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Planning a Memorial Service That Reflects Your Final Wishes

Photo: Courtesy of Rhodi Lopez

What are your final wishes? How do you envision people saying goodbye after you die? How do you want to be remembered?


Gail Marquardt

Vice President, Consumer Engagement, National Funeral Directors Association


While these can be difficult questions to ask and answer, a discussion with loved ones about how you want to be remembered can help ensure your funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life represents the life you lived and gives family members and friends a meaningful opportunity to say goodbye. It can also eliminate the stress that often accompanies planning these types of services at the time of need, giving close family and friends the opportunity to focus on mourning. Getting started may be easier than you think.

Talk with your loved ones

Having a conversation about how you would like to be remembered is an important first step when planning your funeral. While it may seem awkward at first, people often find it gets easier as the discussion progresses. Some conversation starters include:

  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • What are your thoughts about how you would like to be laid to rest? (E.g., casket burial, cremation urn, natural burial, etc.)
  • What are your thoughts on having a viewing, either public for all mourners or private just for immediate family and close friends?
  • What are your fondest memories and how might we represent those at the service?
  • For what do you want to be known? A career accomplishment? Parenting? A favorite recipe? Musical talent? How might we represent that at the service?
  • Are there special readings or music you would like?
  • What faith-based elements and/or cultural traditions would you like incorporated?

Involve family and friends

You may have very specific ideas about your funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life, but family members and friends may have other suggestions as they think about what will help them move forward in their grief after the loss. Sometimes this can include differing opinions about whether a funeral should even be held. Keep in mind that even if it’s your preference not to have a funeral, a gathering may be helpful to your family members and friends as they begin to grieve. Having an open conversation will give everyone the opportunity to have their voice heard so the service can be meaningful for everyone.


Make it meaningful

The things that make a funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life meaningful are the special touches that help mourners better understand the uniqueness of the life lived. Whether you include favorite readings or music, showcase a hobby, display photos, or serve a favorite recipe, there’s no limit to how you can make a service special and meaningful.

Write down your final wishes

Documenting your wishes and ideas helps ensure family and friends won’t forget any important details and will be very helpful when you sit down to meet with a funeral professional.

Meet with a funeral director

A funeral director can ensure your wishes will be respected and adhered to when the time comes, so make this conversation as detailed as possible. This is also the perfect time to discuss whether prepaying would be advantageous. The decision to prepay is a personal one, and circumstances vary. Speak with your funeral director about your options to determine if prepaying is right for you.

Be honest about your budget

Meaningful funerals don’t need to be expensive, and you should never feel pressured to spend what you can’t afford. Having an open conversation about costs with your funeral director will help ensure the selected services are meaningful without causing financial hardship.


For more information about starting this important conversation with your loved ones, visit

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