With restrictions on gatherings and fear in the air, COVID-19 has made it difficult for us to meet in person with our community when our loved ones pass away.

However, while existing traditions and rituals may need to be modified for right now, there are many new and wonderful ways for your community to come together. And, there will one day be a time where we can convene together in person to be with each other and celebrate your loved one.

Coronavirus shouldn’t get to dictate when we support each other during a loss, only how we do that.

Your Free Guide to Planning & Hosting a Memorial Service While Sheltering in Place

The teams at LifeWeb 360 and New Narrative Memorials joined forces to create this free, downloadable guide because both companies fiercely believe in the power of gathering together to tell stories and support one another after a loss, and want you to understand your options for doing this now as well as when large gatherings are again safe.

In the guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan and hold a virtual memorial event for your loved one right now. We’ll take you through every step of the process with detailed screenshots, checklists, and best practices.

You’ll learn how to invite guests, plan the ceremony and speakers, and set up and manage the technical part of a virtual event, as well as ideas throughout to make your virtual memorial feel extra special.

This guide is meant to accommodate the most tech-averse of your group alongside the tech-savvy, and we’re confident you’ll be able to plan a meaningful virtual memorial event by following it. However, if you’d like some extra help, please reach out and we’d be happy to support.

And finally, we recognize that there is a lot of information to digest here, and it’s new for everyone. So, we’ve made an infographic in partnership with Eterneva to make the information as visual as possible. We have also abridged much of the content found in the full downloadable guide below so you can quickly understand and reference the key steps.

how to plan a memorial service infographic

The Abridged Guide to Planning & Hosting a Memorial Service While Social Distancing

Funerals, Celebrations of Life, and other memorial services are incredibly important events to honor your loved ones, and help you begin on your grieving journey. With COVID-19 causing disruptions on traditional services and options, here is what you can do to set up a memorial service in these challenging times.

1. Decide on the event(s) you would like to host.

  • Private in-person funeral service
  • Live streamed or recorded funeral service]
  • Entirely virtual funeral service via video conferencing
  • Larger in-person celebration of life service in the future
  • Combination of the above

2. Begin collecting photos & stories to use at the event(s).

Use an online memorial tool like LifeWeb 360 to immediately begin collecting photos and stories from friends and family, and notify everyone of the memorial event details once scheduled.

3. Schedule a date and time to connect with family for planning.

You’ll need a Zoom pro account ($15 / month) for the memorial service, which allows groups to meet for an unlimited amount of time. You should register for Zoom Pro at this point in the planning process so you can make use of it throughout planning.

4. Decide key elements of your service.

Consider the following:

  • Is there a date or time that works best for your family and close friends?
  • Would you prefer a live stream or a private, invite-only video conference?
  • Who would you like to lead the service?
  • Would you like to share photos, videos, or a slideshow during the service?
  • Will there be any special touches, rituals, or toasts you would like to make?

5. Delegate family roles & responsibilities.

You'll want:

  • A Master of Ceremonies or Celebrant
  • Someone technical to operate your video conference call or live-stream
  • A person to design the stream invitation
  • People to distribute the invitation and collect RSVPs
  • A slideshow creator, if desired
  • A music playlist curator, if desired
  • Special speakers during the ‘formal’ portion of the ceremony

6. Create an RSVP list.

As a best practice, we recommend limiting the number of attendees who can speak or perform during the ceremony. For attendees, each Zoom Pro membership can include up to 100 individual attendees in one virtual room.

1 attendee = 1 device, so if multiple people in one household join from the same computer, that will be just 1 attendee.

7. Invite guests.

Information to include:

  • Date of Stream
  • Time of Stream (*indicate time zone)
  • Link + dial-in information (see below)
  • Program / Speeches (if desired)
  • Anything your attendees should be aware of during the service, i.e. wearing a specific color or bringing a prop for a group toast
  • If there will be a chance to mingle after the formal ceremony is over, or any instruction for separate breakout rooms

8. Set up a virtual event in Zoom.

Zoom has a number of setting options for different types of meetings and gatherings, including the ability to record the entire event. You’ll want to configure your settings before the event starts! You may even want to schedule a technical rehearsal with those speaking.

9. Run the memorial event.

  • Remember to press play to record the entire event, if you didn’t pre-select to record
  • Keep your Master of Ceremonies script handy to stay on track
  • Have your host or facilitator be on standby to admit any latecomers in the virtual waiting room, or available to handle any last-minute questions or microphone issues
  • Be ready to pause the stream incase of any interruptions

10. After the event ends...

What now? Choose a memorial option you or your loved one would most love.

For many, memorial diamonds are a great option right now because they take 7-10 months to create, and have a homecoming event at that time.

By then, you should be able to host a big Celebration of Life event in honor of your loved one.