Memorial Services: What You Should Know

When a person you know dies, it’s common for someone to host memorial services to remember and honor the deceased person’s life. Whether you are responsible for organizing this event or plan to pay your respects by attending one, there are a few important factors to be aware of. Here’s everything you should know about memorial services.

What is a memorial service?

Memorial services and funerals are often mistaken for one another, but there are distinct differences between the two. Funerals usually entail the deceased person’s body or ashes being present and are held soon after the death. On the other hand, memorial services can be held many days, weeks, or even on the first anniversary after the person’s death, and usually do not have the body or ashes present. Like funerals, however, memorial services are typically somber events.

What to expect at a memorial service?

There are many ways that memorial services can be held depending on their size, location, religious affiliation, and the host’s personal preferences. It’s customary for memorial services to include music, readings or poems, prayers, and speeches. If the deceased person was religious, the memorial service may include a religious service. After the service, the host will likely invite guests to a post-memorial reception where food and drinks will be served. 

Where does one typically host a memorial service?

Since the deceased person’s body won’t be present, memorial services can be held virtually anywhere. Some common locations for memorial services include:

  • The host or deceased person’s home.
  • A religious building, such as a church or synagogue.
  • A park.
  • Funeral home or graveside.
  • Favorite location of the deceased.

Who is usually expected to host a memorial service?

It is customary for immediate family members to host memorial services for their deceased loved ones. However, sometimes this is not always convenient or possible. For families who are unable to host a memorial service or for people who have no immediate family, it’s common for close friends to step in as hosts. 

How much does a memorial service cost?

The cost of hosting a memorial service can vary greatly depending on size, location, and amenities, such as food and music. Memorial services are usually less expensive than funerals, especially if they take place at a free location. The cost of the average memorial service isĀ around $900.

How long do memorial services last?

Memorial services typically last around 30 minutes with a reception immediately following, which allows guests to talk and eat. The length of the service will depend on how many people give speeches, how long those speeches are, and if a religious service is included, among other details.

What is the etiquette for a memorial service?

While every memorial service is different, there are a few standard rules of etiquette that are good to keep in mind:

  • It is best to arrive at the memorial service on time and find somewhere to sit before the ceremony begins.
  • If you speak to someone, do so quietly and respectfully.
  • If the memorial service will be a religious one, be sure to do your research in advance to determine if you should know anything beforehand.
  • While it’s common to wear black clothing to a memorial service, any muted, conservative attire that you would feel comfortable wearing to a funeral should be appropriate, unless you’re specifically encouraged to wear something different.
  • Don’t forget to turn off your cell phone when you arrive.
  • Be sure to sign the guest book, so the hosts know you were in attendance.
  • Be mindful of what you say to the grieving family. If you’re unsure of what to say or how to say it, a brief greeting and handshake is better than rambling on at length.

If you are considering hosting a memorial service for someone you love that has died, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The beauty of a memorial service is that they can be held weeks or even months after someone dies. Use this time to choose a location, structure, and details that work well for you, while planning a thoughtful service that will not only pay tribute to the person’s life, but also help their friends and family grieve.