Guest Post Author: Bailey Chauner | Content Marketing Coordinator for Redfin
Having a memorial for a loved one after their passing is an important part of the grieving process. It’s a time to honor them, share memories with family and friends, and say goodbye. Some families find that there’s no better place to hold this personal event than at home, but knowing exactly where to start the planning process — especially amid the grief of a loss — can feel overwhelming.
This guide will help you plan a beautiful, meaningful home memorial service for a recently departed loved one. Proceed with patience and plenty of support. With a little time and the right planning, you can hold a service that will allow your family to come together and say goodbye.
Choosing a kind of service: Memorials vs. Funerals
The services and items you’ll need in planning a home memorial will vary depending on the kind of service you’ll have. Your loved one may have left instruction on their final arrangements, but if not there are two main options: memorials and funerals.
Memorials usually involve a group of family and friends coming together to mourn the loss of a loved one. There may be photos of the departed, flowers, and at least one eulogy, often from a surviving spouse, parent, or sibling. Some families also choose to have a religious or spiritual figure speak. The loved one is typically represented by a large photo, a collection of photos, wreath, or if they’ve been cremated, their urn.
Food and drink are often incorporated into memorials and can be organized in just about any format that works for you and your loved ones. Some memorials will offer light refreshments like water, coffee, crackers, cheese, and mini sandwiches. In other cases, the memorial is a potluck where family and friends are invited to bring a dish to share. Alcohol isn’t required, but it’s commonly offered — typically a basic wine selection is sufficient. Leftovers stay with the host or are given to the immediate family of the deceased (if the memorial is held at someone else’s home). For large memorials, it might be worth the expense to hire a caterer to provide finger foods, utensils, and drinks.
The location of the memorial within the house is entirely up to you; one convenience of a home memorial is that you can tailor it to be exactly how you want. Some families even choose to have a backyard service if the weather permits. The living room, den, or formal dining room are all good options, but ultimately it will depend on the space available in the house. You’ll need adequate room for your guests to chat amongst themselves before and after the service, seating for the formal eulogy or service, and places for people to set their food and drinks. Finally, there should be some kind of a dedicated space where the speakers will be clearly seen and heard, usually close to the visual representation of the deceased loved one.
Seating doesn’t necessarily have to be anything formal — though you can rent extra chairs if you have space and finances to do so — and many people manage by bringing all the chairs in the home to the memorial space. Neighbors and other nearby family and friends will likely be able to bring over extra chairs if needed. Arrange them facing the speakers’ area, and do your best to leave clear pathways for guests.
Flowers are somewhat traditional for memorials but can be quite expensive. A floral wreath with your loved one’s photo is often more than enough to create a beautiful and personal tribute and won’t cost too much, especially if multiple family members pitch in. If you do choose to buy additional floral displays, don’t be afraid to deviate from the normal white arrangements. A home Memorial allows you to really personalize the experience, so consider choosing types and colors of flowers that will bring happy memories of your loved one: the peonies your mother carried on her wedding day, tulips the color of your brother’s prized ’67 Mustang, or the roses your grandmother grew in her garden, for example. Keep in mind that though they make a lovely addition to a home memorial, flowers are completely optional — often those that are sent by loved ones with condolences are enough to create the desired effect.
Another option instead of flowers is to collect money and donate to a charity that was near and dear to the deceased one’s heart. This donation can be made in the memory of the person who died to honor a cause that was meaningful to them.
Large memorials may require a more advanced sound system. Some families like to play their loved one’s favorite songs (the volume level really depends on the tone of your memorial, but usually you’ll opt for the quiet side) or other calming music to soothe their guests before the service. Having a microphone and speaker set-up will make it easier for your eulogists to be heard, and even better if you have some kind of podium or raised step for them to stand on.
If finances are tight, you’ll likely be able to find a neighbor, family member, or friend who will have access to equipment you can borrow. Don’t be afraid to ask around; your loved ones will be hoping to lend a hand at this difficult time, so let them.
About the Author:
Bailey, Redfin’s Content Marketing Coordinator, loves writing about all topics related to home ownership from data to dogs and décor. Bailey’s dream home would have an oversize walk in closet and overlook Lake Washington. Redfin is a full-service real estate brokerage that uses modern technology to make clients smarter and faster.