Creative ideas for personalizing a funeral

Creative ideas for personalizing a funeral

Have you ever attended a funeral that left you feeling worse than when you arrived? Maybe the funeral was too impersonal and didn’t reflect the life of the one you loved so much. Often, the extent to which services are personalized for the individual directly affects the comfort, hope, and closure experienced by those who attend.

Because designing a unique ceremony can help friends and family begin the healing process following a loss, planning is important. If you are planning ahead for your own services or for someone you love, consider how you might include personal elements that are significant, meaningful, and comforting for loved ones.

The Ceremony

The funeral ceremony is an ideal time to bring in meaningful elements to help loved ones reflect and remember. Special music, including live music, selected readings, and shared memories are wonderful ways to bring personal touches to the service. Photo displays and tribute videos that highlight significant moments are also often used to share memories.

Another way to personalize a funeral service is to include significant items as part of the arrangement, or to place them in the reception or visitation areas. For example, someone who has worked as a rancher may have their saddle, boots, and riding equipment on display. A person who enjoyed collecting antiques could incorporate favorite pieces, as could someone who had a passion for photography, art or crafts.

Additionally, it is helpful to choose speakers who can share personal memories and reflections on the life that has been lived.

The Procession

The procession is often overlooked as an opportunity to personalize the service, but many different options may be available in your area. The procession may incorporate any number of elements that are significant to the family, from a motorcycle hearse or beloved fishing boat, to vintage cars, horse-drawn carriage, jazz musicians, and much more.


The location of a funeral or memorial service can also be a significant choice. Outdoor memorial services or graveside services can incorporate butterfly, balloon or dove releases, which help family and friends visualize releasing their loved one.

Anyone who enjoys the outdoors could be celebrated in a special place, such as an outdoor garden, a favorite golf course, the beach or lakeside, in a nature preserve, or favorite park. If weather permits, having the ceremony in a beautiful outdoor setting can be a healing reminder of the natural cycle of life and death and may give loved ones some comfort as they begin the healing process.

Reception & Gathering

Spending time with family and friends is important after a loss. A catered meal or pot-luck style gathering can be customized in a number of ways. Planning for specific food or arranging for a certain recipe to be prepared may remind loved ones of home and of special events or holidays.

Gatherings can also be organized around a specific theme and accompanied by photos, stories, and even a time for family traditions or activities.  Events in which loved ones can gather for support may also be an ideal occasion for acts of remembrance and closure, such as candle-lightings, symbolic releases, scattering ceremony, or the establishment of physical memorials.

These are just a few suggestions for personalizing a funeral or memorial ceremony. Like the individuals they honor, no two events will look alike or carry the same meaning for those in attendance. The important thing is to plan a service that reflects the life that has been lived and allows family and friends to the opportunity to say goodbye.

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Which end of life planning financial resources are right for you?

Are you wondering how you’ll manage the costs associated with yours or a loved one’s End of Life? This important life passage deserves a well-considered financial plan.

Paying for final care and services may be easier than you think. There are several financial resources available to help you pay for final costs and reduce the financial burden on your loved ones as you near End of Life and after you pass away.

Most people use a combination of these three main financial resources:

  • Personal funds
  • Insurance policies
  • Government programs
Personal Funds

You may need to use personal savings to pay for your End of Life costs. We suggest that you review your financial resources including your personal savings and any income you receive from investments, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, 401ks, pension or other retirement funds. You may also be able to leverage the value of your home through a reverse mortgage to help you pay for End of Life costs.

Insurance Policies

Insurance policies can help you pay for End of Life care and final services and help support your loved ones after you pass away.

We suggest that you review all of your insurance coverage, including:

  • Health insurance – typically covers long-term care services for short-term only or medically necessary care under specific conditions
  • Long-term care insurance – is private insurance that you or an employer may purchase to cover nursing home-only or both home and facility care
  • Life insurance – replaces the loss of income that your loved ones would experience in the event that you pass away. You may be able to use some life insurance policies to pay for long-term care services.
  • Funeral insurance – also called burial, final expense or pre-need insurance, includes financial products and services to pay for final arrangements.


Government Programs

Government insurance programs that provide End-of-Life financial resources include:

  • Medicare – is a federal insurance program for people age 65 and older and younger people with certain disabilities. For more information about Medicare coverage for End of Life care visit:
  • Medicaid – is a federal and state insurance program and the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with limited income and resources. Medicaid covers many End of Life services including personal care, home health care and nursing home care. Eligibility and specific End of Life service coverage varies by state. For more information about Medicaid coverage in your state
  • Social Security – is a federal insurance program that provides benefits to retired people and those who are unemployed or disabled. For general informationon End of Life benefits visit: or call 800.772.1213.
  • Veterans Administration – The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides US Military Servicemembers, Veterans and their families with many End of Life benefits and services including final care, pension, life insurance and burial benefits. Call 800-222-8387 or visit: for more information.

Please visit: for more information and expert resources on managing End of Life financial matters and many other End of Life Management topics.

Reprinted with permission.