Memorial services, (another term for a funeral or a celebration of life), are services to honor the deceased any time after their passing. Here is what to expect from a memorial service, and some basic etiquette you might want to know before attending one.
Locations for memorial services
A memorial service can be held almost anywhere. Such as:
- A funeral home
- A park
- The beach
- A family home
- A place of worship
There is no right or wrong place to hold a memorial service, and the options are endlessly customizable to fit the needs of the family and the personality of the deceased.
Features of a memorial service
While there is no formal structure for a memorial service, most include some kind of message from a clergy member or a member of the family. There are many ways for loved ones to participate, such as contributing a reading or a memory. There is often music, and maybe a photo slideshow or video of memories. But a memorial service can be as unique as the person it’s honoring. There are really no rules for how to best celebrate a life.
Usually, there is some form of reception for family and friends after a memorial service. It can be held at a funeral home, a church, or at a family member’s home. This is a good time to offer condolences and share memories in a more relaxed, less structured setting than the service itself. It can be a healing time to show your support for the family, have some refreshments, and even laugh about the good times.
Memorial service etiquette
As a guest at a memorial service, your only job is to offer support and condolences to the family of the deceased. It’s ok to be unsure of what to say. When in doubt, a simple “I’m so sorry for your loss,” or, if appropriate, “I love you,” can be just the thing. It’s traditional to dress neatly and tidily in dressy attire, usually in dark and subdued colors (unless otherwise instructed.) It is no longer the rule that only black will do. Plan to arrive a bit early, and sit in an unobtrusive spot. Be sure to take time before or after the service to greet the family and offer your support and kind wishes. Be sure to sign the guest book if one is provided; it can be very helpful for the family to have a record of who attended as they look back later on.