Memorial Service Overview

It is quite customary for the funeral or cremation to be a small and private affair, restricted only to family and a very close circle of friends. Then, usually several months after the death, a much wider circle of acquaintances is invited to a service, with the specific intention of celebrating - rather than commemorating - the life of the deceased.

With the initial shock and despair of bereavement behind them, mourners are generally more able to contribute to, participate in - and even enjoy - the service. Frequently, recollections and speeches are affectionate and amusing, and laughter is never considered inappropriate or embarrassing.

Conventionally, memorial services were held under the auspices of the church, although increasingly they can be entirely secular affairs, and held within a variety of venues, from halls to theatres, hotels and pubs to beauty spots. Families may choose a place that was particularly meaningful to the dead person or one that works well from a practical point of view.

Even if you are adhering to a traditional Christian format, you will find that there is no established rite for a memorial service in the Book of Common Prayer, and you will be free to create your own service, incorporating your choice of prayers, readings, hymns, addresses etc. For Roman Catholics, the memorial service usually takes the form of a memorial mass, although again there is plenty of scope for personal tributes.

The family of the deceased can all contribute to the format of a memorial service. They can make their own suggestions for readings, music, speakers and so on, and liaise with the priest or officiant to reach an agreed format.

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