Our Journal

What is a memorial style funeral, or memorial service?

Comparing a memorial service with a traditional funeral

memorial candles in a peace design

We might all have an idea of what a funeral is. But the specific details of how they are run and why that is so are not things that we think a whole lot about. This article will help you understand the difference between a traditional funeral and a memorial style funeral.

The Oxford definition of a funeral is “a ceremony, often a religious one, for burying or cremating a dead person”.

Both traditional and memorial-style funerals fulfil the criteria of this definition, but there is one simple difference. A traditional funeral is where the ceremony happens before the burial or cremation. A memorial service is where the ceremony happens after the burial or cremation.

What are the differences?

At Tomorrow Funerals, we specialise in memorials ceremonies. In fact these are the only kind of ceremonies we conduct.

By holding a memorial service after the cremation (or burial) has taken place, the most obvious difference to a traditional funeral, is that a memorial will be held without the person’s body physically present (held in a coffin).

If a coffin being on display is an important symbolic or religious element, then a traditional funeral will be the most suitable option. But if you’re considering holding a traditional funeral just because it’s what’s normally done, then it’s worth looking at the benefits that come with holding a memorial.

The final goodbyes

For some people, the idea of farewelling their loved ones body after they’ve been placed in a coffin at a funeral parlour is not what they want their final memory to be.

Maybe they were lucky enough to have a final goodbye, or they spent some private time just after their person had passed, or the last living moment they spent together is the final memory they want and need.

If that’s the case, then a memorial service might be the right choice.

Memorial services usually follow the cremation. It’s an extremely dignified way to farewell someone, as it means they won’t be kept in ‘mortuary storage’ facilities for any longer than they need to be.

There’s no need for expensive coffins to be put on display, no need for any mortuary preparation that uses all sorts of techniques to dress up a dead person and make them look ‘less dead’, no need to worry about the transporting the coffin to and from the service and no need to limit your options on where the service takes place. It also means that the person’s family won’t have any decisions to make on the logistics of their body – they can focus entirely on grieving.

The benefits of a memorial

We love memorials because we think they make the whole funeral process less stressful, more cost effective and more personal.

The funeral director will still need to collect your person and organise their cremation and associated paperwork, but beyond that most of the ceremony planning does not need to be done by the funeral director at all. By removing the logistical challenges that come with having a coffin present, the ‘celebration of life’ can simply be a beautiful, healing event – one which better reflects the person who has died.

Sometimes memorial services are referred to as a cheaper alternative to a traditional funeral.

The reality is that a memorial might be cheaper than a traditional funeral, or it might be more expensive. Rather than spending money on things like coffins, coffin handles, hearses, funeral company staff, floral displays and funeral director service fees, families can choose to spend it on things like a live band, food and drinks or even fireworks.

What does a memorial service look like?

Here’s an example of a beautiful Tomorrow style memorial.

And here is the what the process looks like:

  • A person dies at hospital. Their immediate family and friends may come to the hospital to say their final goodbyes, spending a few hours of quiet reflection with them after they die.
  • The family or friends call us and we will organise the transfer of their person into our care. 
  • We’ll assist them with all of the necessary paperwork to get things started and book in the cremation at a local cemetery within a day or so. The family may speak to us as much as or as little as they wish during this time. Unlike arranging a traditional service, the family do not need to visit the funeral parlour to make a multitude of decisions about things like coffins and coffin handles. We use a sustainable Daisybox cardboard casket for all of our bookings.
  • We’ll confirm the time of the cremation with the family, who might get together for a private gathering to raise a glass or share a few words as this happens. We hand deliver the ashes afterwards, generally within a week or so – either at the memorial, or after that.
  • We will arrange all of the death certificates required and register the death with Births Deaths and Marriages.
  • When the time feels right, the family can begin the process of organising the memorial ceremony. This might be days later, it might be the next week, or it might be months away – the decision really rests with the family. Limited only by their imagination, their celebrant will work with them to create something very special. This might mean a simple service at home or it could be something more sensational or anything in between.
  • We encourage our clients to consider a meaningful place to hold the memorial. They might up a tribute table at the front of the room, which includes not only their ashes but also a beautiful photo, candles and a spot for guests to place a personal items that meant something to them. As guests arrive, the table fills with everything from photos and books to sporting goods and plates of food!
  • Tomorrow Funerals create a beautiful memorial video, complied with photos, a tribute website and design all of the artwork for the ceremony.
  • A Tomorrow celebrant not only helps plan the service and give the family ideas, but also leads the proceedings for the event. The ceremony might start with music (or even a live band playing) the favourite songs of the person, followed by a series of speeches from family and friends with a tribute video and photo slideshow in between.
  • Guests spend the day laughing, crying and sharing stories over some delicious food & drinks (usually an upgrade from the catering packages available at a funeral parlour).

How do you organise a memorial service?

You can choose to do a memorial service with a traditional funeral home, but it can be a bit like using a plumber to build a whole house. Funeral Directors and traditional funeral parlous are invested in holding traditional funerals. It works for their business model to hold the service at their own chapel (you pay for that,) and the cost of the coffin itself is often the biggest spend for their service.

At Tomorrow Funerals, we take care of everything from the cremation, paperwork through to helping you create a very personal memorial. In fact, we’re the first funeral business in Australia that focuses exclusively on memorial style funerals! 

The best option is to speak to us. We offer one transparent $6,800 package that includes all of the funeral elements, a whole host of special extras (such as a personal memorial website) and your very own celebrant to help plan and lead your memorial event. We’ll be with you from start to finish, managing the entire process and ensuring that we create a remarkable experience.

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.