A little inspiration…
Creating the Perfect Farewell
Many of the following ideas have been gathered from the families we've looked after and show that you really can say goodbye YOUR way. We hope they are a creative springboard for your own perfect farewell event.
Vintage Afternoon Tea
Mum was a member of the WI for many years so tea and cake were always going to be essential ingredients. We found a collection of the last survivors of various tea sets she'd had over the years so we used these to serve the cakes that friends had baked. The grandchildren crafted table decorations and we had a lovely display made up of favourite photos, a selection of the knitted toys and jumpers she'd given us over the years, and Mum's favourite flowers. Informal, fun and quirky - just like her.
Saturday Memorial Service
Our family is scattered far and wide, so it was going to take time to gather us all together. But we knew that a church service would work for us and the vicar was happy to do this with the ashes instead of the coffin. A local print shop enlarged one of our favourite photos which we displayed on an easel at the front of the church. The urn stood in a stunning bower made by the local florist, which received lots of compliments. Taking more time and holding the event on a Saturday meant everyone could be there, which made a huge difference.
Reaching the Top
He loved the mountains and hills so a big group of us had a memorial ramble which carried a small portion of his ashes to a favourite peak. We snapped selfies and toasted his memory with a favourite single malt. The small linen pouch of ashes was placed snugly in a crevice which we marked with a large engraved pebble. Then down we went for a hearty lunch with more toasts and tall stories.
So many of our happiest family memories feature the beach, dogs and sandy ham sandwiches. So we decided to bring everyone together with their four-legged friends for a memorial 'doggy-lympics' followed by a big picnic. We shed a few tears but mostly laughed. We'll remember her, and that day, every time we come back to that lovely stretch of sand.
He was a quiet man and so a big"do" was just not his style. On the day of the cremation a few of us got together at home, we each lit a candle and listened to a playlist of some of his favourite music. It was very relaxed and calm and as the music finished we each "let him go" by saying goodbye and blowing out our candles. We'll light them again on his birthday. He'll never be forgotten.
"A boat took us out to the middle of the lake and once the water was still we read the poem Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep which was perfect. Then we placed the special 'ashes pillow' over the side and gently pushed it away. Everyone had a rose to toss in the water with a kiss as we played "Sailing" and sang our hearts out. Brilliant."
Sunday lunches and family birthdays at the nearby hotel were always special so we arranged a memorial service there. The civil celebrant helped us create a service that included everyone who wanted to take part, from his oldest friend to the youngest great-grandchild. We'd wanted a proper service but somewhere comfortable and familiar. Beautiful readings, favourite music and a dove release on the lawn made a perfect combination.
Freedom to Choose
Separating the cremation from the farewell means you can hold your goodbye where and when you want, just without the coffin present. Saying goodbye to a loved one is an important rite of passage and an experienced, trained professional will help you craft a satisfying and moving ceremony that’s right for your family. In this section you'll find links to organisations that can help you find the right kind of celebrant.
Non-religious services that are personal and moving
Humanist funerals and memorial services offer a personal and fitting way to say goodbye to those who have lived without religion. Many thousands of ceremonies are conducted by trained celebrants each year, all across the UK.
Humanist Ceremonies funeral celebrants are sensitive people, empathetic to the experience of bereavement but focused on providing a funeral ceremony that will be most fitting for the circumstances.
A Humanist Ceremonies funeral is a non-religious service that is both a dignified farewell and a celebration of a life. It recognises the profound sadness of saying goodbye whilst celebrating the life and legacy of a loved one.
It’s easy to find profiles and contact details for the Humanist celebrants near you, just use this link:
Reflecting faith as well as relationships can be very important and comforting
Most Christian denominations permit cremation, including the Roman Catholic Church, but there are exceptions. Cremation is an integral part of Sikh and Hindu adult funerals.
A religious service can be held without the coffin present. In fact, over the years, many families have chosen to have a private or unattended cremation immediately before the memorial service.
There are many ways to have the deceased “present” during the farewell, from a selection of pictures or a Memory Table to a beloved motorcycle! All are lovely alternative focal points for remembrance. A photograph is deemed a suitable alternative even for a Catholic Mass for the Repose of the Soul, however you will need to check how your parish approaches these matters.
Other families might hold a thanksgiving service on a completely different day, but in both cases, the mourners can stay together.
The more traditional format with a service for everyone, followed by a sprint to the crematorium for some, can be stressful and disjointed. All too often the chief mourners miss out on the stories and support of friends who have left before they can get back to the wake.
Another option is to hold a religious service that uses the ashes as the focal point. The urn or casket can be presented in many beautiful and thoughtful ways – as the centrepiece of a Tribute table or within a floral “bower” to name just two.
Speak to your local priest, minister or vicar about your wishes. Together you can work out the best way to celebrate the life, faith and relationships that made your loved one unique.
It’s good to know that churches and temples are concerned with the long-term welfare of their communities, and so they often provide valuable aftercare and other opportunities for remembrance throughout the year.
A celebrant will help you craft a ceremony that will focus on the life, relationships and memories
These services are usually non-religious but can feature hymns, prayers and readings.
The number of celebrants is growing so you will have lots of choice. Ideally, look for someone who has been properly trained who is a member of a recognised body and who has a good reputation – check out their reviews too.
Your chosen celebrant will ask you about the person who has died and will help you put together a farewell ceremony. Some will show you the final version of the service before the day, others will want you to experience it “fresh”.
The final draft is usually available for you to keep afterwards.