A Guide to Memorial Services

Information on memorial services and how to plan one

Last updated: 7 June 2017

A memorial service is an opportunity for friends and family to pay their respects after the loss of a loved one. Distinct from a funeral service, a memorial service is a ceremony for the mourners to honour loved one, but no burial or cremation is involved.

Memorial services can be sombre occasions, but often are seen as a celebration of a loved one’s life. There are no rules that you need to follow when planning a memorial service. They can take place more than once, anywhere and anytime after death, even years after the funeral.

Planning a memorial service

Before making arrangements, you should look at your loved one’s will for memorial instructions. There is no legal requirement to follow their instructions, but it can give you inspiration on the type of memorial service to arrange.

Memorial services are a very important time for the bereaved. Some may want to celebrate your loved one’s life, while others may wish to spend the memorial in quiet contemplation. What is important is that you include others in the decision so that everyone feels comfortable with the service.

The venue of the memorial service will often dictate the type of service you have. The time, atmosphere and number of mourners can all be affected. In many ways, this is the most important decision to make.

Memorial services at a cemetery or churchyard

Although a memorial service can take place anywhere, they often occur at a cemetery or churchyard. These traditional-type memorials are generally more sombre occasions, with mourners reflecting on their loved one peacefully.

Cemetery memorial services may have limitations in terms of the number of mourners allowed to attend, making them often an occasion for the closest friends and family.

They often have religious connotations, so are preferred by those wanting to have a strong religious tone to the service.

If you are located in Northern Ireland, and you would like a memorial service to take place in a cemetery or churchyard, your local clergyman or parish priest has to be involved in the ceremony and should be contacted in advance.

If you would like to learn more about the rituals and customs of religious ceremonies, visit our religious funerals page.

Memorial services at a crematorium

Similar to memorial services at cemeteries or churchyards, crematoriums offer a peaceful and often sombre service with any religious connotations down to your preference.

As an added touch, most crematoriums will offer you a memorial book so that family members and friends can share their memories and thoughts. Some even offer a memorial bush with an engraved plaque, while others will allow you to unveil a memorial plaque or plant a tree on the crematorium grounds.

Memorial services at other private venues

To add some personality to the memorial service, many choose to plan a service based on the character and the interests of their loved one.

Although family homes are often used, venues can also be a place of special significance to your loved one or based on the convenience to other mourners.

More than choosing a more personal location, these memorial services allow for the whole event to be inspired by your loved one’s life, with the music, decorations, even a memorial theme chosen based on their personality.

Considerations for planning a memorial service

Wherever you decide to hold the memorial service, it is a popular idea to create tangible keepsakes to help you and others remember the service and the life of your loved one. A memory book or other memorial to your loved one is a great way help you through your bereavement and remind you of their significance in your life.

Another feature growing in popularity, is the collection of donations for a particular charity, perhaps one of special significance to the family or your loved one. Setting up an online memorial tribute page with online donations is also a great way for mourners to express their sorrow and remember your loved one. These memorial tribute pages provide the opportunity for those unable to attend the funeral to send their condolences, and they can last for months or even years after the funeral, providing a digital space where mourners can revisit.

To find out more about our online memorial pages, read our guide Funeral Zone Obituaries.