How to Plan a Memorial Service

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A memorial service is a gathering to pay tribute to the life of someone who has passed away. It has no set-in-stone structure and can take place up to a year after a funeral. Planning a memorial service involves deciding how formal you wish the event to be and the overall nature of the event. When you begin the planning process, think of the location you wish to use, the specifics of the service, the decorations that suit the occasion and the people who will attend.

Choose the Location

Choose a location such as a house of worship, banquet hall or community center, or think of a spot that was important to the person who passed away. Appropriate locations could include a community park, a golf club, a beach or even the backyard of a family member or friend. When you choose a location, see if you have to formally reserve it and, if outdoors, have a backup plan for inclement weather.

Decide the Structure

Pick a formal or informal theme for the memorial service and a structure that reflects the life of the person who has passed. The service can be religious or non-religious in nature and often includes readings of scripture, singing songs and sharing memories of the person's life. Choose between a clergy member, family member or close friend to lead the service. It's also customary to hold a reception with drinks and snacks. One approach is to serve the favorite refreshments of the person you're memorializing. The food and drink portion doesn't have to be elaborate; it could range from juice and cookies to a meal for family and friends at a nearby restaurant.

Decorate to Tell a Story

Decorations serve as a key element of any memorial service. Decorate the memorial table with photos and mementos that tell the story of the person's life. Put together a photo scrapbook of snapshots from throughout the person's life and fill the table with keepsakes that were important to the person. The keepsakes can be family heirlooms, hobby-related items, personal awards or even articles of clothing. Add flowers and photos to bring the table and overall decor to life.

Invite the Guests

The method you use to invite people to the memorial service depends on how formal you plan the event to be. For a small service, call or email the people you wish to attend; you don't need to go to the expense of traditional invitation sent via mail unless you want to. In the case of a larger service for which the public is welcome, place an advertisement in your local newspaper that lists the date, location, time and other event particulars.