Ideas for Planning a Funeral for a Loved One

Woman touching casket at funeral of family member.

After you lose a loved one, planning a funeral service can feel daunting and sometimes overwhelming, but personalizing the funeral details to honor and remember your loved one might also help you feel closer to him or her. Though there is no one right way to prepare for a funeral, this article offers a few ideas that can help you plan and make the service more meaningful for you and your loved one’s family and friends.

Prepare for the Funeral by Gathering Memories

When planning a funeral, gathering old photos, keepsakes, and memories from family members and friends is a great place to begin. Often, gathering these memorabilia can help you think of what you want to share during the service or memorial. It is also a great way to remember parts of your loved one’s life that aren’t as fresh in your memory. Involving other family members in the gathering can help ease your planning stress and give them a meaningful way to contribute to the funeral service.

Grandfather and son looking at photos, memories of a loved one.

Finding a central place for everyone to gather or submit photos is a good idea; this allows you to share them more easily and keep things organized. FamilySearch Memories is a free option for uploading photos, audio, and even videos and organizing them in an album. You can share the album with others so they can view and add photos too. Also, any photos linked to your loved one's profile on FamilySearch.org can be seen easily by others even after the funeral service.


Create a Memorial Video and Table

It’s very helpful to use the old photos and memorabilia you find to create a memorial video for people to watch and enjoy when they attend the funeral service. Memorial videos can help family and friends remember cherished memories or learn things about your loved one that they didn’t know before. Adding your loved one’s favorite music to the memorial video is also a touching way to help family and friends remember your loved one long after the service.

A memorial table can also have a similar effect. Using pictures, personal items, and other objects that had special meaning to your loved one to make a memorial table can show others your loved one’s personality and what made him or her special.

Memorial table from funeral of loving mother.

Lauvane's memory table from her funeral.

These items may include gear from a favorite sports team, flowers, or meaningful quotes that your loved one enjoyed. You can also display family photos or other pieces of artwork that were significant to him or her. While these steps aren’t necessarily part of the actual service, they are a great part of the experience for those attending and for those who loved the person you are honoring.

Share Something for Others to Take Home

It is becoming more common at funerals to share some of the deceased’s favorite things for attendees to take with them. Providing bowls of your loved one’s favorite candy can be a sweet remembrance. A copy of a favorite poem that people can tuck into their wallet or a bookmark with a photo of your loved one with a list of his or her favorite books can be a special memento. You may even consider sharing a copy of the memorial video on a thumb drive or a CD for people to take home with them.

Memorial bookmark for Barry Horn

Cookie bags made as a take-home for a funeral.

Paper and pens laid out on a table with flowers at a funeral.

Ask Attendees to Share Memories

Sharing favorite things can work both ways. You can provide mementos for people to take, but you can also ask attendees to share memories of your loved one. Leaving small cards out and asking guests to share a memory creates a wonderful treasure to reminisce. Then you can take these shared memories and create a memory book of your loved one to share with friends and family.

Planning the Service Itself

One of the hardest parts of planning a funeral can be deciding what will happen during the service, who will speak, and what the speakers will say. If you are working with a funeral home, consider asking them for some guidelines on a suggested program. You don’t have to do it the way they suggest, but it can be a good place to get started.

Think about what your loved one would have wanted and what type of service matches him or her. It could mean including religious elements or holding a casual service instead of a formal one.

Including special music is a great way to honor your loved one. You can play a favorite song, or you can ask someone to sing it or play it on a musical instrument at the service. It can also be a touching experience to sing a song as a whole group at the service.

Another great way to honor your loved one’s life is by reading the obituary at the service. The obituary can highlight the person’s life, and it may be a great way to let others participate who are intimidated about sharing their own words.

Ask Family and Friends to Speak

At a funeral service, it is a good idea to ask a few people to give talks or briefly share thoughts about your loved one. These comments can be given by close family members who feel comfortable doing so. If your loved one is older with grown children, it is sometimes common to appoint one child to speak about the parent and include input from the other children. This sharing can be done from the perspective of a grandchild as well.

When asking people to speak at the service, you can give specific topics and the desired length of time to help them keep the funeral at an appropriate length.

If you are feeling stuck, try reaching out to close family and friends to help you. It’s easier to make decisions together with close family and friends rather than carry the burden of planning the funeral service all on your own.

Honor Your Loved One in Unique Ways

While the funeral service itself is important, adding small, personal touches can create a meaningful experience that can last long after the service. There is no one right or wrong way to have a funeral. Personalize the funeral to your loved one by displaying flowers of his or her favorite color, asking people to dress a certain way, or having a theme that highlights what your loved one loved. Make the funeral service unique!

Plan Enough, But Don’t Overthink It

Planning a funeral can be stressful and difficult. Try not to overthink it, and go with what feels natural to honor his or her life. This is your opportunity to share what you love about your loved one and how he or she impacted the lives of others. Keeping that in mind will guide you in the right direction to create a beautiful and touching funeral service that will honor these special memories.

After the Funeral

After your loved one’s funeral service, consider adding a few things from the funeral to FamilySearch.org so they can be remembered and reach more family and friends. Funeral programs, videos, audio recordings, or written copies of funeral talks are great things to add to your loved one's profile. Because the FamilySearch Family Tree is a shared tree, other relatives can visit your loved one's profile and take part in the funeral services, even if they weren't able to attend in person.


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