Five Places to Host Your Memorial Ceremony

As we come out of COVID restrictions, funeral sizes are increasing and more venues are opening up. And people who were forced to say goodbye to their loved ones during the height of restrictions will begin to look at ways of remembering them the way they deserve to be remembered.

Memorial ceremonies will offer people the opportunity to say the goodbye they wish they could have said at the time of their loved one’s passing. If you’re looking to plan a memorial ceremony, you’ll be interested to know that you’re free to hold your memorial ceremony anywhere. All you need to do is check that it’s okay to bring your loved one’s ashes in an earn, if that’s something you want to do.

There are lots of beautiful places you can consider for your memorial ceremony, and I’m going to share a few ideas with you in this post.

Converted Church

As the church-going population declines, more and more churches are being turned over to the community, or to enterprising people who see their potential as a space to welcome people. If your loved one was a spiritual person, a converted church sill be an atmospheric choice of venue for a memorial celebration.

This photo gives an example of a venue that people can use for memorial ceremonies, in this case a converted church.
This is a picture of a grey and white building that looks like a church, with a blue sky above. The building is Copper Coast Geopark in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford, which you can use for all kinds of ceremonies. Photo Credit: Copper Coast Geopark

Clubhouse or Community Centre

Was your loved one a sports fanatic? Did they spend all their spare hours at the golf club? Did they coach teams at the GAA or soccer club? What a lovely idea it would be to pay tribute to them at the club where they devoted so much of their time and energy. It doesn’t have to be a sports club.

It could be a community centre or Scout hall, and the ceremony could celebrate the contribution that person made to their community. As an added touch, the club members could do a guard of honour for the person, which they mightn’t have had a chance to do at the time.

Arts Venue

Maybe your loved one was more of an arty type, a musician, an actor or an artist. If so, then you can organise a colourful celebration of life at their favourite arts venue. It could be a gallery, an arts centre, a theatre or concert venue, or even a pub!

You can celebrate the person’s life through their art, with their pictures on the walls or music playing. Better yet, you could have live performances of their music, poetry or plays. Including their art in the ceremony will show that their loved one lives on through their creativity and their stories.

Hotel/Restaurant Venue

If there was a favourite place your loved one liked to go to for a meal or for entertainment, you can pay tribute to them in a place that’s full of happy memories. Along the way, you can enjoy some delicious food and drink and raise a toast to your loved one.

If a hotel or a restaurant has a small room where you can gather, it’ll help you create an intimate ceremony for the ones who were closest to your loved one. You can share a meal together to give thanks for your loved one’s life.

Outdoor Venue

If you decide to hold your memorial service outside, it will give you great freedom. The whole of nature is available to you as a backdrop for your ceremony. If your loved one was a hiker, a biker or a walker, you can hold your ceremony in a place where they found peace and wellbeing.

The place you choose will create its own atmosphere, and you can breathe in fresh air and enjoy beautiful scenery, which will give you comfort at this difficult time.

Use of any venues is subject to permission from the venue owners, but I’m happy to do a ceremony in any venue you wish. You can give me a call on 087 6959799.

Creating A Beautiful Memorial Ceremony For Your Loved One

I’m feeling quite sad this week. A few days ago, I heard about the passing of one of my ski tribe. I thought about his partner and children, who like so many people at this time, are mourning without a supportive crowd around them. Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about someone in my circle who’s had to endure a lonely funeral.

But I am looking forward to attending the memorial ceremony for this man, who was a talented athlete and musician. There are going to be a lot of these memorial ceremonies, because we don’t want this virus to stop us from being there for the people we care about. And because we want to define people by how they lived, not by how their lives ended.

This picture complements a blog post about post-COVID memorial ceremonies.
Pic from Irish Ethical Celebrants Society which featured my article about memorial ceremonies.

I qualified as a funeral celebrant just before the virus began to close the world down. And I want to help you mourn your loved ones the way both you and they deserve. So, I’ve put together some ideas to help you plan a memorial ceremony for your loved one when restrictions are lifted. You can adapt your memorial ceremony  to fit the type of person your loved one was and pay tribute to them in a really personal way.

The Two Types of Ceremony

There are broadly two types of memorial ceremony you can arrange.

The Story Of Your Life

You can organise an informal celebration for your loved one that tells the story of their life in music, words and pictures. Hire a venue that your loved one enjoyed going to, fill it with family and friends and feast on your memories. Invite people from different areas of the person’s life to tell stories about them and intersperse each one with songs the person liked.

Ideally, you’d have a talented musician in your family play them live, but you can also sing along to a recording. And while you’re reminiscing, you could arrange a slideshow of pictures of the person to play in the background. Just be sure you designate someone to be the MC for this event, so it all flows smoothly.

Funeral-Type Event

You can also have a more traditional memorial ceremony. This is closer to a funeral in form. But it can still be highly personal, a ceremony that celebrates the person’s life and the contribution they made to all of your lives.

Here’s a flavour of the elements you can include in your funeral-style ceremony.

Opening Remarks: It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget about welcoming people when you have so much to think of. All you have to do is say that everyone is welcome and thank them for coming. And don’t forget to use your loved one’s name. Your name is intertwined with who you are. By using their name, the name they were known by, you invoke their presence and bring them to life. 

Readings: Did your loved one have a favourite poem or reflection? You can include that as a reading in the ceremony, to showcase your loved one’s personality. There are also readings written especially for end of life rituals. These are designed to give you comfort and to show you that the person can still be present in your life.

Depending on your loved one’s beliefs, you can choose a prayer, a spiritual reflection or a poem. You can spread readings throughout the ceremony: for example, a reading after the opening remarks, after the eulogy or before the final words.

Gathering of Memories: As this is a memorial, the memories you share of your loved one will form the centrepiece of your ceremony. This is the time to let your loved one’s personality shine. You can share these memories in a formal way, with a eulogy delivered by a friend or member of the family. Or you can ask a few close friends or family to tell stories about your loved one, stories that capture the spirit of your loved one and celebrate the high points of their lives.

Rituals: We all need rituals, and rituals can be powerful symbols of love and of life in the midst of death. A lot of people offer gifts that represent the person – maybe a football jersey, a newspaper or a souvenir from a brilliant holiday. You can also light a candle for your loved one, to show that their light will never go out.

Musical Magic: Music speaks to the soul and it reaches places that words can’t reach. Let yourself be inspired by your loved one in the music you choose. What tunes did they like? What did they dance to? Or is there a piece of music that you feel fits their personality to a T. Or maybe there was a song that your loved one always sang at family gatherings. What a fitting way to round off a ceremony, having everyone sing along to that party piece.

Closing Words: The end of the ceremony will be the most poignant part for you all. You already said goodbye at the funeral and now you’ll be saying it again. But the end of the ceremony is a good time to give thanks. Thank your loved one for the riches they brought into your life and thank all those who gave you support in many ways.

And finally, thank everyone for coming and let them know if you’ve organised refreshments for afterwards. Focusing on the gratitude you feel will take some of the sting out of that goodbye.

Have A Laugh: There’s still a feeling that we must be solemn at funerals and memorials and of course there are sad occasions. But they’re also celebrations of life, as I said. So, make room for laughter in your ceremony. Tell the jokes your loved one would have told. Share funny stories about the crazy things the person did. Let your laughter mingle with your tears and you will all leave with a happy memory.

I’ve produced a version of this blog post for the Irish Ethical Celebrants’ Society if you want to take a look at that. If you want more ideas or help with putting together a memorial ceremony, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on info@celebrantderv.ie

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