If you’ve been to a funeral or memorial service, chances are you were given a funeral program upon your arrival at the service location–so you’re familiar with this traditional addition. But, if you’ve never seen one for yourself; a funeral program is a multi-page printed booklet provided to each guest at a funeral or memorial service. In this post, I’d like to share some ideas for creating a truly personal funeral program in honor of a loved one. Actually, it’s one fundamental idea: your loved one’s funeral program can rise above the commonplace.
What Makes an Extraordinary Funeral Program?
Commonly, a funeral program simply includes the relevant details of the individual’s life, the order of service (who will be speaking, what scripture readings will be shared, or prayers collectively recited), and a photograph of the deceased. It may also feature a favored scriptural passage or prayer. Honestly, I’ve never felt compelled to keep any of these ‘ordinary’ funeral programs – beyond the photographic portrait of the deceased on the cover; there was no ‘emotive’ quality to any of them. In fairly short order, each ended up in the paper recycling bin.
Taking the time to take an ordinary funeral program ‘to the next level’ can turn it into a truly meaningful DIY memorial keepsake, which will be treasured by service guests. Think of it as a gift which allows them to reconnect with the spirit and individuality of their deceased loved one in the future. A funeral program transformed into such a memorial keepsake would feature candid photographs and a biography of the deceased – along with some thoughtful extras.
Who Remembers the T.V. show, “This is Your Life”?
Okay, so I’m dating myself; the show ran on television from 1952 to 1987 – but began on radio in 1946. The title aptly describes the show’s premise: each episode is a review of the life of ‘someone worth knowing’. If you’re curious about the dozens of other guests, view the Classic TV episode list. if you’d like to watch an episode or two, take a look at the Mental Floss online article “5 Must-See Episodes of This is Your Life”.
What does this have to do with making a funeral program? It might help you to think of the project as writing an episode honoring your loved one. Ask yourself, “What does the audience need to know about this individual to better appreciate their legacy?”
Naturally, this requires a little more thought on your part, and maybe the help of family and friends. They can gather photographs and otherwise assist you in putting together this commemorative keepsake.
The task of writing the biographical part of the funeral program can be done in tandem with writing your loved one’s obituary. For guidance, see our April 2018 post, “Four Tips for Writing an Obituary”.
What extras can you add to a funeral program to make it a testament to the life being commemorated? Turn to what you know about them: for example, if he or she loved to cook, you could include one of their favorite recipes, coupled with photographs of them in the kitchen. If known for their wit or sense of humor, it could be an often told joke or commonly- told truism.
Here’s a thought: put the order of service on a separate sheet of paper, to be included as an insert. This gives you the ‘space’ to make a funeral program which is focused solely on your loved one’s life and legacy. No one will want to throw that into the bin – they’ll keep it close at hand to help them through the darker moments of bereavement.
Where to Begin
If you’re a wizard with your chosen word processing program, there’s no doubt you can create a funeral program using one of the brochure or booklet templates provided. For most people, even on a good day, the task would be daunting. And the days following the death of a loved one are by no means, ‘good’ days. Grief is, by its very nature, a detriment to focused attention (that’s another reason why it’s good to ask for help).
Fortunately, many websites offer free funeral program templates, such as Canva, and Template.net. While ‘free’ is nice; when it comes to designing a funeral program worthy of becoming a DIY memorial keepsake, you may want to look at premium funeral program templates. You can find them at the earlier mentioned Templates.net, at Elegant Memorials , even on Etsy The cost ranges from less than $10 to around $30.00.
When looking for the perfect template, consider using a favorite color, flower, or landscape. If he or she was religious, the funeral program can feature relevant artwork or religious iconography. Also, don’t forget to think about the thickness of the paper you want to use in the printing of your loved one’s funeral booklet, as it’s a critical factor in creating a keepsake-worthy funeral program.
Closing with Wise, Inspiring Words
I want to leave you with this thought, from Polish writer and poet, Czes?aw Mi?osz: “The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.” I believe this is true. Fortunately, it’s a debt which can be paid, at least in part, by learning how to make a funeral program which tells your loved one’s story with unique insight.