55+ Creative Funeral & Memorial Service Ideas

Since memorial service ideas are virtually unlimited, it can actually be somewhat daunting to plan and pull off a memorial or funeral service.

Memorial services can vary in style, tone, and content just as widely as the unique personalities of the individuals being memorialized.

As more and more families choose to modify or entirely steer clear of “traditional” services, the options for celebrating the life of a loved one multiply to accommodate the preferences of the family or the decedent.

You can opt for a culturally “traditional” service, a “life celebration” party, or something in between. Any way you go, the abundance of choices and the lack of a widely accepted standard increases the pressure on the family to choose the right elements and tailor the service “how they would have wanted it.”

To help, we’ve gathered an array of memorial service ideas for cremation or burial which will hopefully be of assistance to you in planning the perfect life celebration, funeral, or memorial service.

55 Creative Memorial Service Ideas

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Here are some of the most unique memorial service ideas to inspire your creativity.

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Memorial Service Ideas: Decor

When it comes to funeral decoration ideas, there will always be standards or basics that you can rely on for a traditional memorial service. The beautiful flowers, the memory table, framed posters and welcome boards with pictures from your loved one’s life… 

While we have classic examples of these ideas below, we’ve also included some unique service ideas and themes for a more personalized service.

Celebrations of life and more “colorful” funerals are often a great way to add that personal touch that really reminds attendees of the beautiful and vibrant individual that has passed. 

Ultimately, you want the feeling of the memorial service decorations to reflect the life of the deceased. If they were a bright, outgoing, colorful individual, then it may be a good idea to include their favorite colors, patterns, music or other favorite things.

Likewise, if they were a more reserved individual, it would be advisable to steer clear of any overly ostentatious displays and decor. 

Let’s take a closer look at the list of ideas blow. 

1. Funeral Flowers

Funeral flowers come in all colors, styles, and designs. Traditionally, the flowers for a memorial service are often white, but there’s no requirement to stick with white.

You can use the floral funeral arrangements to honor your loved one in a unique and creative way Go bold and colorful, or choose a particular flower or color as part of an overall theme. Or keep it classy and simple, but with splashes of gentle, muted colors.

Your funeral service florals don’t have to be restricted to traditional bouquets, either. They can include representations of hobbies, organizations and associations, sports, interests, and much more.

Florists have made funeral flowers and casket sprays representing airplanes, motorcycles, guitars, crosses, sports teams, colleges, etc. Their creativity often knows no bounds.

Many of these arrangements are available through your local florist. Here are two creative “alternative” funeral flower resources that we like:

  • The Bouqs — Fresh cut flowers grown responsibly.
  • Paisley Moon — Sola wood flower bouquets with soft, gentle colors.

2. Scholarship Fund in Lieu of Flowers

Donations in lieu of flowers

One option when it comes time to decorate for the memorial service is to simply not do so.

If flowers don’t seem quite right, or if they are already supplied or unnecessary for some reason, include a note in the invitation that funeral attendees can make a donation in lieu of flowers.

These donations can be collected and given to a charitable organization or a fund that reflects the passions and interests of the deceased. It can be anything from an actual scholarship fund set up in the decedent’s name, to a donation to the local branch of a charity in which they were involved.

This is a lasting meaningful, and powerful way to celebrate one life by impacting the lives of many others. Learn more here, or start a free online memorial campaign right now.

3. Create a Memorial Website for your Loved One

Memorial Website

A memorial website is easy to create and will provide a space for funeral information, RSVPs, reception and/or potluck details, condolence messages, and even collect donations.

You can also create and share a special hashtag so that anyone can tag photos they take at the memorial. On the website, include places for people to write out their favorite memories or notes to the departed and/or their families.

A virtual video of the service can also be posted on the site afterward, so that those who weren’t able to attend the service will be able to watch it later on.

Related: 10 Best Free Memorial Websites

4. Memorial Service Photos

It is appropriate and touching to display a photo of the decedent. This can be as simple as a framed print or as elaborate as a custom painting or laser engraved portrait.

Most often the family chooses a photograph that ideally represents their loved one and gets it printed in a large format. Sometimes this is a print in a frame set onto a table, or it could be a large canvas displayed on an easel.

Other creative ideas for memorial photos include:

5. Engraved Photo Cremation Urns

If you’ll be holding a cremation memorial service, a unique way to combine the urn and the memorial photo is to have the individual’s portrait laser engraved onto the cremation urn. This makes for a stunning centerpiece at the service, and will be a wonderful keepsake to honor your loved one.

The urn pictured above is cultured black granite and engraves a lovely white tone. Photos show up beautifully as black & white portraits, and you also get the custom inscription included at no extra charge. This has long been one of our most popular urns.

We also have a variety of other urns we can engrave with a photo, including many beautiful wooden urns. See all our photo urns here.

Related: Best Cremation Urn Display Ideas

6. Customized Memorial Candles

These memorial candles are a bright and beautiful addition to the memorial service décor. Set the mood with your own personalized memorial candle, which includes custom engraving of any text or photo and will serve as a special keepsake for the family after the service has ended.

These flameless LED candles are made from wax and feature natural flicker patterns. They look wonderfully realistic, and since you won’t actually be burning them you will be able to display the candle as a special keepsake for years to come.

Related: 21 Ways to Light a Candle in Memory

7. Collectibles & Hobbies

Display their collectible figurines

Showcase your loved one’s hobbies and passions by displaying a collection of things that they loved or were passionate about.

This can be a part of the main table, set up near the guest book at the entry, displayed as centerpieces on reception tables, or all of the above.

Display his collection of baseball cards, stamps, or Magic: The Gathering cards. Showcase her scrapbook creations, nature photography, drawings, or Wizard of Oz collectibles.

People collect all sorts of things from Star Wars figurines and stamps to coins, rocks, and more.

Whatever they collected can be displayed simply on a table near the entrance, or can be the backbone of the decorating scheme. Use your imagination!

8. Choose a Theme

Creative Memorial Service Ideas

Decorate in a way that expresses your loved one’s heritage, favorite sports teams, hobbies, military branch, religion, or other interests.

Perhaps someone was known for their love of doughnuts, and their favorite color was pink. Easy! Serve doughnuts at the reception, with a soft pink decorating theme and beautiful pink funeral flowers.

For someone of Irish heritage, think about throwing a traditional Irish wake. For a hunting enthusiast, cover the walls with camouflage, leaves, and mounted trophies.

If they were passionate about volunteering, have photos of the inner city kids they mentored, Habitat for Humanity projects, or volleyball teams they coached.

The ideas are endless!

9. Decorate a Story Table

Decorative Story Table

Place your loved one’s personal belongings, photos, and favorite items on a table. Use the items to tell their life story and share events that were important to them. 

You can also include personal items that spark special memories such movie tickets, poetry, or souvenirs from family vacations. 

Another lovely way to invite people to participate in the service is to cover the table with a roll of paper and allow people write their own notes and stories! 

More: 14 Creative Memorial Table Arrangements

10. Commission a Memorial Painting

Memorial Portrait for the Funeral Service

A commissioned work of art may take some time, but it will be well worth it when you see your loved one so beautifully and artistically memorialized. The above portrait is a commissioned work by the artist Mary Ann.

I know Mary Ann personally and not only does she do stunningly graceful work, but she is a dear friend who has a talent for truly “capturing” the spirit of a person in a memorial portrait.

She can work from photographs and, through continual and compassionate communication with the family about the piece, creates gently emotive and visually appealing memorial paintings.

You can also get memorial portraits done fairly quickly and affordably by shopping on Etsy (this can be a great option if the memorial service is coming up soon).

If you have more time, you will probably want to do a more thorough search to find the perfect artist. It’s important to note that, depending on the artist, their work can take from one to six months.

11. Live Music

Many people hire musicians for the service to play hymns or to sing contemplative, meaningful music during moments of reflection. 

The type of music can differ greatly depending on the tastes of your loved one. If they loved Jazz music, be sure to include it somewhere in the service. Or if Elvis was their favorite singer of all time, pick some of their top tracks to play during the reception or the tribute video.

For a memorial  service that has more of a “life celebration” feel, get the party started with live music. Be sure to have them play covers of your loved one’s favorite songs as a beautiful way to honor their memory.

12. Hang up a Memory Quilt

Memory Quilt

Bring quilt squares and have family members and friends decorate them with messages and artwork using metallic permanent markers.

Quilt squares can be purchased, or you can cut them out of your loved one’s clothing to create a special tribute blanket.

This will be a great way to commemorate their life and a meaningful memorial project to work on after the service is over.

As you assemble pieces of your loved one’s favorite clothing articles and read all the special tributes, you can be reminded of all of their beautiful memories.

For more memorial ideas that you can hang on walls, click here.

13. Decorate a Memorial Tree

There are lots of ways to get creative with this idea. Perhaps you’re having the memorial at home in your backyard? In that case, hang ornaments or notes from your loved one’s favorite tree.

Otherwise, you can purchase a decent sized live tree in a pot. If it’s near the holidays, you can easily get your hands on a beautiful spruce or pine tree to display at the service.

Have everyone place ribbons, photos, notes, or ornaments on the tree. Each can include a special message. For instance, attendees can write a tribute on ornaments like these.

Or print fifty of your favorite photos of your loved one, punch a hole in each, and have people write a message on the back, tie on a ribbon, then hang it from the tree.

Related: Quotes to Express Sympathy on New Years

Memorial Service Ideas: During the Service

There are lots of unique and different ways to honor the deceased during the memorial or celebration of life service.

From candle lighting services and dove releases, to more simple memorial service ideas like wearing your loved one’s favorite colors — the options are more broad than you may have ever imagined. Let’s take a look at a few!

14. Memorial Slideshow

Projected slide show for memorial service

Create a memorial slide show of photos or videos of your loved one to play or project. This can be done as a montage with music during the service, or played on a loop in the background during the reception.

If you choose to do a slideshow during the memorial service, keep it between 3-5 minutes, or the length of 1-2 songs.

Sometimes there are just too many great photos, and you’ll feel like you want to display every single one. That’s ok! Just don’t make a 30 minute slideshow for the service.

Instead, play the 30 minute version during the reception when people can be more relaxed.

When organizing a slideshow of photos from all stages of the individual’s life, make sure you include captions to show what year or where photos were taken, as it will help the memorial service attendees to piece together aspects of the person’s life with which they may not be familiar.

Or try a video montage, which can easily be done through sites such as Animoto and even posted online after the service.

Related: Can You Take Photos at Funerals?

15. Poems, Quotes, and Sayings

Creative Quotes for a Memorial Service

Use quotes to honor memories, inspire and encourage, and to eloquently express grief, hope, and love. If your loved one had a favorite quote, poem, Bible verse, or song lyric, that should be your first choice.

We also have a wide variety of quote collections to help you, including quotes for celebration of life, eulogies, Bible verses, hymns, prayers, and even some off-the-wall funeral humor bits which could, with the right crowd, serve as fun and cheeky ice-breakers.

Memorial Service Quote collections:

16. Funeral Songs

Funeral Music

A favorite song played at the right time can provide an appropriately emotional or nostalgic touch.

Try to plan music with care, so that there isn’t 3-5 minutes of attendees waiting awkwardly for a song to finish. If possible, use music as a transition, to provide a time of reflection, or during an open-casket viewing.

If you’re looking for fitting music to use in these types of transitions, here is a master list of popular funeral songs. Other specific genres include:

Here’s a great download of mellow, instrumental versions of hymns and classical pieces such as Abide with Me and Canon in D.

17. Dove Release

Ideas for Memorial Service - Release Doves

Dove releases have become a popular way to end a funeral or celebration of life. The release is a symbolic yet tactile way to help family members in the grieving process by a literal act of “letting go.”

This adds a poignant sense of hope and beauty to the memorial service.

18. Wear their Favorite Colors

Wear Favorite Colors

During the service, everyone can wear the favorite color of the one who has passed in their honor. This is a fun way to get around the traditional of wearing all black and answer the question on each person’s mind of, “What do I wear to the funeral?”

This time, the answer is: Purple! Or red or yellow or camouflage. Perhaps Hawaiian shirts or something with skulls or rainbows or puppies. Roll Tide. Hail State. Boomer Sooner. You know what they wore — and what it means.

19. Create a Memorial Capsule

Memorial Capsule

Have a memorial box at the service where loved ones can place personal letters, favorite memories, photos, or items that represent your beloved in the box.

For graveside service ideas, this box could be buried with the person at the cemetery, buried at home as a time capsule, or kept by the family as a keepsake.

20. Decorate a White Coffin with Farewell Messages

White Coffin - Sharpie

Choose a white coffin and allow mourners to write personal messages as they say farewell one last time.

Read 100 Best Saying Goodbye Messages for inspiration on what to write.

21. Light a Candle in Memory

Memorial Candles

Lighting a candle in memory of a departed loved one is a way to pay tribute to their life and legacy. Have one candle as a centerpiece up front, or give everyone a remembrance candle to light at a special moment in the service.

Idea to Avoid: Balloon Release

Memorial Service Ideas

While the concept is beautiful, balloon releases have some serious downsides. Balloons are non-biodegradable and can land anywhere, ruining animal and plant habitats.

Please consider this as you think of alternatives to a balloon release. If you are still interested in a balloon release, be sure to get biodegradable balloons.

Virtual Memorial Service Ideas

22. Choose Accessible Video Platforms

Accessible Video Platform

There are many ways to livestream the funeral or memorial service. Thankfully, many funeral homes are now set up to provide this for you.

However, it could be an additional funeral expense that you want to avoid, or you may want to stream a private service, or maybe you’re skipping the funeral home entirely. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger and many more are available to use for free.

For a simple stream, all you’ll need is a smartphone, internet connection, and probably a tripod to make sure the video is steady. Then share the link to the stream on social media or on the memorial website, and you’re good to go.

23. Create Downloadable Funeral Programs & Invites

If you’re going all-virtual, then there’s no need to print the funeral programs or invitation. Use one of these templates to create a gorgeous digital invitation and matching funeral program, then post online or send individually to each contact.

You can, of course, also print locally, online, or at home for anyone who wants a physical copy.

Check out how to fill out your funeral order of service here!

Related: Best Poems for Funeral Programs

24. Hire someone to make sure the virtual service goes smoothly

Hire Professional

Memorial services are important, and should be done with excellence and dignity. While some people prefer to DIY, others appreciate what a professional can bring to the table.

A good funeral home will help you arrange both the in-person and virtual aspects of the memorial service. There are also companies out there like this one that specialize in creating beautiful online services.

More: How to Create a Meaningful Virtual Funeral Service

Memorial Service Ideas for Cremation

25. Scattering Ashes

Memorial Service Ideas: Scattering at Sea

If you are planning on scattering cremated remains, think about including the scattering as part of the service itself. You can hold a memorial service at the location of scattering, or plan the service so that it leads into the scattering at a different location.

Previously on this blog we’ve detailed 68 Things to Do with Cremated Remains. The list includes standards such as ocean scattering, scattering at home or other private property, or at a favorite outdoor locations.

We also list unique, exciting, and even bizarre scattering choices including planting as a tree, shooting off as fireworks, launching into space, mixed into paint in a custom painting, made into pencils, and more.

Check it out, perhaps it will inspire you with more creative memorial service ideas!

Related: What to Say When Scattering Ashes

26. Biodegradable Shell Urn

Creative Memorial Service Ideas for Scattering

If you’re planning on a water scattering or burial, there are a variety of water-soluble and eco-friendly urns available, such as the above Biodegradable Shell Urn.

Once the urn is placed in water (or in the earth; these are also perfect for an eco-friendly ground burial) the plant fibers help soak up water so the urn quickly dissolves. Finished with earth-friendly water soluble paints for a natural look.

Find more biodegradable cremation urns here.

27. Plant a Memorial Tree

Grow a tree from cremated ashes

If outdoor burial (away from a cemetery) will be part of the memorial service, one option is to plant a memorial tree urn using our unique Biodegradable Memorial Tree Urns.

We offer a wide selection of trees which grow using the cremated remains in a proprietary mixture which nourishes and sustains the memorial tree. Have attendees participate in the planting process for a time of healing and connecting with nature.

Here are more ways to plant a tree in memory.

28. Memorial Jewelry

Gather around and divide the ashes among family members, placing a small amount (or a lock of hair) into cremation jewelry necklaces or rings.

Many families let the funeral home take care of this, or fill the necklaces at home. But you could incorporate the process into the memorial service as part of the ceremony to make it a little more meaningful. You could also fill the jewelry beforehand, then everyone can wear their jewelry to the service.

Related: Your Guide to Cremation Jewelry

Funeral Ideas: Group Participation

29. Memorial Stones

Set up a table near the entrance with river rock and permanent markers, and instruct each person to write a brief note on the rock expressing their love, grief, or cherished memories.

The memorial stones can then be read aloud during the service, be scattered at a favorite fishing hole or hiking trail, kept by the family, placed around a garden bed, and so forth.

The lovely multicolored rocks pictured above are Alaskan river rocks, which look amazing displayed in a glass vase.

Find more creative funeral guest book ideas here.

30. Share Memories at an Open Mic

Share Stories at an Open Mic

It’s a great idea to to include an “open mic” time for family and friends to share favorite memories.

These times are often the highlights of the service, treasured for unveiling little-known nuggets of touching generosity or laugh-out-loud humor, and allowing those who best grieve publicly to have an opportunity to express their thoughts and memories.

Sometimes this can occur during the actual service, but you may not want to take the chance of just letting anyone take the stage. Or perhaps you’re worried about it going too long or a host of other issues.

Perhaps the best way to “limit the damage” of any of these concerns is to have the open mic during the reception, where the atmosphere can be a little less formal than the memorial service itself.

In any event, make sure that there is a good microphone with speakers at an appropriate volume set up. Have someone experienced act as an MC to gracefully handle transitions and any uncomfortable situations.

31. My Special Memory of You Cards

Memory cards provide attendees at the memorial service an opportunity to write down their memories and can serve as a written record of the “open mic” session. It’s a beautiful collection of brief, heartfelt stories for the family of the decedent to treasure and remember.

You can pass them out at a set time during the service, set them out on at the entrance near the guest book, or scatter them on the reception tables for people to fill out while they eat and socialize.

For customizable memory cards, check out our professionally designed cards here (matching funeral programs are also available).

32. Memorial Blessing Tree

The “blessing tree” is a popular activity for baby showers, and the same idea goes for a wedding “wishing” tree. It also works as a creative memorial service idea.

Display a small tree or a small tree-like display (like the one pictured above), and provide tags or cards for attendees to write a blessing or note of encouragement to the family, or an expression love or grief directly to the departed loved one.

This can serve as the guest book or simply a way for attendees to express their sympathy.

Tip: Use a money tree and cut out your own “leaf” cards

Here are a few angles you can take on this idea. Just choose an apt name and write out brief instructions so people get the idea:

  • Sympathy Tree — to express condolences to the family
  • Memorial Tree — to write a brief memory or message to the departed loved one
  • Goodbye Tree — a way to say goodbye
  • Prayer Tree — prayers offered up for the loved one and their family
  • Blessing Tree — to offer blessings for the loved one and those in grief
  • Celebration of Life Tree — express ways that the deceased had a wonderful, meaningful life

33. Build A Cairn

Build a cairn in memory of your loved one

One unique memorial service idea is to build a stone memorial cairn. A cairn is a man-made pile of rocks, often used as a landmark, but also from ancient times marking burial sites.

Cairns can be built over the burial place if on private property or if the cemetery allows it (which makes them good graveside service ideas).

But a cairn doesn’t necessarily have to mark a burial location. Rather, it can be done at a favorite hiking or fishing spot, in your garden at home, or any other favorite outdoor spot.

If you will be scattering remains, or even just conducting the memorial service in the great outdoors, having those present help in building cairns in honor of your loved one will allow everyone to contribute during the service, and will also leave a landmark in memory of the departed which can be revisited by all.

Children & Baby Memorial Ideas

34. Bubble Release

Bubble Release

If your child loved bubbles, you can take time to blow bubbles into the sky in their honor. This cute memorial idea hits all the right notes: Meaningful and sweet, beautiful and fun, simple and affordable.

You can provide small wands of bubbles in baskets for the attendees, or have a bubble machine provide a constant supply of beautiful bubbles.

Bubbles are also wonderful graveside service ideas as the bubbles can float freely to the sky before they burst.

35. Favorite Candy or Candy Bars

Creative Memorial Service Ideas: Candy

Did he love Milky Way bars? Did she always have a pack of Wintergreen Trident? Incorporate a favorite candy bar, chewing gum, or other treat into the memorial service.

Consider having a favorite candy in easy-to-reach bowls on each table at the reception, or pass out their favorite candy bar as parting gifts to attendees.

Set up a display table near the exit with a photo of the person with their candy, and have bags of candy or bars with a note to take and enjoy in memory of your loved one.

Candy will add a splash of color and some spark discussion of fond memories while providing a little treat to the attendees.

36. Butterfly Release

30+ Creative Memorial Service Ideas

An alternative to the dove release is arranging a butterfly release. As the butterflies are released, read a poem, say a prayer, or play your loved one’s favorite song. Allow the guests to mingle among the butterflies before moving on to the reception.

A butterfly release is ideal in tandem with one of our beautiful butterfly urns.

37. Footprint Memorial Ring

If you have your little one’s footprint, have it etched onto this lovely memorial ring. Wear it always to show the love you shared.

This can be made with or without an inner compartment, which can hold a lock of hair, cremated ashes, or some other small remembrance.

Keepsakes & Giveaways

38. Memorial Pocket Charms

Little trinkets or keepsakes, called “funeral favors,” are a popular way to honor the memory of a loved one while saying ‘thank you’ to those who attended the funeral or life celebration.

These pewter heart shaped pocket charms, pictured above, come in an attractive organza pouch and include a printed card with a memorial poem. The charms are among our most popular memorial service ideas, and also come in shamrock and  angel designs.

Related: 25 Beautiful Funeral Favors, Keepsakes, & Giveaways

39. Memorial Tree Seedlings

Give out memorial tree seedlings to all attendees. This is a meaningful and life-centered way to pay tribute to your loved one.

Ask guests to report back about how and where they planted their tree. It is always encouraging to know that there are trees growing throughout the region in honor of your loved one, allowing their memory to live on.

40. Wear Memorial Photo Pins

Pass out photo buttons of the loved one which can be worn during the service or celebration. This will provide a sense of unity while also giving each person a memorial keepsake to take home.

Or consider making them yourself as a DIY memorial service project. If you have a crafty person in the family, this can be a way for them to help out and use their abilities as well as their imagination.

Create a personalized button as in the picture above, make a photo clip attached to flowers, or create necklaces and wristbands with photos as the charms.

41. Christmas Tree Ornaments

If the memorial service is around the holiday season, consider giving out memorial Christmas ornaments.

Here are 35 of our favorite memorial ornaments, which include many gorgeous personalized options like the ones shown above, plus DIY clear ornaments which you can fill with preserved funeral flowers, a special message written to your loved one, photos, and more.

42. Memorial Bookmarks

Create your own personalized memorial bookmarks with your loved one’s photo, name and dates, plus a sweet sentiment.

This is a simple, easy memorial tribute that you can give out at the service, and people can use them in books and Bibles or display them on the fridge or family bulletin board.

Related: How to Personalize and Print Memorial Bookmarks for the Funeral

43. Tree of Memories

This adorable Tree of Memories comes with little heart papers so that attendees can write favorite memories, final farewells, or special messages of comfort to the family.

Place one at each table during the reception and watch the trees blossom with comforting and encouraging words.

More: 50+ Creative Ways to Memorialize a Loved One

Memorial Service Ideas: Having Fun

44. Memorial Fireworks

Creative Memorial Ideas - Set off fireworks

Light off fireworks during or after the memorial service to provide a splash of color and light, and to emphasize that the purpose of the memorial is a celebration of life. This will be a truly memorable event for all who attend.

45. Floating Lanterns

Paper lanterns to light up a Celebration of Life service

Floating lanterns, also known as sky lanterns, have been a traditional part of many culture’s celebrations and holidays for generations.

Lighting a candle for the deceased is a common memorial tradition, so it is fitting (and beautiful) to combine these traditions by lighting sky lanterns during or after the memorial service.

They are pretty simple to get online, but if you want to keep costs down, here are some ways to make your own floating lanterns for a memorial service.

46. Memorial Tattoos

Here’s a fun activity for the service or reception. Personalize a temporary tattoo memorial that everyone can place on their arm, and sport matching memorials as you gather, share a meal, and reminisce.

Or, as part of a private family celebration of life, go together and get matching real tattoos.

47. BYOB After Party

Throw a funeral after party

Truly celebrate the life of your loved one by inviting friends and family to raise a glass to their memory. Throw a BYOB after party and let the memories flow freely. Get some personalized memorial glasses to pay tribute to your loved one.

Or if whiskey was their thing, serving their favorite spirit from a personalized oak barrel will provide a brilliant and memorable centerpiece to the after party or reception.

48. Sandwich Bar

Creative Funeral Reception Ideas

Sandwiches are delicious easy to make, and relatively affordable. Invite guests to stay after the service and share stories and memories during the memorial reception with a build-your-own-sandwich bar.

Related: 55+ Comforting Funeral Food Recipes

49. Potluck Buffet Reception

Creative Memorial Service Ideas - Potluck Buffet

A potluck buffet will help keep the costs down, while still affording attendees the opportunity to share a meal together. Meals are important because it allows everyone at the funeral to continue to process their grief, encourage the family, and share memories.

You can also incorporate a buffet into the decorating scheme by asking attendees to bring dishes in an ethnic or party theme.

You might consider asking for certain colors of food, or keep it simple with finger foods and snack plates, or do a dessert-only buffet.

Don’t underestimate the power of allowing others to contribute. When people have something to do for you and the family, it is a tangible way for them to express their own grief as well as sympathy to you.

As you host a potluck reception after the memorial service, you are opening the doors for everyone to come together in support and fellowship.

Related: Our 55 Favorite Funeral Potluck Recipes

50. Make Beads from Funeral Flowers

Creative Memorial Ideas - Beads from Funeral Flowers

Upcycle the funeral flowers by making them into beads for memorial jewelry. Learn how to make them yourself by following these step-by-step instructions here.

Memorial beads made from funeral flowers can be something just for you, for a select group of family and friends, or a special token to include in your thank-you notes.

Here are several other methods for preserving funeral flowers, plus some creative keepsake ideas to make from them.

51. Treasure Hunt

Fun Life Celebration Ideas - Treasure Hunt

Creative Funeral Ideas has an easy guide to creating a treasure hunt memorial, which celebrates highlights from the deceased’s life while getting everyone up and out of pews and into the great outdoors.

Great for honoring someone who loved to hike, who loved the outdoors, or for anyone with an adventurous spirit.

52. Viking-Style Sendoff

Unique Memorial Service Ideas

In the modern day and age, a Viking-style funeral will only work using cremated remains, due to burial regulations for full-body funerals.

But there is little to stop you from a water scattering of ashes via a Viking funeral pyre, or simply having a funeral pyre ship as a memorial after the burial.

Here are some tips for a successful Viking-style funeral.

53. Get Social

Memorial Service Ideas on Social Media

Was the deceased active on social media? Have attendees live-Tweet, #hashtag their Instagram photos, or post photos and messages from the service directly onto a memorial Facebook page.

This is a simple way to allow guests to participate and interact with the memory of your loved one. Invite people to post photos and stories to the person’s page, or tag them in a post.

Create a hashtag (for instance, #inmemoryofjohndoe2019) and there will be an online digital location for the family to see photos from the memorial service, interact with friends and family, see old photos they may have never seen before, and read stories of their loved one’s beautiful life.

You can also create a memorial website (for free) and encourage everyone to post photos, condolences, memories, and farewell messages.

The website will be online forever, and you can always visit it to read the notes and stories and see photos of your loved one.

54. Play Their Favorite Games

Play Games

Did they have a favorite game such as Monopoly or Settlers of Catan? Place their favorite card or board games around for others to enjoy, and encourage everyone to play a game in memory!

55. Host a Picnic

Host Picnic

Instead of the tradition venue of the funeral home or a church, why not do the memorial service at a favorite park? Have everyone pack a picnic blanket and a basket with sides to share, then grill some burgers and let the kids roam and play.

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What a wonderful way to celebrate your loved one! Believe it or not, we have even more funeral ideas here: 100 Inspirational Celebration of Life Ideas for an Amazing Person.

More Great Ideas

As a bonus, here are a few more unique celebration of life, memorial, or graveside service ideas to look over and consider!

For a Graveside Service: Favorite Flower Petals

Memorial Service Ideas - Petals

If your loved one had a favorite flower, consider assembling small organza bags full of petals or blossoms for attendees to sprinkle over the coffin at the graveside service.

It’s a nice (and more cost effective) alternative to long-stemmed roses and flowers, that is equally as beautiful.

For a Celebration of Life: Hold a Dance Social

Memorial Ideas - Dance Social

Did they love to dance more than anything in this world? Then hold a dance social in their honor!

Whether they got down on a good Virginia Reel at the local line-dance hall, or would twist the night away at a sock hop, theme it around what they enjoyed most.

For a Traditional Service: Form a Family Choir

Memorial Ideas - Family Choir

Choirs are already so beautiful, but how much more meaningful would it be to have a choir made up of family members and friends to send off your loved one?

Pick a choral rendition of one of their favorite songs and sing together in sweet harmony. You definitely want to organize a few practices beforehand, but the outcome will definitely be worth it.

Read Next: No Funeral Service? Here is What to Do

Memorial Service Ideas: Pin It Image

38 thoughts on “55+ Creative Funeral & Memorial Service Ideas”

  1. Please do not release balloons! Balloon releasing is illegal in many states because it is harmful to wild life. Just think, you release a dozen balloons in honor of someone who has passed only to cause the death of fish, birds and animals. Plant a tree, create a flower bed where others who are participating bring flowers to plant, blow bubbles to the wind with a memory of the person who has passed, set a place for the loved one at the table, float a natural materials wreath on the water….use the imagination and do what the person you have lost might do.

  2. I agree with so many of these, but NOT with any of them that go aloft and can/could end up in the water injuring animals or making debris (the paper lanterns). ALL of them are better than balloons!

  3. For those who are concerned about releasing balloons-biodegradable balloons are available these days. They are eco friendly and do not cause harm to animals. However, there are many more gestures that may be more suitable and are far more acceptable to all. Releasing birds or butterflies (many companies now have breeding programs for these specific activities), planting flowers, trees or making a memorial garden are wonderful, sustainable memorials. Messages to your loved one on pebbles, flowers thrown onto a lake in memory of your loved one, sponsor an animal shelter pen or similar. However you decide to do it will have special meaning to you and those you loved.

  4. Even biodegradable balloons endanger wildlife. Degradable is the operative word. It takes time for them to completely meld with the environment, and is an area where wildlife abounds, they are a danger. My husband designed a rock pile in our front yard but never could decide what to plant there. I am going to provide small cacti in biodegradable containers for planting. Our local florist has a great array, perfect for a desert memorial.

  5. I absolutely love these ideas! My beloved uncle passed away after old age and everyone has been at peace. We want to have a happy memorial service for him as we are thinking of cremating him. I think that we will go with the balloon,s pictures, and theme idea! He would have wanted a light ambiance. Thank you for the ideas!https://www.ahlgrimfuneral.com/

  6. I am dying soon and will have table (if I gt it done in time) with all the main intersdts of my life first make a list of those then make a foldd cardboard sign witht eh interest on it and then find oject/s to represent it

    for example cooking a favorite cookbook or one that reflects the kind of diet he had vegan etc and something like a cheese grater and some wooden spoons, reading some favorite books, birds some ceramic birds, healthy living some herbs and supplements etc / movies picture or poster of favorite movie, zoos a few plastic zoo animals, rocks some pretty rocks, singing some sheet music, and so forth

    can do a list of their strengths, key moments, statistics with some pictures

    something to reflect profession

    I am having during sit down portion start with a song then talk of childhpood have someone there during childhood talk about them, then move on to older yeas, marriage, children (during this the kids who want to speak), occupation and inters ts (song and someone speaks) later years etc during each segment one has a song and a person eulogize the deceased,,,make a printed program with song verses and who is speaking end with opening the floor if anyone wants to say something,

    at graveside play some spirituals song on recorder and a group singalong song..

    I was just writing all this out for my sons and decided to look for any other ideas as I want the funeral to reflect me and saw this and jotted down some of my ideas for others.

    you can make the tablecloth for th eintersts white or match the flowers and put a small vase of flowers there (I would use a gel thing instead of water or put stems in cut flower thing that florist use to hld a cut flower so water will not spill on objects or not much water or maybe artificial f,lowers id they do not look too tacky

  7. Skywriting is another popular event to have at your love one’s services. It’s beautiful to see and create. You can put your love one’s name in the sky with a heart and watch it dissipate to the heavens. Theskywriters.com offer this service. Their very helpful and compassionate about your needs.

  8. Jane, we are planning a celebration of life for my mother and I love the idea of your memory table I can/’t wait to tell my sister and plan for it. Thank you. God Bless

  9. There are balloons made from rice paper now and can be used for balloon releases, they do not pose a problem to animals in any way as they simply dissolve. The only draw back with these balloons is rain, as they will start to come apart if they get too wet.

    I work at a funeral home and we use these anytime a family wants to do a balloon release – and they are reasonably priced.

  10. I’m planning a celebration of life for my father. It’s odd not to have to do funeral or wake as my father donated his body to science. Case Western Reserve University has his remains for a year and then will cremate him returning ashes to family. While looking at ideas I noticed the place setting idea which I love and I’m thinking I will put together a very generic white squares of material next to squares I could cut out of a few of his favorite clothes or blankets and make a quilt using it as a tablecloth but I think maybe I’ll put several colors of fabric markers by the table and ask people to write a memory or sign it..maybe it can totally be a keepsake since we have no place to go for continued grieving like a cemetery or urn etc. my father also was a shot and a beer kind of guy so maybe I’ll lay out a beer and many shot glasses, his favorite whiskey….and anyone could do one last shot With him in his honor? Does that sound dumb?

  11. Love these ideas, great post, thanks so much. I’ve been trying to decide what memorial to get for my father who passed some time ago. I have his ashes and was thinking of planting something and getting a memorial bench from here http://www.benchmemorials.co.uk. I hadn’t thought of a tree, so thanks for that. Trouble is I am having trouble getting the council to reply for my request of having a bench placed in the spot me and my dad loved to visit down in Kent.

  12. My daughter Elsha M Rivera has been missing for over 12 years since 2004 from fort worth texas the kids are almost grown and dont remember her so they show no interest but I need to move on also, I cant do it by myself any longer do to health issue’s, I am going to presume her deceased and wanna have a service in Utah where her family and old school frieds all live Texas wasnt her home she was just their temporarily so I want to have a 80-90’s dance party after the service with food and drink and oictures of her life displayed everywhere at a pavillion by the cemetary..i wanted to set off balloons and doves at the memorial service give anyone who would like to share a memory and then have everyone write a memory or goodbye in strips of paper and place it in a urn with her picture so that one day the kids of they want to read them or learn more about her they can…
    Then in the evening as during the dance and the sun goes down I want to let off tea lights but have her picture or pictures of others missing all over….as a i now have many missing person family…members…to honor all those missing…in lue of flowers I’d to gather donations for the missing families to also have a balloon or tea light releases down the road

  13. some of these are downright disgusting not to say illegal. Balloon, lanterns butterflies – an absolute disgrace.

  14. I think people need to greive and do what they feel is best for them to greive and celebrate their loved ones life.

    I would guess some of these comments were made by people who have not lost a close loved one such as a parent or a child.

    People have come here to get ideas of sending their loved ones off in a respectable manner. There is no need for people to make unnecessary negative comments during this very hard time in someone’s life.

    You can express your opinion in a nice way other than saying something is a disgrace or disgusting.

    I hope those who came here for help will ignore those people who made insensitive comments.

  15. How insensitive of Liz Wild, my sister (52) died 20/1/2017 I was in Canada awaiting the death of my daughter (49) who passed away 6 days later 26/1/2017 so was unable to attend her funeral. I am trying to find a fitting way to celebrate their lives.

  16. Wow great ideas…I am in particular need of a location without ashes or a coffin.. simple center for the meeting of family members spiritual and quite so everyone can share their memories and thoughts together.

  17. William – Locations for Memorials and/or Celebration of Life Services are abundant.
    The following are just some of the locations I have delivered services in my capacity of Funeral Celebrant:
    – Meeting room at a hotel
    – The deceased’s home.
    – The deceased’s place of work
    – Golf Course
    – A Legion or other group meeting place
    – Funeral Home
    – A public garden or park

    – Hope this helps you out.

    Funeral Celebrant
    Vancouver, BC, Canada


  19. Thank you for all the unique memorial service ideas. My family really wants to do a memorial service, but we don’t know what to do. I like your idea of doing a balloon release. It would allow everyone to participate which would be really fun.

  20. What we did so that everyone could participate is we hired a videographer
    He was able to record the scheduled speeches as well as the opportunity for others to say something nice and feel that they were part of the reception / service
    We then had it prepared with music and we now have it as an awesome keepsake

  21. I want to begin by thanking everyone for sharing ideas for such a special yet final moment.

    My Mom passed away two weeks ago and in looking for our brother (who was estranged for 16 years) we discovered that he had passed away last year. We are now having a memorial service for both. We will have Mom’s ashes but so far nothing of his. I’m planning to have a slide show with their pictures as well including family and friends to remind us of happier times. Also, a memorial table with still pictures and a candle for each. My Mom loved plants so I’ve included one for the table and for memory cards I’ve made some in the shape of a flower for Mom and for him in the shape of a car (he made his love of cars his career). I also purchased flower seeds and will set them out in a vase like a bouquet of flowers as keepsakes.
    I hope this helps someone who like me, was looking for ideas to make a celebration of life for a loved one.

  22. I lost my father when I was eleven years old. I’m only in high school right now, but I realize the dangers of releasing balloons, including the “biodegradable” ones. I wrote an essay this past school year on why balloon releases should be illegal, which required a lot of research, therefore I am very knowledgeable on the subject. Not to mention I’m already making plans to pursuit a degree in marine biology. I believe balloon releases should be considered littering everywhere on earth. I just can’t understand why littering would be beneficial to a grieving heart. It doesn’t really make sense to kill an innocent sea turtle because someone is upset that they lost someone close. Again, I’ve dealt with grief at a very young age. I understand that it is a difficult time in people’s lives. I still believe that there is no reason balloon releases should be acceptable. Planting trees or flowers, blowing bubbles, taking a trip, or scattering ashes would be much better (or even beneficial) to the environment. Let’s stop littering because of a loved one’s death and let’s start doing unique activities that aren’t as common. In celebration of my dad’s life my family planted trees and flowers in our backyard, scattered his ashes in places where he would like, and take roadtrips that he would enjoy.

  23. Great ideas. I like it. Thanks for sharing such a useful content which will help people in some way.

  24. I like how you said to choose a theme for your funeral. I am helping my grandma pre-plan her funeral right now. Thanks for the ideas for a funeral service.

  25. I appreciate your ideas for what to at a memorial service. The idea of having photos for the deceased displayed for family and friends to see. I think that is a great way to remember a loved one.

  26. We liked the idea of releasing doves since it is symbolic and a tactile way to help family members in the grieving process. My grandmother passed away, and my dad wants to set a ceremony. I will add in to have doves because she loved bords, and it will add a poignant sense of hope and beauty.

  27. As you mentioned, releasing doves at a memorial service can act as a literal way of letting go. My grandmother just passed away, and she loved all and every type of bird. I think that releasing doves would be a great way to pay tribute to her. I will have to mention this to my dad, and see what he thinks.

  28. My father in law loved fishing and gardening. When he passed, the family place some of his favorite fishing lures, a few bell peppers, etc in the coffin arrangement.
    These items sparked quite a few fun stories and laughter! It was amazing for his family to hear these stories and laugh a lot. I know that he would have loved it!

  29. a big no on floating lanterns and balloons. They destroy bird life and in our beer changing climate emergency, the lanterns can far too easily start fires. To those who have ashes, I say ” Let Dad out of the closet” I took my husband’s ashes and using only about a tablespoon of them had his ashes blown into beautiful glass balls. I had the small ones blown to hold a few spoons of ashes for keepsakes for the children and a large ball for myself to use as a decorative piece. If I knew how, I would attach a picture to this. If you wish to see them, feel free to PM me on facebook.

  30. Please, please do not encourage the use of floating lanterns. They cause as much, if not more, devastation than releasing balloons.

  31. Thank you so much for this post. We recently lost my great-grandma and she had such a great and long life. It was so nice celebrating her with some of the ideas we found here. We’ve been going through her things and there are boxes and boxes of things that she kept but should have gotten rid of years ago. Now we have a chance to remember her while clearing her home, but we had to get a dumpster rental for all of the things we’re getting rid of! But that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, thanks again for the ideas!

  32. Thank you for these ideas. I want to make things as easy as possible for my family after I’m gone. Instead of a service, I’d prefer people donate time or money to an organization called Feed My Starving Children https://www.fmsc.org/. I think finding a local organization that people are familiar with, and where they can physically volunteer if desired would be super meaningful. So far, my daughter favors the idea, too. Thanks again for addressing this important topic.

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