Physical mementos at the funeral

4 min read

How to create keepsakes for a funeral

  • Many families choose to allow various extended family members and friends to take flower arrangements home with them.

  • Guest books are often used, either as a way to know who to write thank you notes to or so attendees can write a condolence message.

  • The most common keepsakes are funeral programs, which many people will keep to remember the person and can contain specialized memorializations.

  • Other giveaways such as votive candles, bookmarks, or even more diverse items are becoming increasingly common.

The funeral can be a challenging event for you and your family to arrange while you mourn the loss of your loved one. At the same time, planning this ceremony can also help you come to terms with the loss, as you make choices for the service according to the person’s wishes and bring together family members and friends to honor their memory.

At a traditional funeral, much time and attention is spent deciding how the casket will be presented and the altar decorated. But some families also put a lot of thought into the less central physical elements of the funeral. These are often objects that the family can bring home or give to other mourners to take home with them, in order to bring that feeling of memorialization and honoring their loved one beyond the ceremony itself. These keepsakes and mementos are a way of making extended family and friends feel included in the circle of love and grief, and can be sent to those who were unable to attend the service.

Floral arrangements

Most funerals have traditionally included flowers, and many mourners send flowers to the ceremony if they cannot attend the funeral in person. Once the service is over, these arrangements, wreaths, and sprays can be given to various attendees to take home. A flower arrangement can be a comforting way of remembering the person, especially if it incorporates their favorite flower. Funeral flowers can also be a soothing reminder that people care and you are not alone in your grief.

Any flowers or potted plants not left to adorn the grave may be taken by the immediate family. Other arrangements may be taken home by extended family or close friends, or they may be donated to nursing homes or hospitals (be sure to check on the institution’s donation policy ahead of time). Before you part with the flowers, remove any cards or notes so you know who to thank after the funeral, and can keep them as keepsakes.  

The guest book

Many families choose to place a book at the entrance to the funeral that guests can sign. This allows the family to know who was there and can offer solace after the event. The family may want to review the names, and to acknowledge anyone they were not able to personally greet.

Some families intend the guest book only as a record of those who attended, and use the list to send thank you messages. This is also called a registration book, because guests simply write their names and do not leave condolences or other notes. Other families may choose to provide an opportunity for guests to leave short messages or reminiscences of their loved one. Families can provide their own book, or most funeral homes will supply one for a set fee. 

The funeral program 

The most common keepsake that people bring home from funerals is the program (also known as an order of service), a printed document distributed at the funeral that describes the order of events and identifies the titles, authors, and readers/singers of any songs, religious passages, poems, or other readings. It may also include key information about the person who is being laid to rest, as well as the names of the pallbearers and the officiant.

Keeping funeral flowers at home can be a soothing reminder that people care and you are not alone in your grief.

Depending on your loved one’s personality, a funeral program can also celebrate their life by including meaningful photographs, a lengthier biography, favorite songs, poetry, television shows, or books, hobbies, pets, treasured anecdotes, or sentiments of gratitude from the family. It can be designed by a family member or friend, or the funeral home may offer this as one of its services.

Favors and mementos 

Memorial keepsakes have become increasingly popular at funerals, especially as part of less traditional ceremonies like a celebration of life. These special mementos can help in the healing process and are often cherished by those who want to remember the person. More traditionally, they may include bookmarks, awareness ribbons, votive candles, or even a photo with the name, dates, and a brief tribute. But you can choose to provide almost anything to mourners to take home, depending on your loved one’s personality and whether they specified anything in their last wishes.

As etiquette around keepsakes evolves, there is no formal rule for when to give out funeral favors. For some occasions, it may be best to give them as people leave so they don’t have to carry them around; small favors that can be carried in a pocket or purse are easier to hand out at the beginning of the ceremony. Smaller favors can also be put out in a container near the guest book so that mourners can help themselves.

Though funerals are solemn occasions, funeral mementos and keepsakes can be a way to honor your loved one and acknowledge and comfort their friends and extended family members. Giving people a way to feel connected to your loved one lets them continue to celebrate and cherish their memory of them.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.