What to Expect at a Memorial Service: An Overview of the Process

Are you planning on attending a memorial service for a friend or a loved one? Maybe you’re feeling nervous on top of everything else because you don’t know what to expect? Well, you’re not alone.

Each year about 56 million people die worldwide, and memorial services and customs can widely vary, even right here in the United States.

The more prepared you are beforehand, the more likely you’ll feel calmer when the day comes. 

Many people plan memorial services to honor the memory of their loved one. And usually, seek out the right professionals to help them plan it the right way.

So if you’ve never planned or been to a memorial service, keep reading our guide to know what to expect on the day.

What Is a Memorial Service?

It’s not unusual to wonder what is a memorial service anyway? Often the terms memorial service and funeral are interchanged, but they mean very different things.

Although both funeral and memorial services are to honor the memory of the deceased, there is no casket or body present for a memorial service. Usually, a framed picture of the deceased is the focus of a memorial service.

A memorial service can occur anytime before or after a funeral. Having the opportunity like a memorial service to mourn a profound loss is very comforting to many people.

The great thing about a memorial service is that it offers many flexibilities and endless ways to memorialize a loved one uniquely.

The Memorial Service 

You’ll likely receive a memorial service invitation in the mail giving you the details of the service. If you don’t know the deceased very well, receiving this invitation is a signal to start doing a little research.

When you attend a memorial service, you’ll find that people have different memorial service ideas and plan them in many different ways.

You might find yourself sitting down for a religious ceremony with a priest. If you’re familiar with the faith of the person who died, then it’s best to familiarize yourself with some common customs of that religion.

Some families will plan the memorial service themselves and will have different family members give personal eulogies. 

Many families will hire a professional funeral service provider to do the planning for them.

What to Wear to a Memorial Service

You need to get dressed first before you go anywhere, so let’s cover the basics of what you should wear to a memorial service.

Most of us know that black is the traditional color to symbolize mourning, but you can wear any color as long as it’s nothing too flashy. Ideally, you’ll want to wear what you would wear to a funeral unless the family asks you to wear something specific.

You’re safe to wear a dark suit, button-down shirt, and a nice tie for the men out there. For you ladies, put on a conservative skirt and blouse or a long dress. 

No matter what you decide to wear, make sure it’s appropriate attire. It may seem obvious, yet worth mentioning, that you never want to show up to a funeral wearing flip-flops, short shorts, or ripped jeans.

What Do You Bring to a Memorial Service?

Next, it’s nice to bring a little gift for the family. Consider a vase of flowers, a plant, pictures, or you can put a scrapbook together with memories you might have of the deceased person’s life.

If the memorial service is for a person you weren’t too close with, you can try a sympathy card, cash, or even a food dish.

A Little Memorial Service Etiquette

Just a few extra tips can make things even easier for you. Sometimes we forget the most obvious things when our mind is somewhere else. So remember:

  • Turn off your cell phone
  • Make sure to sign the guest book
  • Take a memorial service program
  • Be mindful of what you say to family members

Also, if the deceased person had a particular charity they were very passionate about, there may be a request to donate in their memory. So be prepared, even if you can only afford a small amount.

Features of a Memorial Service

Whichever format a family decides to choose, most memorial services follow a similar structure of people saying prayers and reading scripture or pages from a favorite book.

Typically, songs for a memorial service will include; religious hymns or a playlist of the deceased’s favorite songs. Some families even hire a live band or a professional piano player.

Candle lightings, poetry readings, and moments of mindful silence are also standard at a memorial service.

If this person was well known in the community, then you can expect more readings and speeches in their honor.

The Memorial Service Location

A memorial service can be almost anywhere that is convenient. You might find the memorial service you attend takes place at a funeral home, gravesite, church, private home, charity, or any place that was especially meaningful to the deceased.

How Long Does a Memorial Service Last?

A memorial service usually lasts from 30 minutes to an hour, but some can go for hours or longer, depending on the type of service.

Many families will often have a reception to follow the memorial service for everyone who attended for food and memories. The reception is much more casual, and you’ll be able to share your memories and experiences with family members and friends.

In general, you’re looking at a memorial service lasting at least a good portion of your day, so plan accordingly.

Attending or Planning a Memorial Service Is Simple

Now you know what to expect at a memorial service, it will be much easier to attend or even plan one in the future.

If you’ve been thinking about planning a memorial service or have questions, then reach out to the professionals at La Vista Memorial Park & Mortuary today.

Since 1868, La Vista Memorial Park has offered guidance every step of the way for people in all areas of San Diego County.

So make sure you contact us today for help with planning tomorrow.