Information and ideas for planning a memorial service


A memorial service is similar to a funeral service, although the body of the deceased is not present. It is usually held at a later date to the funeral and brings together family and friends to remember and celebrate the life of their loved one. Photographs, or an urn, can provide a focal point and a reminder of the person who has died.

A memorial service can be an important step in the healing process, providing an opportunity for people to mourn together and to acknowledge the reality of their loss.


A memorial service brings together family and friends from far afield who may not have seen each other for a while. An advantage of a memorial service, as opposed to a funeral, is that it gives people more time to make the necessary plans to attend.

Some people may be directly informed of the service by phone, email, or letter. Others may see the time and date in the announcement of death or obituary, or be told by family and friends.

Social media has certainly made it quicker and easier to let people know the details of when and where a service is taking place.


It can be hard to know exactly how many people will be attending, which makes it difficult for planning, seating and catering purposes. If it helps, you can use our Notification cards that can be emailed to family and friends. Replies and the number of Attendees can be recorded, helping you to keep track of who may be coming, together with any special requirements.



A memorial service can be held in any location, depending on the wishes of the deceased or preferences and requirements of their family or friends.

The number of people expected, your budget and the time of year may have a bearing on where you choose, as well as where those coming to pay their respects may be travelling from (good transport connections, etc).

Possible locations include:

    • a religious place of worship
    • at home or the home of a close family or friend (with a gazebo or marquee if necessary)
    • in a favourite, local pub or hotel
    • in a village hall or community centre
    • at a private club or local sports centre
    • a glade in a wood, in a meadow or by the sea
    • in a place that meant something special to the deceased


The main thing is to choose somewhere that feels right for you and your family. You can view ideas in the Funeral Reception & Wake Venues Inspiration section and find venues in Providers. For religious locations, please go to Funeral Locations.



Depending on your choice of location for the memorial service, it may be that refreshments can be served there. Otherwise, it is best to choose a place or venue that is not too far for people to travel to. A post-service gathering tends to be a more relaxed atmosphere where people can share stories, laugh, and remember and celebrate the life of the person who has died.


  • the location of the memorial service
  • at home or the home of a close family or friend (with a marquee if necessary)
  • in a favourite, local pub or hotel
  • in a village hall or community centre
  • a private club or local sports centre
  • in a place that meant something special to the deceased


For ideas and further information on local venues and locations, please use our search facility or visit Funeral Reception & Wake Venues in the Inspiration and Providers sections of whiteballoon.



Family and friends are often only too pleased to help with the catering, and this can also help to keep costs down. Some venues may be able to organise the catering for you. The extent and type of food will be dependent on your wishes, budget and the venue and can vary from simple sandwiches and cakes to more elaborate buffets.


If you would like to appoint a caterer or an event planner to assist you, please visit Catering & Planning and Caterers & Planners in the Inspiration and Providers sections of whiteballoon.


To help you to get an idea of numbers for catering and planning purposes, you may like to use our free Notification cards. These can be sent to family and friends and the replies, together with details of any special requirements, can be recorded on your personal Attendees form.



Flowers lift people's spirits and provide softness and colour in a room. They can be anything from simple, hand-picked in jam jars, possibly from a family member or friend, to a more elaborate displays supplied by a local florist.

The type of flowers will depend on the wishes of the deceased and their family, their budget, and possibly the season. Flowers may be needed for both the service and for the gathering afterwards, if there is one, and can be moved between the two.

Depending on where the memorial service is taking place, the venue may be able to organise them for you.

If you would like inspiration for different types and styles of flowers or to find a local florist, please visit the Flowers & Plants sections in Inspiration and Providers, or use the search facility above.


A memorial service is a chance to gather together a wider circle of family, friends and colleagues, old and new, to remember and celebrate the life of the person who has died. Sometimes adding a few personal touches can spark memories and conversations or lighten the mood.

Displays of photographs of the deceased, their life, family and friends, or movie clips to a favourite song can help mourners connect to, and remember, the person they are saying goodbye to.

Consider ways to invite participation from the guests - writing a memory in a book of condolence or posting it in a memory jar can be cathartic and will create lasting memories for the family.

Think about reflecting the life and personality of the person you are mourning - for a gardener or nature lover, packs of flower seeds for loved ones to take away and plant as a living reminder of the person who has died; releasing balloons or doves to represent a free spirit; fireworks, for someone who loved drama and spectacle.

There are some beautiful ideas for Personal Touches in our Inspiration pages. If you would like to link directly to local or national suppliers, please visit the Providers section of whiteballoon or use the search facility above.


Depending on the number of people attending the memorial service and post-service gathering, where they are being held and what food and drinks you are serving, you may need to borrow or hire tables and chairs, tablecloths, glasses, cups and saucers, plates and cutlery. Some venues will be able to provide these for you.

If you need to hire items please look for local providers using our search facility or visit Caterers & Planners in the Providers section of whiteballoon. 



The sound of singing and music at a memorial service can be healing and uplifting, and having a live performance of a meaningful song can be a beautiful tribute to a loved one. There are many possibilities from soloists and choirs, to violinists and pianists. This is a very personal choice, but if you would like some ideas and inspiration, or to source someone directly, please have a look at our Singers & Musicians in Inspiration and Providers.


Some people also choose to have a singer or musican playing at the post-service gathering. A family member or a friend may be happy, and honoured, to perform - or again, you can find local singers and musicians in the Inspiration and Providers sections of whiteballoon.

COVID 19: To find out more about the current rules and regulations, please see the latest Government information


It is a small thing and easy to forget, but signage may be needed to indicate where to park or to direct to an entrance. Ask family and friends to make signage boards or help people on the day, they are often only too pleased to provide support.

Remember to take account of the weather. If parking is in a field or on soft ground and it is very wet, mats may be needed or alternative parking found.