Many families are choosing to have a direct cremation now with hopes of a Memorial Ceremony later. This is due to the current Covid-19 funeral restrictions of a maximum of 30 mourners.

The main reason for this is to avoid having to choose which family members and friends can attend a funeral, and which will be asked to stay away. This is obviously an awkward conversation many of us want to avoid.

And maybe a memorial ceremony is best for you and your family, especially if your family members are spread across the country or even the globe.

So, what does a Memorial Ceremony entail?

Basically, it’s the same as a funeral but there is no body. You may have the ashes, and you may want the scattering of the ashes to be part of the ceremony.

Oftentimes, Memorial Ceremonies are held sometime after the death. This could be on the anniversary of the death or maybe the birthday of the deceased.

You can have your Memorial Ceremony in your garden, your local pub or park, a place special to the deceased or a hotel meeting room. A lot depends on how many people there will be; what provisions you wish to provide, and how much you can afford. (NB I don’t think any family member wants you getting into debt so you can say goodbye to them. Decide a budget and stick to it.)

Depending on your venue, a Memorial Ceremony usually lasts longer than a funeral. You get more time to talk about the deceased, remember how they touched your life, and meet family and friends who also feel your loss.

For this reason, you can plan the order and contents of the ceremony to fit the person being celebrated and there are no rules as to what you must say or do.

But here’s some info to help or inspire you as you plan.

Recommended Elements

Here are some elements you may want to include as they could help you in planning a Memorial Ceremony. But remember – advice doesn’t have to be taken. 😊

Have a Celebrant or Main Speaker

This is useful as it gives your ceremony a framework and someone who knows what order everything is happening. They can introduce different people, music, and activities to keep you on track.

A celebrant stood under a stone archway in a wood leading an outdoor Memorial Ceremony

Talk About the Person aka A Eulogy

This doesn’t have to be said by just one person, though your Celebrant or Main Speaker might give an overview of your person’s life. Different speakers can then share their memories about different aspects of your person’s life: work colleagues, sport and hobby colleagues, members of the family, friends, etc.


You might listen to specific pieces of music that the deceased loved or music that reminds you of times you spent with them. You might also ask people who play instruments or who are in a band to play live. Music can help so much when it comes to big emotions. It can bring release or remind you of happier times you spent together.

And, as this isn’t a funeral ceremony in a church or crematorium, you aren’t restricted by time or the number of songs you would like to share. This allows you to explore a person’s eclectic taste in music or even have a dance. Memorial Ceremonies really give you more scope.

A Quiet or Reflective Time

This might seem counterintuitive after I have mentioned dancing to your person’s favourite track, but you can include both and be respectful with each.

You might choose to have:

  • a moment’s silence
  • a prayer
  • a quiet time while listening to a softer piece of music
  • a time where people can place notes in a memorial book or memory tree
  • a time to lay flowers at a photo or by the ashes casket

By offering a quieter way for people to pay their respects, you allow people to say goodbye in a way that suits them as well as your deceased person.

A group having a quiet moment of reflection in a wood as the sun comes up at a Memorial Ceremony

Grief affects everyone differently and not everyone is up for public displays of emotion. A reflective time makes sure private and quiet mourners feel included and able to say their piece.

A Thoughtful Touch

This is something that will be different for each Memorial Ceremony.

Think about your person – did they have a hobby, interest, sport or quirk that makes you smile when you recall it? How can this be included in their Memorial Ceremony?

Here are some examples to help you:

  • Share your person’s favourite tipple and raise a glass to them
  • Give each person who attends a cutting, plant or pack of seeds to honour the deceased’s love of gardening
  • Have a selection of your person’s favourite food, dessert, sweets and allow people to help themselves
  • For sports fan, you could share a clip of a favourite team in action or give out keyrings (or other mementos) with the team’s logo or colours on
  • And one man, whose funeral ceremony I wrote, would always buy baked beans whenever he went shopping regardless of how many tins were back at the house. His family were left with over 50 tins of beans and visitors were being encouraged to take tins with them. If your family member had a similar habit, you could allow/suggest/make it mandatory that Memorial Ceremony guests take a tin of beans or a book or the chosen item with them

The Thoughtful Touch is a small and maybe fun way of remembering the best of your person and the qualities that made them memorable.

 at their Memorial Ceremony

I really hope this helps you. Times are currently strange, but we still want to say goodbye to the people we have loved in our lives in a way that helps us with our grief and honours their lives.

Sarah x

Picture of a celebrant with brown hair and brown eyes smiling at the camera.