Organising a personal funeral service that truly celebrates and commemorates the life of your loved one requires careful planning. Place the individual at the centre of every decision you make, and you will create a funeral that is far more meaningful and creative. Taking a more active role in the planning of the funeral can make it easier to come to terms with the loss, help you feel more connected to the event and bring family and friends together at an important time.

If you’re at a loss with how to make the funeral service more personal while keeping it tasteful, read the below article and remember that your chosen funeral director will also be able to help. If you’re advance planning your own funeral, you can specify exactly how you’d like the service to unfold and feel within your funeral plan.

Plan the funeral around your loved one’s life.

A personal funeral service needs to reflect the values, personality and beliefs of the deceased. Some people ask guests to disregard traditional funeral etiquette and to come dressed colourfully, rather than in all black, to make the occasion less sombre, and because they know it is what the deceased would have wanted. Picture the person. Is there anything that immediately springs to mind? Were they religious? Plan a religious service with music and readings. Environmental or nature lover? Give them an eco funeral by choosing a woodland burial site, and maybe plant a tree over their grave. Motorbike enthusiast? Use a motorbike hearse in the funeral procession. The options are endless. If they were a fan of board games or jigsaw puzzles, you could set up a couple of games at the wake.


Create a photo memorial.

There are a number of ways to display photos at the funeral service. Create a slideshow of photographs to play in the background of the service or have a photo memory board at the wake. Spark memories by placing a collection of photos of the person at the entrance of the funeral service or tie photos to balloons to display indoors – there are many inventive ways to display photos.

Not sure you have enough photos? If you’d like, you could set up an online obituary page where friends and family can share any pictures they might have with you. This can be a lovely way for everyone to do their bit to make the wake a memorable and personal gathering. You can make a free online obituary with Beyond here.


Encourage people to share memories.

Many funerals have a book for people to write their name in at the entrance, to keep a record of everyone in attendance. You could improve on this tradition by asking people to share memories in the book upon entering the service or wake, for the family to read at a later date. If you want mourners to share in this experience, you could dedicate part of the funeral service to sharing your loved one’s memories. After the traditional eulogy, music, and some religious readings if appropriate, you could invite mourners to stand up and contribute a thought or memory. Alternatively, you could leave small cards on seats so that people can write memories if they wish. These can be placed on the coffin to honour your loved one, or in a jar or box for the family to read at a later date. All of these ideas help people feel more involved in the service, without pressure to write much or even anything at all.

If there are lots of children at the funeral service, you could keep them entertained by creating a colouring station. Provide crayons, markers and coloured pencils, and a large piece of paper, and encourage them to draw pictures honouring the deceased. It’s a great way to keep children interested and help them express their feelings.


Personalise the coffin

The coffin can be personalised however you see fit. Some coffin providers create coffins with an image across the top and sides, such as a field of poppies, a seaside setting or the Union Jack, as well as a number of interests and hobbies.

For natural biodegradable coffins, such as willow, wicker and rattan, there are weaving classes you can attend to be part of the coffin’s creation. There’s also nothing stopping you from building the coffin yourself, or sewing a shroud for the deceased, with personal engravings or embellishments. Think about family and friends – how can you best utilise their skills? A more low-key idea is to ask the younger members of the family to draw pictures to decorate the coffin, or to attach memories and messages to the coffin.


Create a special floral arrangement.

What is your loved one’s favourite flower? You could create a floral arrangement using that flower as the centrepiece, or scatter flower petals around the grave. You can purchase large, ornate displays that spell out your loved one’s name, or their relationship to you, like ‘Nan’, or ‘Mum’. Florists can also arrange flowers to create images, such as an open book or a football. Ask the florist or funeral director for a full range of images. If they were a prolific gardener you might prefer plants that won’t die immediately. Potted plants are an unusual way of decorating the service, with the option for attendees to take a plant home with them after the service.



Location can be made deeply personal – there’s no constraint to use a crematorium or cemetery if you don’t feel that is appropriate for your loved one, or they were not religious. You could make a visit to the seaside, and have a coastal service, hold the funeral in the local pub, incorporate a walk in the woods or visit their favourite place to sit and watch the world go by. You don’t need the body to be present to have a funeral service. The coffin does provide a focal point for the service but if you are comfortable without, don’t let this restrict your choice.

A personal funeral service is one which really reflects the life and personality of the deceased and can make for a beautiful funeral as their friends and family gather to pay tribute in a way that reflects the life that they lived.

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