Memorialization and Cremation Tribute Ideas

This section contains information, and guides, on how to memorialize a loved one following a cremation.  If you are tasked with the job of arranging a cremation memorial service, it can sometimes seem a daunting task and a great responsibility.  Here we cover everything you need to know about memorializing a loved one.  We cover:

  • Understanding what a memorial service entails and represents
  • How a memorial service differs to a funeral service
  • Planning of a personalized cremation memorial service
  • Creating memorial tributes with words, memorabilia, and artifacts
  • Setting up an online memorial page or website
  • The role of technology and memorial services
  • Deciding on the final disposition of the cremated remains
  • How direct cremation and a family memorial service can save thousands on funeral costs

Cremation Memorial Service

Memorialization Explained

A change in how we memorialize with cremation

Cremation offers much greater flexibility in how we can memorialize a loved one that has passed.  As there is no body present at a memorial service, there are many more options of how you can conduct a memorial service.  It does not need to be at a funeral home, and you do not need to hold the service immediately after the death has occurred.

This is leading to a change in how we view the whole funeral process.  The role of a funeral director is changing too.  The funeral home need to handle the disposition – the cremation – aspect of a funeral, but a family can then opt to host their own memorial service once they have the cremated remains returned.  The need to use the services of a funeral home for a memorial service is not necessarily required.  Families are choosing to use a place of worship, community centers, event venues, their own home or even outdoors.  Sometimes a family feels that they can do a better job of memorializing their lost loved one.  They can make it very personal and original.

So, what does a memorial service entail and represent?

A memorial service is a ceremony to remember a loved one that has died. It is considered a form of closure following a loss, and a chance to ‘pay last respects’ and say a final goodbye.  It represents a remembrance of a life lived and an opportunity to pay tribute to the memory of the person who has passed.

With the shift towards cremation as a death-care option, memorial services are now typically held after a cremation, and referred to as a Cremation Memorial.

A memorial service can take many different forms.  It can be very similar to a funeral service format, or it can be uniquely personalized, and held at a significant place that was meaningful to the departed.

How does a memorial service differ to a funeral service?

A funeral service is held with the body present in a casket.  A memorial service is held without the body present.  If a cremation has been performed, a memorial service can be held with the cremation urn present, but many memorial services are conducted with no remains at the ceremony.

Memorial services are sometimes more uplifting and less somber.  This can often be because they are not necessarily held immediately after the death, so family have had more time to come to terms with their grief, and feel a memorial service held later gives them more opportunity to make it a celebratory event to honor their lost loved one.

How to plan a personalized cremation memorial service

Cremation optionsIf you have been asked to organize a memorial service, it can be helpful to plan out how you anticipate a service should run.  As there will be no body present, a memorial service can be very flexible and at any venue.  If the cremation urn will be present, this can form a ‘center point’, similar to a casket at a funeral service.

You will need to decide on the location the service is to be held, who to invite, what format you wish the service to take, and what memorial tributes are required.  Such as a memory book, photos, prayer cards, music etc.  It can help a memorial service to run smoothly if there is some organization, and deciding who is going to manage the service and who is going to speak and deliver a eulogy or final words.

How to create memorial tributes with words, memorabilia, and artefacts

If you are arranging a memorial service, you may oversee organizing the memorial tributes for the ceremony.  This can be arranging flowers, photos, memory cards, candles, music, video and even food.  Memorial tributes were often managed by the funeral home for an additional fee, but if you are organizing a service without using a funeral home, you can either purchase tribute products or make your own.  Fortunately, with so many resources online these days, there are many companies that make and sell memorial tributes, and lots of ideas for how to make your own memorial products.

In MemoryHow to create a personalized cremation tribute

‘Personalization’ is something we embrace in everyday life today.  It is something that has become important to all of us.  And personalization of a memorial service can often be achieved so much better when the family are arranging and conducting it.  No more of those slip-ups when a funeral director mispronounces a name, or omits a key detail about the deceased.

You can make a cremation memorial personal in many ways, but generally stories about the deceased, photos from their life, memorabilia that attendees will associate with the deceased, and music that the deceased loved are all good tributes.

What is a Life Celebration tribute?

A life celebration is a type of memorial service that is more focused on celebrating the life of the deceased.  So, it is more uplifting and joyful, instead of a sad somber service.  Some families choose to employ the services of a funeral celebrant to lead the service.  A celebrant has been trained in how to memorialize a service with focus on the celebration of a life ‘well-lived’.

Funeral homes also offer customized life celebration services, or you can prepare your own life celebration tribute for a loved one.

How to set up an online memorial page or website

As many of us live our life’s and connect online these days, setting up an online memorial page or website, can be a great way to have a lasting tribute to a lost loved one, and enable friends and family far and wide to participate in creating a memorial tribute.

Arrange a cremation onlineSome funeral homes now offer online memorial pages to their client families.  These are sometimes free, but often if you pay a nominal fee for the online memorial page, it guarantees it will be hosted indefinitely.

Similarly, there are several companies that specialize in offering online memorial tributes and offer different packages depending on how long you wish it to be hosted and how much information and photos you wish to add.

Facebook offer a Memorial page option.  This can also allow a wider circle of friends from all over to engage, share and contribute to an online memorial.  Facebook will automatically convert the Facebook profile of someone that has deceased into a memorial page, with the words ‘remembering’ next to their name on the profile.

The role of technology in delivering a memorial service

Technology has changed the world as we know it, and this is also true of funerals.  Today funerals can be live-streamed to enable those not able to be present to watch the funeral in ‘real-time’.  With technology like FaceTime and Skype, it is possible to do this even if you are holding your own memorial service.

The use of photo-editing and video-editing software or PowerPoint presentations can all be useful tools to help you put together something that brings media into a memorial service.  A video or slideshow can prove a lasting tribute for family to keep as a tribute, share, and revisit as time goes by or on the anniversary of a death.

Do we need to hold a memorial service?

No, you do not need to hold a memorial service if it is not considered necessary, or perhaps a very elderly relative passed without many family or friends still alive to attend.  Deciding to hold a memorial service is just a personal choice.

Some people decide to just go ahead and scatter the cremated remains without any service or ceremony.  Conducting an ash-scattering can be regarded as a memorial act, even if no formal service, or specific tributes are arranged for the scattering.

What to do with the cremated remains after a cremation memorial service: The final disposition

Deciding what to do with cremated remains still poses a question for some families.  Often families end up keeping an urn at home as they are undecided what to do.  Cremation has removed the immediate need to buy a burial plot and inter the remains, although some families opt to purchase a cremation niche and have the cremated remains interred.

Cremation Memorial IdeasScattering the ashes is becoming a more popular option.  The cremated remains can be scattered in a bespoke Memorial Garden, or in nature somewhere.  For more information on how to scatter ashes, read our ash-scattering guide.  Do bear in mind that it is wise not to rush to scatter the ashes to quickly after the passing, as you may change your mind later.  Another thing to consider is keeping a small amount of the ashes in a keepsake urn, and scattering the rest.

Cremated remains can also be made into a number of memorial artifacts, including memorial diamonds, blown-glass, birdbaths, reef balls, paintings, vinyl records, shotgun shells or tattoos.

How direct cremation and a family memorial service can save thousands on funeral costs

Direct cremation is the simple, no-fuss, no service cremation option that is very affordable.  The funeral home handles everything to cremate the deceased, but then returns the cremated remains to the family.  A direct cremation can be arranged for under $1,000 in many areas. [The cost for a direct cremation varies by provider, state and city, but can be as low as $595 and as high as $3,000].  Visit our main DFS Memorials site to check the local prices near you.

Following a direct cremation, if family and friends arrange a memorial service themselves, this can reduce the overall costs for a funeral.  With a simple direct cremation and a family-led memorial service, a dignified funeral can easily be achieved for under $2,000.  In fact, it can be less if direct cremation is being offered at a low-cost in your area.

Family-led memorial services are becoming a new ‘norm’.  It is almost a return to family values of decades ago before the modern era of the funeral establishment.  And why should we pay thousands of dollars to a funeral business, when we can host a family and friends gathering at a fraction of the cost of a traditional funeral service?

Although holding a memorial service is not necessary after a cremation, it does provide opportunity for closure and a sense of being able to say a final goodbye to a lost loved one.  The unique thing about a memorial service is that there is no time-critical timeline about holding it.  You can hold a memorial service shortly after the death and cremation, or you can wait months, or even a year.

What do I do with the ashes after a direct cremation?

With more families turning to direct cremation as a simple and affordable cremation solution, we are finding that this question is arising more frequently.  “What shall we do with the cremation ashes?”.  In many cases, the family opted for a direct cremation as they had already decided against interment, and simply wanted to take care of the immediate disposition of their loved one in an inexpensive, ‘no-fuss’ manner.

Opting for a direct cremation does enable family to take care of the immediate need, and requests, to arrange a funeral.  But once the temporary urn is made available for collection, some folks just aren’t sure what the next steps are.

Having a direct cremation does not mean that you cannot memorialize in your own way, and in your own time!  What can you do to memorialize after a direct cremation?

Ash Scattering Memorial

ash scattering An ash scattering is proving a popular choice for families who feel an interment is unnecessary.  Either the deceased specified an ash scattering or families feel that this is a more befitting final rite.

You can choose to scatter all, or just some, of the cremated remains, and there all many options on where and how.  The options include scattering at sea or over water, scattering in a designated memorial garden, scattering from a plane or scattering just about anywhere that you feel is appropriate.  Families often ask about the legalities and permits required for scattering, and it has thus far been something of an ‘un-regulated’ act.  Certain state and public parks may require a permit, but in the main, there are no regulations, just a need to have a regard for other people and the environment.  Cremated remains are organic and sterile, so pose no threat to the environment, but it is important to be mindful of other people and how they feel about this as a final rite.

If scattering at sea EPA regulations do stipulate that a scattering should occur at least 3 nautical miles from the shoreline.  That being said, it is not uncommon for families to choose to do a beach scattering in the surf on a quiet spot of the coastline.

It is important to think and prepare for an ash scattering.  It is final, and there are right and wrong ways of scattering remains.  The wind direction plays a major part.  We all remember that Big Lebowski blow-back moment!  Ensure you, and your assembled party are all standing downwind.

Hold a Memorial Service

You can conduct your own memorial service.  This means you can hold your own service led and directed by the family.  Or you can enlist a person to conduct it for you – a celebrant, minister or friend of the family.  There are again many options in terms of where to conduct a memorial service.  You can hold it anywhere that you feel is appropriate, from at home, to a community center, church, outdoors or golf club!

Inter cremation remains

Of course, you can still choose to inter cremated remains, and more cemeteries are adding columbarium’s to their cemetery estate to accommodate the demand for cremation niches.  The cost to inter a cremation urn is generally cheaper than a body and casket, but there are some quite expensive niches out there as well!

Cemeteries will sometimes facilitate the opening and closing of an existing cemetery plot to add a cremation urn.  The fees for this differ by cemetery.

Create a cremation artifact memorial

Cremation has inspired a new generation of imagination in what we can do with cremation ashes creatively.   The possibilities are almost endless but listed below are some suggestions of artifacts that are made with cremation ashes:

  • Memorial reef
  • Diamond
  • Blown glass
  • Birdbath
  • Vinyl Record
  • Bullets
  • Tattoo

Share cremated remains and create family keepsakes

If you are unsure just what you want to do with the cremation ashes, you can always opt for sharing between family members with keepsake urns. These are generally a set of small urns and come in various designs and selection of quantity.

Cremation Urns

If you are in need of a simple, low-cost direct cremation, DFS Memorials has a network of affordable cremation providers nationwide.  Select your state and city to find your nearest provider.

What to do with the cremation ashes after your cremation service?

TIME Magazine’s ‘Cremation: The New American Way of Death‘ highlights a very real issue that is a growing concern as more Americans choose cremation as a preferred disposition choice.  What do you do with the ashes?

The cremation rate is now at 42% and it is predicted that by 2017, one in every two Americans will be cremated.  A cremation service offers a simple and much more affordable funeral alternative.  A basic direct cremation service can be conducted in some cities in America for as little as $399*.  For those Americans choosing a cremation service  instead of burial, the decision about what to do with the cremated remains is now proving a growing dilemma.

There are basically 4 main options of what to do with your loved ones’ ashes –

  • Inter the ashes in a niche, columbarium or existing grave site.
  • Store the cremated remains in a cremation urn at home
  • Scatter the ashes in a ‘special’ place
  • Have something personalized done – cremation diamonds, cremation ammunition, or send the ashes to space or to the bottom of the ocean

cremation-urnCremation may be cheaper – but interring cremated remains is not cheap

Interring the ashes is not necessarily a cost friendly option.  It is widely accepted that many Americans are choosing cremation because it is so much cheaper than a traditional burial.  A cremation can cost a quarter of the cost of a traditional funeral.  By opting for cremation you eliminate the need for the expensive cemetery elements – such as a casket, grave liner, cemetery plot and headstone.   The cost to inter cremated remains can still seem expensive though, when it can run to a few hundred dollars, for that budget cremation service  that only cost a few hundred dollars itself!

The funeral industry reports that they have a growing issue with families NOT collecting cremated remains [especially after that quick and low cost direct cremation], and some funeral homes are storing hundreds of unclaimed cremated remains.

Cemeteries are also now dealing with the issue of families scattering remains over an existing grave, rather than pay the large cost to open the grave and inter the remains.

Keeping mortal remains on the mantle can seems gruesome for some!

There have been plenty of spoof movie scenes featuring some catastrophe happening with that ceramic cremation urn over the fireplace holding grandma’s remains.  Meet the Fockers always sticks in my mind – and quite clearly highlights how, culturally, we still find the idea of having the mortal remains of a dearly departed ‘invade’ our living space somewhat macabre.

I have heard stories from families where cremation urns have ended up as door-stops, or been stored away in the back of a cupboard for generations.  Cremation can detach us from the fixed notion of a ‘final resting place’ in the way that a traditional burial ritual did.

It seems that scattering ashes is becoming more popular alongside the trend towards cremation.

 Permits, prohibitions and ‘ash scattering’ police

The legalities of scattering cremated remains are a somewhat complex and as of yet relatively ‘un-policed’ matter.  Interestingly the TIME feature mentions ‘wildcat scattering’ – an activity where relatives scatter the remains of a loved one at a site of their choosing, without gaining any consent.  Apparently Disneyland has an issue with this.

I am quite sure we will see more ‘wildcat scattering’ as more folks choose cremation and decide to opt for a special final resting place for their cremated remains.

Personalized cremation artifacts

Memory-GlassIf money is no object, and you want something quirky and unusual, there are a whole host of possibilities today of what you can do with cremated remains.   With a spare $4,000 you can be turned into a memorial reef at the bottom of the ocean, or with around $3,000 you can be made into a cremation diamond.  If you want something less expensive, you can maybe opt for being made into a birdbath, glass goblets or tattoo!   This article on ash scattering explores quite a few possibilities.

There future of final resting places is certainly changing alongside the trend towards cremation.  In some ways it heralds a complete reinvention of what the notion of a cemetery is in the future.

* Direct cremation prices vary but a basic direct cremation can cost under $500 in areas such as Nevada, Florida and Washington.

What is the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service?

Both a funeral service and a memorial service serve to give us opportunity to ritualistically say goodbye to a departed loved one.  Funerals are often regarded as practices for the living, and part of the process of grieving.  The distinction between a funeral service and a memorial service is largely the presence of the deceased’s body at the service and the time-frame in which the service is organized.

A funeral service generally takes place within a week or so of a death occurring, and the casket (and deceased) are usually present during the service, whether it be an open or closed casket service.  This can be a funeral service followed by a traditional burial or a funeral service followed by a cremation.

A memorial service often takes place some time after the death has occurred.  It can replace the funeral service, or it can be an additional service providing opportunity for a wider circle of people to participate in the memorialization.  With the rise in cremations, some families are opting to have a memorial service instead of having a funeral service.  This way the family arranges for an immediate cremation and then arranges a memorial service once the cremated remains are returned to the family.

The benefit of opting for a memorial service is that firstly it alleviates the pressure of having to organize a service in the immediate days following a death.  Allowing grieving to take place without frantically making arrangements.  All that needs to be organized is the collection and cremation of the deceased.  Many funeral homes will offer the opportunity to have a private family viewing where you can have the chance to say a formal ‘goodbye’ to your loved one before the cremation takes place.  The cremated remains will be made available for the family to collect, or can be delivered to the family.

Another benefit of a memorial service is the reduced cost.  If you arrange and undertake your own memorial service, not only is it truly personalized, it eliminates the need to pay other people for this service.  Whether you are choosing to inter or scatter the ashes, you can arrange to do so at a time and place that suits your family.

The funeral industry is resisting this shift to cremation and memorial service, largely because it reduces their revenue and profits.  They like to try and tell us that we need to have a service in order to process our grief.  Whilst I do agree that a ritual may be an important aspect of psychologically managing our bereavement, I do not think that the funeral industry have to be intrinsic to this process.  I believe that we as family can often arrange a memorial service that better reflects our lost loved one’s life, without any assistance from professional services.

At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for you and your lost loved one.  What kind of service you decide upon has to be the right way to memorialize and pay tribute to the person you have lost.

Alabama – Alaska – Arizona – Arkansas – California – Colorado – Connecticut – Delaware – Florida – Georgia – Hawaii – Idaho – Illinois – Indiana – Iowa – Kansas – Kentucky – Louisiana – Maine – Maryland – Massachusetts – Michigan – Minnesota – Mississippi – Missouri – Montana – Nebraska – Nevada – New Hampshire – New Jersey – New Mexico – New York – North Carolina – North Dakota – Ohio – Oklahoma – Oregon – Pennsylvania – Rhode Island – South Carolina – South Dakota – Tennessee – Texas – Utah – Vermont – Virginia – Washington – Washington DC – West Virginia – Wisconsin – Wyoming