Welcome to the future, funeral professional.
In this day and age, personalized funerals have become a standard, rather than a preference. Families are beginning to recognize the importance of planning a meaningful service that truly tells a story of the life lived.
That means the days of cookie-cutter or traditional funerals are becoming a distant memory.
And let’s be honest, if amping up your personalized services isn’t one of your goals, it darn well should be. Thankfully, we’ve got our ULTIMATE guide of personalized funeral ideas, just for you.
This is our LARGEST list of personalized funeral ideas, ever. More than 5,000 words, large. This guide is no joke. Be sure to bookmark it, save it for later, share it with your fellow funeral director friends, or even your families.
And when you’re ready, dive into these 55 ideas for personalized funerals by choosing the category that speaks to you below:
Simple and easy personalization ideas that can be done in minutes.
Today’s families see funerals as a “crowning performance”, and having a stage set for them, complete with props, makes all the difference. The great things is, with many of these ideas, you can keep the props around for all of your funeral services, so they’re always ready to be used for an epic life celebration.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
#1: Create a memory table
One of the essentials of any personalized funeral service is a memory table. We love memory tables because you can do so much with them. You could even make multiple memory tables that are set-up like “stations” to represent different chapters or passions in the deceased person’s life. The possibilities truly are endless here, so encourage your families to use their imagination. For a primer on creating a memory table, check this website out.
#2: Make a quote board
A quick and easy way to add a special touch to a funeral service? Having families create their own quote board. Choose a quote that means something to the family or loved one and put it on a chalkboard, paper, or fabric. Then, add decorations of any kind and voila! You have a wonderful display for the service.
#3: Pick meaningful sympathy flowers
Flowers are a given at nearly every funeral service, and you likely already know they provide a great way to customize the ceremony to the life lived. But there are other ways besides choosing their favorite bloom or color. Consider the flower of their birth month or state, or maybe pick petals in the colors of grandchildren’s birthstones. There are many ways to get creative and unique with something so traditional as funeral flowers.
Tip: To offer families the most comprehensive, easiest way to send sympathy flowers & gifts, check out The Sympathy Store..
#4: Embrace the communities they belong to
Whether it’s a club, an organization or even a friend group, these communities are often an invaluable treasure in a person’s life. One great way to represent communities in your funeral personalization is to incorporate their colors, emblems or logo into the service decor.
For example, if they were in a fraternity or sorority, you could hang up their chapter’s flag inside of the casket. You could also request that family and friends send flowers in the colors that are representative of the greek organization their loved one belonged to.
#5: Show off their true colors
People who belong to official organizations are not the only ones who consider themselves a part of an important community. Sports fans and hunting enthusiasts are two other groups who have their own unique ways of showing off pride for their community… namely in the colors of clothing that they wear.
Try it yourself: You can embrace these colors as a part of the funeral service. Hang up signs and decorations that embrace the spirit of the sport. Bring in themed flowers, or even suggest friends and family to attend the service wearing the colors of the hobby or sport that their loved one held dear. This will help make sure that your entire funeral home is blanketed in the colors that were so important and so representative of the person you are celebrating.
#6: Light candles to honor the deceased
It’s a well known fact that you never forget a smell. And if your family can recall a certain smell that reminds them of their loved one (think grandma’s apple pie), suggest that the family light a few candles that add a healing aroma to the service.
#7: Replace your decorations with the families’
Offer the opportunity for your family to swap out your viewing room decorations for decorations of their choice to truly make the space their own. This will make the family feel more “at home” and comfortable, which is important at a time like this. Help them out by providing some empty picture frames, vases and candle holders, too.
#8: Display photos in a unique way
Sure, a memory board is a great way to display the families’ photos of their loved one, but why not help them think outside the box and create something that will make the service even more beautiful? Your families could tie photos to balloons (below), create a wreath with them or hang them on clothespins to add some visual appeal to the service.
Ways to get interactive with funeral service guests
If your families are looking for anything but an ordinary funeral, try offering forms of funeral personalization that are more interactive. That way the family and funeral guests can feel more involved in the funeral service and begin their healing journey on a positive, engaging note.
#9: Offer a memorial stone station
Set up a station with small stones and permanent markers. Then, create a sign that instructs every guest to write their names and a brief note on a rock to honor the loved one. The family can choose to keep the rocks in their home, garden, or to scatter them somewhere that’s meaningful to the deceased.
#10: Create an interactive puzzle
If the loss wasn’t a tragic one, inserting a bit of humor and fun into the loved one’s service is a great way to get people talking and sharing memories. Try creating a mad lib, crossword puzzle or word search that represents the loved one. You could ask questions about their favorite things, passions, or create one that reflects their sense of humor. Check out the example below for some inspiration.
#11: Play the loved one’s favorite game
Does the family have fond memories of sitting around the game table, playing Scrabble or Monopoly into the early hours of the morning with their loved one? Why not host a game night in their honor? Games are a great way of bringing people together and reliving happy memories.
#12: Grow a memory tree
Funeral guests can write down their favorite memory with the loved one and put it on a beautifully decorated tree that the family can take home with them. If you’re interested in making one, here’s a quick tutorial with some great examples.
#13: Put together a memory capsule
Offer families a space to create a “memory capsule” for their loved one, either next to the casket, or in a space that’s meaningful to them. Put together items like photographs, memories, notes, cards, etc. and put them all in an airtight container. This could be a service in it of itself, inviting family and friends to each bring one item to put in it.
#14: Create a memorial hashtag
Encourage families to create their own memorial hashtag (#RememberGmaSmith) where people can share their favorite memories, photos and videos so they are all easy to find on social media. This chance to memorialize and share moments can happen before, during and after attending a funeral service.
#15: Make a social memorial website for the families
If hashtags aren’t your thing, try your hand at the invaluable tool of social memorial websites. A social memorial website is essentially an obituary, Facebook wall, photo album guestbook, family tree, flower shop and memorial, all in one. It empowers family, friends and acquaintances to come together online—anytime and from anywhere—to honor and pay tribute to the life lived.
Tip: If you want to engage guests of the funeral, encourage them to share their favorite photo or memory of the loved one on their social memorial website. And to learn more about social memorial websites, check them out on our f1Connect Platform.
#16: Sow seeds of love
In many cultures and traditions, planting a tree is a way of symbolizing important occasions, including birth, marriage and death. Embrace the tradition by either packaging seeds for a particular plant that service guests can bring home to plant their memorial tree or flower, or gathering attendees together for a joint planting in someplace special, like their loved one’s back yard.
Turn an average service into a fun celebration with these ideas
Want to turn up the volume on any funeral service you’re planning? The families of today love life celebrations, so check out these ideas for creating an uplifting experience for everyone involved.
#17: Celebrate life fun with bubbles
If the loved one was a young spirit at heart, have everyone find their inner child and celebrate the loved one with bubbles. This is a perfect way to get the kids involved too (keep reading for more ideas on engaging the kiddos).
#18: Host “icebreaker” games
Any event where you are forced to mingle and make small talk with unfamiliar relatives or family friends can be a little uncomfortable. Icebreaker questions are a simple, yet impactful way to kick off memory sharing and storytelling at any funeral-related event.
How to do it: Simply pose questions on different slips for paper, such as “what song reminds you of grandma?” or “what’s your favorite holiday memory with grandma?” People can swap stories and share new memories that will lead to laughs, love and healing.
#19: Host an open mic session
Instead of the standard eulogy, open up the microphone during the funeral service or afterwards during a luncheon or dinner. Invite family and friends to share a few words, a poem, or even a song about the loved one. This will allow them to publicly grieve and express their thoughts while also providing some insight and memories for others at the service.
#20: Celebrate life with live music
Did the loved one have a love for music? If you don’t want to go the open mic route, find some local talent, or a family member to create the music for you. Perfect for a sunset service, you can play some of the loved one’s favorite songs. Keep it simple with just one ukulele or acoustic guitar, or even find a public piano in the city you’re living in. This will create an effortlessly fun time for everyone to come together in the name of love and remembrance!
#21: Light up the sky
Often seen at weddings and other celebratory events, lighting and releasing paper lanterns has become a popular inclusion in important summer evenings. Gather family and friends at a clearing or water’s edge or big backyard and give each a lantern to release into the sky for a glowing send-off of a loved one. Guests can release them in unison, or one by one as they recount a memory or say goodbye.
#22: Create an epic memorial tribute video
You’ve probably seen or heard of a memorial tribute video before. But not enough funeral homes are getting creative and offering their families video options that actually move people. For example, instead of creating one long memorial video filled with an endless loop of photos, create several short videos that follow different themes.
Pro tip: To honor a movie buff, art enthusiast or adventure junkie, place a new spin on the slideshow by helping the family to create a minute long film trailer-inspired video that truly shows their loved one’s highlight reel and lets all in attendance remember or experience for the first time the most inspiring or reflective moments.
#23: …Or a meaningful full-length Tribute Video!
If a minute long trailer isn’t enough to fully capture a person’s spirit, go for the full-length feature! You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg to create cinematic, moving video tributes for your families.
Helpful hint: LifeTributes software by funeralOne helps you create high-quality videos simply and easily. Simply open up the software, import the photos, and you’re well on your way to creating a full-length video tribute of photos home videos that may include birthday candle blow-outs, hilarious memories and the most tender moments everyone loves to catch on film.
Creative giveaway and memento ideas for personalized funerals
Handing out small favors that remind funeral guests of their loved one at the services is a great way to make your funeral home stand out.
Here are a few examples of giveaway you could offer:
#24: Give away the loved one’s favorite books to the service
A great idea for avid readers is to bring a collection of their books to the service. Place them on a memory table or at a station with a sign that reads “Susan’s life passion was reading. Please take one of her favorite books and enjoy it in her memory”.
#25: Give away customized print memorabilia
To extend your support to all of the funeral guests and not just the families, offer complimentary bookmarks, prayer cards or thank you cards to funeral guests. All you need to do is grab a photo of the loved one, have the family choose a prayer or quote that represents the deceased, and choose an appropriate color scheme. It’s really that easy on programs like Life Tributes.
#26: Create “Fun Fact” Cards
A funeral service is a one in a lifetime chance to celebrate a loved one’s life, tell their story and share all of the unique details that made them who they were. But sometimes this is hard to do in just an hour long funeral service. Fun fact cards are an interesting way to spice up your funeral programs, or to offer families a unique way to share their loved one’s story. Plus, all you have to do is simply print them out and easily incorporate into your funeral services.
#27: Pass out a simple photo of the loved one
If you don’t have an easy-to-use personalization software, you can simply choose to pass out scanned copies of the loved one’s photo, so funeral guests can take them home and place them in a special place to remember them always.
#28: Offer their favorite food and beverages
Instead of the standard coffee and water service at a funeral, why not surprise your families by offering the loved one’s favorite drinks or snacks? Try to ask in a subtle way what kinds of foods or drinks the loved one enjoyed the most during the arrangement meeting, and take notes. They’ll be surprised and delighted by how much you pay attention to detail.
#29: Hand out the loved one’s favorite candy
I once attended a funeral for a high school teacher of mine who was always referred to as “Big Red”. So, at his funeral, the funeral directors passed out small packets of Big Red gum for everyone to take home in memory of him. I still have that pack of gum to this day because it reminds me of the fond memories we had together. Bonus points if you tape a small message to the snack. Extra bonus points if you personalize the snack in honor of them (here’s how to).
#30: Give everyone a chance to tell their story with sent-a-mint cards
One of the most valuable moments of a funeral service is when friends and family members get up to recount their favorite stories or memories of their loved one. It truly gives you an inside look into who they were and all of the people they managed to touch throughout their life. But unfortunately, there’s not always enough time to let everyone tell a unique story or memory during the funeral service. That’s why we love the idea of “sent-a-mint” cards.
Make it happen: All you need to execute this idea are some blank cards, some pens and some delicious peppermints. Next time you host a funeral service where people want to give their remarks, but there simply isn’t enough time for everyone, hand out cards with peppermints attached.
Encourage people to write down their favorite story or memory that they shared with their loved one, and collect the cards as people begin to exit your funeral home. (They can keep the mint!) This makes an amazing gift to give the immediate family after the service has ended, as they now have their own collection of all the ways in which their loved one made a difference in the lives around them.
#31: Send family & friends home with a tribute video
Give your your families and funeral guests a chance to revisit their memories with the loved one and heal in the comfort of their own home. If the family decided to create a tribute video for their loved one, burn a few extra copies and offer them to the family and guests, free of charge.
Family-friendly ideas to get the kids involved, too!
Will there be a lot of kids at the service? Instead of just keeping them busy, why not make them a part of the funeral service? You’ll be surprised at how beneficial getting the kids of the family involved is – their wild imaginations and creative minds are sure to come up with some pretty unique ideas to celebrate the loved one.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
#32: Act out a play
I read about a funeral once where a few grandchildren put on a play from start to finish in honor of their grandfather. The play brought everyone at the service to laughter and tears, and afterwards the funeral home put on the grandfather’s tribute video. If the kids are at an appropriate age, this could be a fun way to remember a loved one.
#33: Recite a poem or eulogy
When I was younger, I recited a poem at my grandfather’s service and it was one of the most memorable parts of the service. People asked me for weeks to send them a copy of the poem. If there will be kids present that like writing, have them put together a poem or short story and recite it during the loved one’s eulogy. Tears and laughter are sure to ensue.
#34: Create a coloring station
Set up a little station with crayons, markers, colored pencils and paper. Have the kiddos draw pictures in honor of the deceased. Many therapists think drawing is a great way for children to express their feelings, plus the pictures will make great keepsakes. Who knows, maybe some adults will join in, too!
Arts and craft ideas for the creative folk
Whether you’re serving a family with a crafty relative, or you’re into arts and crafts yourself, these ideas will be fun and get the memories flowing.
Here are some simple enough memorial craft ideas for you to get started:
#35: Hand craft a beautiful wind chime
Use that sweet sound of the breeze to help your families remember. Help them create wind chimes in honor of the loved one so that when you. Families can also put photographs or remembrance quotes on them as well.
#36: Craft individual memorial photo pins
This is a simple yet easy way to let everyone take a little piece of the loved one home with them. Simply purchase enough artificial flowers from a local craft store for every funeral guest to take home. Then, use a safety pin to attach a photo of the loved one to the flower. You can laminate the photo or put it in a plastic holder. All of these supplies should cost less than $20 and are relatively easy to put together – here’s a link to an affordable flower supplier to get you started.
#37: Re-think the traditional guestbook
Guest books are a great way to record all of the people who were in attendance at an event, but how many people actually look back on their guest book fondly and read it over and over again? Instead of having your families stick to a traditional guest book, invite them to have their guests write a personal note or memory on a piece of art. Not only is this a way to personalize this typically boring funeral element, but it also is a one-of-a-kind, comforting piece of art that your family can display for years to come.
Try it yourself: The options are truly endless as to what you can have your friends and family sign in order to record their attendance at an event. Some of our favorite examples we have seen include custom wood-framed photos (like the one below), canvas photo prints, and even giant letters of the loved one’s name with personalized messages written across them.
#38: Create a personalized pocket charm
Unlike a locket or cross necklace, a pocket charm is a great keepsake idea because it’s gender and age neutral. You can purchase a memorial pocket charm or create your own. I suggest using crystals (they are known to have healing qualities) or a token that is meaningful to the deceased (ie. poker chips).
#39: Put together a memory book with fresh flowers
Create a memory book with photographs and stories about your loved one. Ask family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues to contribute. To add some summer vibes, be sure to include the funeral flowers in the book as a keepsake they can cherish. These can also be easily created with Life Tributes.
Recycle and remember with these “green” personalized funeral ideas
In a world where everyone is finding new ways to go green, there isn’t a better time to show your families all the ways they can use their loved one’s belonging to create beautiful keepsakes.
Browse some of our favorite ideas below:
#40: Send home something special from the loved one’s collection
Many of us keep collections that grow beyond anticipation. If your family’s loved one has something they collected in large number but offers sentimental value, encourage them to help other close family and friends remember their loved one by taking home a piece of this collection. What else might they do with all of those Christmas ornaments or pile of costume jewelry anyway?
#41: Craft a colorful memory pillow
It might be hard for your families to go through their loved one’s clothes after they’re gone. But transforming them into a beautiful keepsake pillow will make it less daunting and more meaningful. It’s a great way to go green and keep the loved one’s memory alive. Want to learn how to get crafty and make one? Check out the instructions here.
#42: Or try a memory quilt
If a memory pillow doesn’t spark their interest, why not suggest making a memory quilt, instead? They can be put together using the loved one’s old t-shirts, clothes, favorite colors or patterns. You could take it even a step further and have the quilt customized to have the loved one’s photos on it, too. Here are some basic instructions for putting together a memory quilt for people with any experience.
#43: Weave together memories with a wreath
Another way to help make the process of gathering the loved one’s belongings feel like a celebration is by encouraging the spouse, parent or children to turn them into a new piece of decor they can see and smile. Gather her scarf collection or his tie wardrobe and make a family event of weaving them together over twine to create something beautiful and special to hang at home after it adorns the service.
#44: Transform funeral flowers into beads
Why let all those beautiful funeral flowers go to waste when the service is over when you could create a keepsake with them instead? In this easy tutorial, families can learn how to create funeral beads and make necklaces, bracelets and even earrings with them. It’s an easy, affordable way to turn what would be waste into a beautiful treasure to be kept forever. And, it’s a beautiful way to get the family bonding together even after the service is over.
#45: Make a knick knack collage
Everyone has a few items that represent something significant in their life – whether it’s an accomplishment, memory or passion. Why not put those items on display to make the service that much more personal? Create a simple collage that’s visually appealing and make it your own – you can add little cards to describe each item or create “stations” that encompass the different passions in the loved one’s life.
Personalized funeral ideas for outdoor services
Is the family, or the weather, calling for an outdoor celebration of life? Outdoor services are a beautiful change from your average funeral service, especially when it’s nice outside!
Here are some great outdoor service ideas for you:
#46: Make trees an important centerpiece
If you’re arranging an outdoor funeral service, make trees a centerpiece by hanging pictures, flowers or memory cards from them to add an unexpected personal touch. This is an especially great idea for gardeners or flower enthusiasts. Families could create decor like the mason jar below. They could put olive oil, a photo of the loved one and a flower to create the perfect keepsake for guests.
#47: Designate a memorial tree
Speaking of trees, you can designate a tree at your funeral home to be your official memorial tree. Keep a frame, chalkboard, string and some clothes pins around for this simple but beautiful personalization hack!
#48: Host a picnic
Invite families to share memories with a picnic. Pack the loved one’s favorite dishes, snacks and drinks. If you’re a cemetery owner, this is a great way to use all the beautiful tree and grass filled spaces you have to offer families a space to celebrate.
#49: Have a campfire service
No matter what time of year it is, a cozy fire is always a good idea. Set-up a space at your funeral home or cemetery to host an out-of-the-ordinary campfire celebration of life. This intimate setting will allow families and friends to feel more relaxed and open up the space to share memories or say prayers, creating lot of potential for some serious healing to occur.
#50: And don’t forget the s’mores!
What’s better than s’mores in the summertime… or really anytime? Keep s’mores supplies at your funeral home for these campfire services as a little extra “WOW” touch to their service. Trust us, your families will definitely appreciate it!
#51: Encourage an “unplugged” service
Cell phones have taken over just about every aspect of our lives. And while sometimes these high-tech devices are a saving grace for the families that we serve (after all, families are constantly on the go in the days leading up to a funeral), they can also be distracting when it comes time to enjoy the moment.
In an effort to help both hosts and guests live in the moment and focus on the celebration at hand, embrace an “unplugged” funeral service. No cameras, no cell phones, no Instagram. Ask guests to simply put down their tech devices and soak up the beautiful outdoor service that they have planned.
Inspiring personalized funeral ideas for the adventurous
If the loved one was a unique human who loves out-of-the-box adventures, then his or her life celebration should emanate that!
Here are a few real life examples, and some ideas to inspire you:
#52: Help families plan a trip in honor of the loved one
Tap into your community network and find a reputable travel agent to help your client family spend some time together honoring the loved one. They can travel somewhere that they always wanted to travel to and couldn’t, or go to their favorite place that they frequented. You could offer them a little travel package with print memorabilia, photos, or a little travel urn to spread the loved one’s remains if they’d like.
#53: Host a bowling league night celebration
Even when you don’t have a lot of family around to celebrate the life, you can still have a dang good celebration. One family we know of faced the sudden death of their husband and father. His bowling team came together to handle his funeral arrangements. They held the service on the night of their typical league bowling because they felt instead of making everyone leave work early and go to a memorial service, they might as well bring the service to them. The service featured all of his bowling trophies and a toast for every attendee to say their goodbyes in the most fitting way. “It’s like he was with them on bowling night,” a friend said of the service.
#54: Host a Star Wars themed funeral
This is another real world example about Jack, a 4-year-old boy, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. His final request was to have a Star Wars-themed funeral. So when he passed away, his family made his final wishes come true with one of the most epic funeral services ever.
Jack was carried by a horse drawn carriage surrounded by fully suited Stormtroopers, where his floral arrangement spelled out “JEDI”. The church service also kept the Star Wars theme going – a brass band played the Luke Skywalker theme song and the order of service read “Master Jack Robinson, joined the force 1st April 2014.”
#55: The best idea yet…
Everyone knows offering families a meaningful celebration of life starts with the right
personalization software. Get a 30-day free trial of Life Tributes, the all-in-one personalization software by clicking here or giving us a call at 800-798-2575, ext. 5.
What are some of your favorite personalized funeral ideas that you would add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!