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.

Reprinted with permission by


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