Our Journal

Planning a memorial service: Janet’s soirée

When thinking about planning a memorial service, it can often be overwhelming and difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. This piece is written by our Head of Memorials, Kate Morgan.

Planning my very own cousin’s memorial service was one of the more important jobs I have ever been entrusted with. With my knowledge of the funeral industry, I felt empowered to create something truly personal – an event that allowed us as a family to grieve, connect, laugh, cry and ultimately begin the difficult task of saying goodbye to a very loved person in our lives.

In my role at Tomorrow Funerals, Janet’s Soiree has become a benchmark for what I know is possible when it comes to celebrations of life. And my focus is on making these types of memorial funerals easy to access and plan, because I believe that a funeral done the right way is such an important part of the grieving process itself.

To be completely honest, it breaks my heart that so many families end up with anything less than an amazing experience of farewelling their most loved people – not because they didn’t want to, but simply because they were not able to access a trusted service when they needed it – when they were at their most vulnerable.


In my family growing up we had regular ‘soirées.’ I remember my older cousin Catherine explaining the word.

Soirée: ‘an afternoon or evening party / gathering, typically in a private house, for conversation or music.’

My family is dominated by women, and I grew up around a large, loud, rambunctious, yet delightful mob of them.

Our regular soirees involved champagne, delicious morsels presented on platters, sitting outside in someone’s garden dressed in our best. From grandmothers to babies, we’d talk women’s business; make up, clothes, relationships – generally all kinds of both trivial and life changing conversations.

We’d share stories of new boyfriends – occasionally those boyfriends might even be invited, or should I brought along to be ‘interviewed’ by the matriarchs. God help them!

Funeral Choices 

When Janet died, way too young in her 60’s, no one had thought for a moment about planning a funeral. Like most Australians, Janet’s grown-up children felt confused, overwhelmed and ultimately un-inspired with the choices available.

But luckily, they had me – a funeral celebrant who had inside knowledge of how the funeral industry works.

Once I heard that Janet had died, I sprang into action. I say this because I was anxious to get things started in the right way immediately. Janet’s body needed to be collected and along with my entire family, we wanted to be sure we had control and choice over where she was taken.

I was concerned that without my guidance, Janet’s children, who were in a state of deep grief and confusion, would be pressured into using whichever funeral home was the preferred supplier of the nursing home she’d been staying at. (Or the one they had a ‘deal’ with.)

Like most Australians (almost 70%) her children wished for Janet to be cremated. As well as cremation simply being a personal preference in our non-religious family, we liked that this would give us much more flexibility in terms of where we could hold the memorial style funeral we planned to create.

Again, as a family, we had no need or desire to include Janet’s coffin in the actual ceremony. Additionally, I did not want to put her children in the position of visiting a funeral parlour and being faced with a multitude of decisions around coffins, coffin handles and many other details which for them were irrelevant compared to their loss.

The way we saw it was this: Janet’s body had died. Her daughters felt content they’d had the chance to say goodbye in the moments afterwards. They did not wish to view her body again, but instead felt the most dignified way forward was to move straight to the cremation and not keep her waiting in a store room a few suburbs away.

What was most important to all of us was creating a true celebration of her life – something we knew would represent Janet as a person.

Obviously, we were planning a soiree!

memorial candles

Organising The Memorial

When it came to budgeting for Janet’s funeral, the family were not interested in saving money, however the dollars that were saved in choosing a simple cremation (this also saved a lot of stress by the way,) meant we could create something genuinely exceptional in terms of the celebration.

Not having Janet’s coffin present also meant we had complete flexibility in terms of where to host the event. We chose West Beach Pavilion in Melbourne, a beautiful restaurant by the beach – a place much loved by Janet herself. (Tomorrow also has an extensive some ideas to host a memorial style funeral if you’d like to check it out.)

Without a funeral parlour rushing us to book into their chapel, time was taken in planning the event. We invited special friends from interstate, and I worked to bring together a ceremony that encompassed the wonderful-ness of a beautiful, vibrant woman who I had known my entire life.

Janet was a young-ish, loving, happy woman who loved a party, a glass of champagne, good music and great conversation. With that in mind, we arranged a dignified cremation and turned our attention to throwing the most fantastic party ever!

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Janet’s Day

It was a cold wintry day in July, so the venue lit an open fire, and we began in a candle lit room filled with photos and flowers. We held a beautiful ceremony sharing our many stories of Janet – everyone (even her children) learned new things about her that day.

Afterwards, we moved on to the party. We laughed and cried. We hugged – we enjoyed good food and drinks and played all her favourite songs. We caught up with people we hadn’t seen in ages. It was wonderful. It was memorable and it was perfectly Janet!

The party ended very late, as our family gatherings often do and there were countless compliments from friends that it had been the best, most satisfying memorial service anyone had ever been to.

Of course, the one person who would have enjoyed the day most, was Janet herself. Losing Janet has left an immense hole in our family, but there is some comfort knowing that we honoured her well by celebrating in a way that she would have loved.

We know we’ve done her proud.

We’re always here to help

Call us 24-hours / 7 days on 1800 574 824
Our Journal contains our entire list of resources for creating personal memorials.
Or visit our funerals page, for more information on our unique memorial style funeral package.