If you're interested in planning a virtual memorial service for a loved one, you're not alone. Remote memorial and funeral services rose to popularity out of necessity during the pandemic, and they're here to stay. In addition to offering a safe, socially distant way for loved ones to gather and mourn, virtual memorial services eliminate the need for traveling, allowing more people to participate in ceremonies and services.
Thanks to technology, it's possible to hold an online memorial service that's just as meaningful as an in-person one. Whether you're planning your service with the help of a funeral home or on your own, we're sharing tips, advice and ideas to help you plan a virtual memorial service that fully honors your loved one.
Things to Consider When Planning a Virtual Memorial Service
Scheduling your service
Deciding when to hold your virtual memorial service is one of the first decisions you'll need to make. Consult with the deceased's immediate family members and close loved ones to determine when the most people can attend. Once you've selected a date and time, let those closest to the deceased know so they can save the date as you finalize other details.
Choosing a videoconferencing platform
You'll want to select and finalize the online platform you're using for the event before sending out invitations. Many are familiar with platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Skype. While you should choose the one you're most comfortable using, it's important to note that some platforms have guest limits and time restrictions. Most allow you to record the event and share the service with those who couldn't attend. Consider your needs, evaluate each provider and choose the one that's best for you.
If you're uncomfortable using the technology, consider working with a funeral director who can help you coordinate and oversee the virtual memorial service.
Making a memorial website
Creating a memorial website for your loved one's service will help you organize and share information, including in memoriam donations to charities or crowdfunding sites. You should include a link to your virtual memorial service so attendees can easily access the meeting.
Working with a funeral home? Ask if they can build a site online for your loved one. Often, they have digital tools to create dedicated memorial websites for your loved one, allowing friends and family to share photos, write tributes, post memories, light virtual candles and sign guestbooks, helping you and others grieve and mourn together.
Since you're planning a virtual memorial service, digital invites or emails are perfectly acceptable. If you prefer to send mailed invitations, that's fine too. Either way, include a link to the service or memorial page so guests know where to go.
Start by sending invitations to family and friends of the deceased. After reaching out to their closest relationships, you may consider inviting distant relatives, old friends, coworkers and former colleagues and members of a church or other religious communities.
If you're comfortable doing so, you can share details on social media. Keep in mind that some videoconferencing services limit the number of guests who can attend. Double check your platform before opening up the invite list.
Asking loved ones to participate
Having loved ones participate can relieve the stress of running the service alone and creates a meaningful ceremony that honors the deceased's vibrant life. Start by asking their immediate family and close friends if they want to speak at the event. Select a host for the event and determine speakers.
The host and speakers should decide the timeline for the service, including who will speak when and for how long. Depending on your speakers, you may need to establish timing guidelines to ensure your program doesn't exceed your scheduled time. Most online memorial services last between 30 and 90 minutes. Your host should keep the program on track and introduce each speaker.
When working with a funeral home, a funeral director can help shape the event alongside the host and even share some of the hosting duties, if needed.
Personalizing the service
If the deceased left final wishes or indicated a preference on how they wanted to be remembered, be sure to honor their wishes. If they didn't, think about what made them happy and what they enjoyed the most. You can incorporate these details into the service for a more personal ceremony.
Consider adding these ideas to your loved one's virtual memorial service:
Share a slideshow of photos
Tell a story about a favorite memory
Play family videos from birthdays, weddings, vacations and other special events
Make a toast with their favorite drink
Perform a favorite song
Read their favorite poem
Share a passage from their favorite book
A dress rehearsal is a smart idea. It allows your presenters to get familiar with technology and practice their speeches, so there are fewer issues when sharing screens or playing videos. Your host should be there to time the event and keep speakers on track. Hold your test run a few days before the event; doing so will give everyone enough time to make adjustments without any added stress.
Holding the virtual memorial service
The host and speakers should log into the service 15 to 30 minutes before the event. As guests arrive, you or the funeral director should keep them in a virtual waiting room as hosts and presenters log in and set up.
When the service begins, your host should share an introduction and the program for the event so guests know what to expect. If you experience technical difficulties, don't stress. Ask guests to share stories or tributes in the chat and have the host share their responses as you troubleshoot.
Remember that the memorial service is an opportunity to create a space where friends and family—including you—can come together to remember your loved one's life and legacy.
At The Love Always Project, we know how difficult it can be to say goodbye to a loved one. Planning an online memorial service or virtual celebration of life can help you and others during the grieving process—regardless of how far you are from one another.
If you or someone you know recently lost someone, our grief, loss and bereavement resources can help. We believe that healing can begin when we're ready to acknowledge the complex emotions we're feeling. Learn more about our mission to help others cope with loss and discuss end-of-life issues: Join the movement.