Ideas and Inspiration - Meaningful Funerals and Memorial Services
A man with his arms around two children. We see them from behind, looking at artwork on a wall in a gallery.

Ideas and Inspiration - Meaningful Funerals and Memorial Services

Looking for inspiration to make a funeral or memorial truly meaningful for the family, friends and other attendees? Start with the basics. Consider how you can create a meaningful service that reflects your loved one's:

  • Personality
  • Passions
  • Hobbies
  • Accomplishments
  • Favorite Things
  • Charitable Work

We asked funeral professionals and other end-of-life professionals throughout the country to tell us about the most memorable and meaningful services they've helped families plan for a loved one.

Image of sewing machine with fabric

Sew Perfect

We had a service for a woman who was a well-known seamstress in the community. Her family asked if there was some way they could incorporate her beloved sewing machine into the service. They brought it, along with many of her tools that she used regularly. We were able to create a beautiful vignette showcasing her sewing machine, along with fabric, her scissors, pin cushion, etc. in place, just as if she had paused for a break while using them.

"It was very meaningful for the family, as well as the community, as that was how they would always remember her, at work at that beloved sewing machine."

Mario Fioritto Jr.
Fioritto Funeral Service
Lyndhurst, Ohio

Italian cookies

An Italian Celebration

A woman's daughter called me prior to her mom's passing, and told me she had promised her that she would have a non-traditional service for her as her mother had requested more of an Italian celebration. With some detailed discussions and planning, we were able to provide the festive atmosphere she was looking for with finger foods, pastries, beverages and her mom's favorite Italian singers in the background. The service had more of an open house feeling, very casual, relaxed and festive, just as she was hoping. We placed the foodservice in a secondary area adjacent to the viewing room, so that guests could mingle back and forth, visit with the family, share stories and remembrances, and just mill about as if they were at her home.

"Her daughter and family were very well pleased, as it was just as she was hoping for. The atmosphere was more of a party at her own home than it was a wake. The specialized music and food made all the difference."

Mario Fioritto Jr.
Fioritto Funeral Service
Lyndhurst, Ohio


A Musical Tribute

While caring for a popular restaurant owner and Gypsy violinist, the family wanted to incorporate his Gypsy traditions and music into the service. With his violin on display, his Gypsy band played traditional music, followed by a toast to him by all that were present. It was most meaningful and comforting for the family.

"While sharing their traditions and music, the family was very happy and comforted by the service."

Mario Fioritto Jr.
Fioritto Funeral Service
Lyndhurst, Ohio

Gone Fishing sign

Gone Fishin'

Radney Funeral Home coordinated a service for a man who loved to fish: He had made his own platform for his urn to sit on which consisted of black piping to hold the urn and his four fishing poles. This platform was too tall to place on a table so it would need to be put on the floor. The funeral director found a rustic, old fishing boat and brought it into the visitation room and placed the platform in the middle of the boat. The family brought in his tackle box as well as a few of his favorite fishing lures and a sign that said "Gone Fishin." Decorations were placed them around the boat to create a fisherman's scene. It was complete with lanterns, moss, fishing net, fairy lights in mason jars to look like fireflies, burlap, and other small items to give it an overall lake vibe. The lights were turned down to make it look like it was sunrise/sunset on the lake. It was so much different than just placing an urn on an empty table. It brought the personalized life back into the setup.

"This was a surprise to the family. They absolutely loved it! They were so happy, and it was well received by the community. People stopped to take pictures, laugh, and couldn't get over how well this described the gentleman who had passed. People knew him for his love of fishing. It was the talk of the town for how different and creative it was. It let people know that there can be more to visitations and services than just the basic. It also broke the solemn tension between friends and the family. The family was so excited to people able to laugh, smile, and talk about their loved one with so much pride and joy. It was so special to witness and be a part of."

Regan Moreland
Radney Funeral Home
Alexander City, Alabama

Close up of horse

A Special Equine Tribute

E. Dale Gunter Funeral Home & Cremation Services coordinated the funeral for a woman who was very active in "Horses For The Handicapped." In planning her funeral, the funeral home suggested the funeral home could call that organization to ask if they would be able to bring a horse to the funeral home for the service. The husband was surprised and asked, "Would they do that?" The funeral home called them and they were very supportive of the request. They are located in Sarasota, FL, about an hour south of St. Petersburg, but they transported one of their beautiful horses up to the funeral home the day of the service and had him positioned on the lawn in front of the entrance to greet family and friends as they arrived. The husband brought his wife's saddle to the funeral home and it was displayed in a memorial room next to the chapel with other significant memorabilia. It was very touching to witness the streams of people transitioning between the chapel, out to the lawn to be with the horse, and back again during the visitation period prior to the service, a memory the family will always cherish.

"The family was overwhelmed with gratitude and grateful to the "Horses For The Handicapped" organization for their efforts in helping to make this such a personal tribute for their wife and mother."

Dale Gunter
E. Dale Gunter Funeral Home & Cremation Services

St. Petersburg, Florida

Bridge painted like a rainbow

Two Spirits

"I share this with the family's blessing. I met with the family who had lost their adult child to suicide. Their child had within the past year advised their parents that they were transgender. While the parents did not know if this was really the case they were very accepting of their now daughter and the path they were on . However, they wanted no mention of this in the service. While settling in to write the service, I found myself drawn back to the parent's unconditional acceptance in life. Many people who are traveling this journey do not have this gift, it seemed a shame to not honor this in death. I wrote a service for the family honoring both their son and their now daughter. I had built a strong repour with the family in our two-hour meeting. I reached out to them, asked them to read the service I had written honoring their child - the whole child, their adult's child's truth and unconditional love an acceptance from them as parents. They read the service and asked if they could have the day to think about it. I left it with them letting them know they could send me back to the drawing board, they had my blessing should they not want me to do the service as I wrote it. Within five minutes they replied back telling me it was the right thing to do.

Today we remember the whole person, the whole journey. Many Indigenous cultures refer to people on this path as Two Spirit People. People who are blessed to see life through the lens of both genders. While many of us here today may not understand this path, I will stand here today and say, perhaps it is not our path to understand. Dr. Seuss once said "Those that mind don't matter and those that matter don't mind." You were invited here today to this space because you matter. 

When listening to this family speak about their child, I listened with more than my ears, I used my heart, and my sixth sense to guide me. I would have never suggested honoring both their son from birth and later their daughter had they been unaccepting in life. Interesting once we opened it up they called me and e mailed me with so many more stories about their child."

Feedback From the Family
"Tannis presided over the service for our adult child yesterday. It was as though she had known us for years not days that is how much she was able to plug into our family and tell our child’s story. It was as though the Universe guided her to us. Thank you so much for making a difficult time such an amazing celebration.“

Tannis Dorscht
Independent Celebrant
Calgary, Alberta

Confetti on blue background

Confetti Tribute

"We pre-planned with a young woman, 23, who knew she was dying, but stated she did not want to have a sad funeral. So, after the comforting rituals of her church service, we proceeded to cemetery with her casket, following the coach, in the bed of her husband's truck. Also accompanied by at least 10 emergency vehicles paying tribute as she was a local dispatch operator. The procession traveled under a large flag draped intersection, held up over the center of the road by two ladder fire trucks.

Once at the cemetery, the local first responders performed a last call for her dispatch handle. Nothing but tears falling, from everyone.

As her last request, our staff had purchased 90 confetti cannons, which were passed to everyone in attendance and as a group, in a circle around her casket and grave, we all shot them off together. The cemetery was covered in confetti. Her parents, young brothers, husband and 16-month-old baby were smiling, laughing, hugging, and celebrating everything she meant to them. We all signed the carapace on her vault lid and truly felt we gave her the celebration she wanted. It was probably the most emotional service I've experienced in 27 years of my career.

Family, friends, staff, live stream attendants, could not have been more pleased, touched and inspired by this service. Touching hearts and providing meaning is invaluable.

Her little guy will have great memories shared with him for the rest of his life."

Amie Swenson
Farnsworth Mortuary & Crematory
Jerome, Idaho

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