Creating an invitation for a funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life
Include basic information about the ceremony and any connected events, and consider including your loved one's photo and/or a short statement about their life.
Clarify expectations for the event: Whether it will be a formal or informal gathering, if there is a dress code, etc.
Send funeral invitations out as soon as possible whether by mail or electronically, to give invitees enough time to plan their attendance.
Enlist the help of a few people to help answer any questions invitees might have about the ceremony.
Planning a funeral or a memorial involves many different tasks, some of which may intensify your grief and inspire difficult emotions. Simply putting the words on paper to draft a funeral invitation, for example, can feel like oversharing, like you’re sending out an announcement of your inner turmoil to the world.
If you find yourself struggling with this, remember that you’re also working on an element of the grieving process, a part that is very important to others as well. Funerals and memorials are, after all, a chance for friends, family, and loved ones to grieve together.
If it helps, try to think of the invitations (and the funeral as a whole) as a way to bring your friends and family into a space of community to honor your loved one. This might make the process feel a little less daunting.
How to make a funeral invitation
While this might be your first experience planning a funeral, it is most likely not your first time sending invitations to an event. It’s easy to find templates online, just like any other type of gathering, and you should feel free to utilize those for convenience.
As with other invites, you’ll want to include basic information about the event: date, time, and location. You might also consider including a photo of your loved one, as well as a short statement about their life.
Funerals and memorial services are very often individual and personalized to the one they are honoring. As you’re creating your invitation, you’ll want to consider the type of event you’re holding. Is it a formal funeral in a church? A more casual memorial service? Maybe the person you’re honoring expressed wishes for a celebration of life instead?
If it’s a formal funeral, you might include information on the viewing, suggested contributions, the burial, or any information on the venue's rules of conduct (like a dress code). For a more casual memorial service, you can include any connected events like gatherings for meals or refreshments where people can share stories about your loved one. Attendees will feel more prepared for the day if they know what to expect.
Example of a funeral invitation
A very basic template for an invitation to a funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life would include:
• A headline and a photo. This can be your loved one’s name and their year of birth and death. For example: “John Doe, 1948-2022.”
• A short description of what is planned. For example, “Please join us as we honor the memory of our beloved mother, wife, and friend.” Or, “The family of [name] requests the honor of your presence in a celebration of her life.”
• Date, time, and location. Include information if a burial is to follow, if there are other related events.
• Any other instructions. This could be information about where to make donations, wishes from the family about the service, or anything else guests need to know.
When and how to send invites
Keep timing in mind and send the invitations as soon as you can. You’ll want to give everyone enough time to plan to attend so they can pay their respects and say goodbye personally. This is especially important for anyone who might need to travel.
Consider adding the funeral venue’s phone number to your invitation, so that guests can direct questions about directions and parking to them instead.
While sending out printed invitations is still traditional, you’ll want to keep in mind that funerals and memorials are not generally invite-only events. You might not be acquainted with everyone who will want to come pay their respects.
To make invites more inclusive, consider also sending them electronically by drafting an email invite or creating an event on Facebook. It’s also worth mentioning within the online invitation that it can be shared with others, which is an important way of reaching people like coworkers and childhood friends.
Responding to questions
As with any event, attendees will inevitably have questions for whoever is organizing. Fielding these can feel overwhelming while you’re grieving and trying to deal with other planning and paperwork.
If you can, try to enlist a few people to help you as points of contact. You might also consider adding the venue’s phone number to your invitation, so that guests can direct questions about directions, parking, etc. to them instead.
Expect to hear from quite a few people who cannot attend but want to pay their respects in other ways. Be patient with them as they reach out; remember that everyone else is grieving too. You can help by providing them information about memorial donations, or by asking them to write short remembrances that can be read during a designated portion of the service.
Try not to put pressure on yourself to invite everyone or to get the invitations just so. What’s important is coming together to say your goodbyes to the person you all loved.
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.
Choosing the elements of the funeral service
There is no set way to hold a funeral. Some considerations you may have are whether it will be religious or secular, who will officiate, whether multiple people will speak or just one, and what the overall tone of the service should be.4 min read
Choosing the right funeral home
Choosing the right funeral home to hold the most fitting service for your loved one can feel challenging, but it's really a series of simple choices. It's best to start with a budget and go from there.7 min read
Alternative memorial ceremonies
Perhaps your loved one was an avid hiker, patron of the arts, or leader and advocate within their community. It is possible to honor these aspects of their life in your final farewell, as there are countless ways to say goodbye to someone you love.6 min read