and funeral poems for your consideration.
How do I select floral arrangements?
Flowers, with their natural beauty and symbolism, are a traditional element of funerals. Most florists offer an assortment of floral arrangements that are widely used for funerals, including casket sprays, standing sprays, wreaths, crosses, hearts, baskets and rosaries.
Go to Funeral Etiquette Flowers in our Learn About Funerals section to see a list of flowers and the message they communicate.
What type of tribute should be suggested to mourners?
It is customary in many cultures and religious faiths to send flowers to the bereaved family. However, many families prefer that mourners make a memorial donation to a favorite charity. This can be communicated with a message in the obituary saying, "in lieu of flowers, please send donations to (name and address of charity)."
Should we distribute prayer cards and/or memorial folders at the ceremony?
Prayer cards, memorial folders and programs are an optional element of funeral ceremonies. They are another means of paying tribute to the deceased and can serve as a valued keepsake and remembrance for mourners. Most funeral homes offer custom printing of these items in a variety of formats.
Do I need to purchase a guest register book?
Guest register books are used to record all those attending visitations and funeral ceremonies. They are a valued keepsake for family members and an excellent way to remember those in attendance. Register books can be made more meaningful by providing space to record fond memories of the deceased.
For more on funeral services and funeral programs see: