When planning a funeral, where do we begin?  Start by remembering the person whose life you are celebrating.

Many families are designing funerals, memorial services and life celebrations that reflect the lives and tastes of the deceased, believing that the traditional, one-size-fits-all tribute isnʼt for them. There are no rules. There are any number of things you can do to make your loved oneʼs funeral as unique as he or she was.

Take a look through the Resource Tab on your left.  You will find a variety of local services available to assist in your plans, from conventional to creative. These businesses specifically service the funeral/memorial industry – this site’s intent is to generate ideas and provide the local resources who can help in one place, making your funeral planning a bit easier.

The Funeral Service

Location: Traditionally funeral homes and churches have been the funeral and memorial service gathering spot.  The trend today indicates more people are opting for a location that befits the lifestyle and personality of the person being remembered. Alternative locations include a beach or park, back yard, on the water, community center, art museum, theater, or a golf course.

Theme: Depending upon the wishes of the deceased, you may opt for a formal or more casual affair. If his or her personality warrants a less subdued service, consider having a theme that is a personality match. The theme could depict an era like the 50s, 60s, or the Civil War, or honor a particular culture.

Music: Select music that represents the deceasedʼs musical taste, heritage or personality. Jazz, classical, blues, gospel, Celtic, Latin, etc. can all be used tastefully.

Flowers: Would you like a change from standard floral bouquets?  One option is to decorate with potted plants or trees. At the conclusion of the service, the plants can be given to family members who can in turn may plant them in remembrance. For smaller funerals, a small plant or flower bulbs provided to all guests creates a lasting gift.

Transportation: While a traditional hearse is the norm, perhaps something less predictable is appropriate. Other options include a horse drawn carriage, pickup truck, fire engine, bus, or a souped-up hot-rod.


Burial Container: There are a number of options available for disposing of a body. Purchase a personalized casket that has photos or other artwork on it that reflects the deceasedʼs personality. Environmentally friendly or “green” coffins and pods are becoming more and more popular.

Ashes: Following cremation, ashes are typically either placed in an urn for burial or display or scattered. The scattering can take place in a serene setting, or they can be dispersed more dramatically. Other options include: at sea, in a rocket, from a motorcycle on the open road, or from an airplane.

Graveside: At the conclusion of the committal service, release doves, bubbles, butterflies, or balloons or set off fireworks at the gravesite as a final goodbye. You could even hire a plane to write in the sky or have a missing man flyover.


Venue: There are a wide range of options available, from the local community center to an intimate resort to an extravagant hall. Select what best suits the personality of your loved one – receptions may even be held at golf courses, theatres and favorite restaurants.

Menu: In most cases refreshments are served after a memorial service has concluded. Whether it is a full meal or appetizers and desserts, select a menu the departed would have enjoyed. If he was Italian, service pizza or pasta. If she was Asian, egg rolls and chow mien might be just the ticket. And thereʼs nothing wrong the a cheeseburgers and malts if that was a lifelong favorite.

Memorial Wine: If the deceased was a wine lover, you can have personalized labels put on a variety of wines to be used at the reception or as gifts to family and friends.


Photo/Video Presentation: Create a slide show or video tribute of a life well lived. Synching up photos with favorite music will give mourners a glimpse into the departedʼs personality and lifestyle.

Videotape the Memorial Service: For a lasting tribute, hire someone to videotape the service itself. It will be particularly appreciated by those who are unable to attend.

Memorial Website: Design a website to post funeral information, photos, and other memorabilia. Provide guestbook space for family and friends to share condolences and favorite memories. The video presentation and recording of the memorial service can also be uploaded.

Memorial Table: At both the funeral and visitation, display photos, clippings, awards, and other special mementos on a table for viewing. Doing so is a great way to ease the tension of visitors.

Photo Buttons: Give out a button to everyone who attends the service that has a photo of your loved one on it as a permanent reminder. This is especially poignant when the deceased is a young person.

Bookmarks: If the departed was a bookworm, create a bookmark with a photo and favorite quote or scripture that can be given to the guests.

Theme Funeral Ideas

Beach / Hawaiian – hand all guests a lei as they enter the funeral / life celebration. This will serve to set the stage, bringing all attending to a similar state of mind. The funeral / life celebration can be decorated in a beach theme.

Outdoors – display backpacks, tents, bikes and greenery (to represent trees and the outdoors)

Bird Watcher – display several birdhouses and feeders

Sports Enthusiast – Print an obituary requesting that attendees where sporting jerseys to the funeral in the deceasedʼs honor.

Formal – Engrave the deceasedʼs name on champagne/pilsner/shot glasses for the reception following the service – guests may take home the glasses in memory of the loved one

Poker / Blackjack – name embossed on poker chips for guests to take home

Train Lover – display a toy train, lanterns, tickets, RR crossings, etc.

A Tree of Life – Memories & Prayers
• A real or purchased tree branch
• Small notecards (biodegradable)
• Decorative planting pot filled with clean gravel or other stable material
• Small basket or dish
• Several pens
• Twine, ribbons, yarn or similar
• 1-2 people to bring these materials to the service & for setup – especially appropriate to assign to older grandchildren
At the funeral/memorial service, place the tree branch in the pot. Place notecards into the basket with pens. Post instructions asking family & friends to write a short memory or prayer on the papers, attaching the the tree branch with the twine or ribbons.
The Tree of Life Memories & Prayers may be placed in the casket if it is small/slender enough, buried with the casket (on top of the grave liner), or if biodegradable, may be set free with the deceasedʼs ashes.
Hint: Prime the tree branch in advance with some memories & prayers by those closest to the deceased.