10 Ways to Customize a Funeral

Funerals aren’t one-size-fits-all. One of the most important steps in funeral planning is customization. How is this funeral right for your loved one? How are you celebrating your loved one’s life through everything from the floral arrangements to the clothing they’re wearing? What makes this funeral uniquely your loved one’s funeral? Here are a few ways to customize a funeral for your loved one.

10 Ways to Customize a Loved One’s Funeral

1.   Put together a community project.

When you’re thinking about how you can honor your loved one in their funeral, consider that you don’t have to do it alone. A community project to display at the funeral brings people together. Try to think of a project that fits something that your loved one enjoyed in their life. Maybe they were always in the kitchen, baking their favorite recipes. You could ask funeral-goers to contribute recipes that the decedent shared with them throughout their life for a recipe book. Or, if they loved to sew or crochet, you could make a memorial quilt, with everyone contributing their own granny square that they feel symbolizes the decedent.

2.   Incorporate beloved items into a display.

Funeral flowers are a lovely way to honor a loved one, but consider taking the arrangements a step further and incorporating items that remind you of your loved one into the displays. If your loved one’s favorite thing to do was to be out on their surfboard, catching waves, build a floral display around the board. Or you could create a separate display outside of the floral arrangements. If your loved one received honors for their service in the military, for instance, you could build a section of the funeral where their metals could sit amongst photos of their time serving.

3.   Have something for guests to take home.

The idea of funeral favors isn’t all that common, but it’s a way to have your guests bring something that reminds them of their loved one home. You could put together seed packets from your loved one’s garden if they were known for their green thumb. Or, if they were known for making the best jams and jellies around, use their recipe to make some small containers to give out at the funeral.

4.   Make a memorial slideshow.

A memorial slideshow can be shown during the funeral, but it can also be put on loop to be projected throughout a viewing or reception. No matter how you choose to show your slideshow, it’ll be an homage to the life that your loved one lived. Ask family and friends to send you their favorite photos of your loved one, or ask them to put them all in a Google Drive folder to make collecting them a little easier. You could use slideshow services like Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides or a service that’s directly made for memorial slideshows, like Smilebox’s memorial slideshow maker.

5.   Choose meaningful clothing.

It used to be more common that a decedent would be dressed in semi-formal clothing, but that tradition has been receding. Now, it’s considered less necessary to have a decedent dress more formally, and it’s more common for them to be dressed in a way that reminds funeral-goers of who they were. When you pick out clothing for your loved one, look for outfits that you have special memories of them in. If your loved one always wore their favorite colorful dress to every occasion, perhaps they should also wear it for their funeral. But even then, you don’t have to pick out clothing that they wore only to formal events. If your loved one loved their blue jeans, there’s no rule that says that they can’t wear them for the funeral.

6.   Arrange for military honors, if applicable.

If your loved one was a veteran, you could plan to hold military honors at their funeral with the help of your funeral director. All honorably discharged veterans are entitled to military honors. By law, that includes an honor guard detail consisting of at least two members of the U.S. Armed Forces, one of whom must be from the decedent’s service branch. The ceremony includes the playing of taps and the folding and presentation of the American flag to the decedent’s next of kin.

7.   Dine on their favorite foods and recipes.

Food has the power to bring back so many memories. To incorporate food into a funeral, you could plan a reception with all of their favorite meals. Another way to make food a part of the funeral is by baking a few of your loved one’s most beloved recipes and putting them out during the service. Pick recipes that are easy to eat and not too messy, like a cookie.

8.   Organize a scattering ceremony at a special location.

A funeral ceremony isn’t the only event that you can plan for your loved one. You could also host a number of additional events, including a scattering ceremony if your loved one is to be cremated. A scattering ceremony is often very personal because you’re deciding where to spread their ashes based on what they loved in life. Although you can’t scatter ashes just anywhere, you can spread them in certain places like at sea or in a national park. Just make sure that you’re following all local, state, and federal restrictions.


9.   Print photos for a display or scrapbook.

Sharing photos of your loved one adds to the celebration of your loved one’s life. There are many ways to make pictures a part of the funeral beyond the memorial slideshow. You could print poster boards of your loved one to greet guests at the entrance. Or you could make a collage to add to other displays around the room. Many funeral homes also offer photo printing as a service, so talk to your funeral director about your photo options.

10.        Add music.

Music is a powerfully connective force, and if music was especially important to your loved one, find a way to add it to their funeral. You could make a playlist of their favorite songs to play during the viewing or hire a singer to perform one of their favorite songs during the funeral service itself. You could also hire a band or solo artist to perform at a reception.


Customizing a funeral looks different for every family, and you may have some of your own ideas about ways to make your loved one’s funeral personal to them. Whatever your ideas may be, talk to your funeral director about them. Even if you believe they may be challenging to do, funeral homes have plenty of experience turning those unique ideas into beautiful aspects of a loved one’s funeral.



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