Great experiences are priceless family treasures. Sometimes these shared family experiences or events just happen by chance. Maybe you are busy recalling one right now as you read this article. If so most likely you are smiling, laughing or even crying as you process this special memory. But can experiences like these be carefully planned and created in the context of the loss of one?
At Moles Farewell Tributes, we actively seek to work through the following planning steps with each family in our care, to create meaningful experiences around the loss of a family member or close friend.
Whether Traditional Burial, Cremation or Green Burial is selected, your personal preference for means of disposition shouldn’t in any way limit the event planning process. By following these time tested steps, you will be well on the way to creating a beautiful farewell event.
Step #1- Ask the key questions, what are some of the goals of our farewell tribute and what do we hope to achieve? For some families, old traditional funerals have lost meaning. In this case, creating a very personalized celebration of life that truly represents the story of a lifetime may be the key goal. Other families may be seeking consolation in long treasured faith traditions. Or maybe a very private intimate gathering by invitation only on a cruise around Bellingham Bay would be just the thing to create a priceless family experience. Whatever the case, creating a vision or goal for the Farewell Tribute sets the process on the right course.
Step #2- Identify the Team Think of the funeral director as more of an event manager with experience across all aspects of a farewell tribute. A funeral director should anticipate your needs before you may even know what they are and coach you through the entire planning process. They may also bring new ideas and options and even provide valuable concierge services. Then, working with your funeral director, you can identify clergy or speakers, venue, musicians, florists, ushers, military honors, key groups to invite and include in the event, and other considerations such as casket bearers, pall bearers, or even a photographer.
Often now a trained celebrant is selected to provide a personalized message at the farewell tribute to truly tell the story of a lifetime. Great teams lead to great events.
Step #3– Set the Date or Dates and Time. What may seem easy and obvious can actually have surprising complexity around the loss of a loved one and certainly scheduling can be one of those things. When selecting a date and time consideration needs to be given to key participants, cemetery, funeral home, or cremation schedules, obit publishing deadlines and on-line postings, family travel arrangements, permits, weekend venue and staffing restrictions, work conflicts, lead time for printed materials or video slideshow production, floral delivery, catering and more. Careful consideration to this important step can avoid big unintended consequences.
Step #4- Consider selecting a Theme. This is a very powerful personalization tool which is often overlooked when planning a farewell tribute event. One of my favorite examples was from a local family who, after the loss of their daughter, chose to highlight her favorite color pink in all aspects of the farewell event. The men were asked to wear pink ties and all women in attendance something pink,. Then everything from decorations and memorabilia, to printed materials and even the color of the custom designed granite memorial bench all served as beautiful unifying reminders of the life of a very special young lady.
But don’t stop at colors, from favorite hobbies to vacation spots, or sports teams to even a special variety of flower, there are almost as many options for themes as there are unique lives to celebrate. You may think that picking just one theme to represent a whole life is too limiting. In my experience just the opposite occurs. As participants engage the event and experience the theme, many layers of meaning emerge as people are welcomed to experience something out of the ordinary.
Step #5– Create an event Plan. More than a simple order of service, event plans can include all aspects and participants in the full farewell tribute experience. Sometimes a plan for how a venue is set up can be overlooked. Careful thought to things like photo displays and memorabilia location can set a beautiful stage for the event. A plan for things like participation opportunities for attendees or reception details are very important aspects to consider. Painting the experience is art, but even the most accomplished artists follow a carefully crafted plan.
Step #6- Establish a Budget. It sometimes surprises people new to a farewell tribute planning process that establishing a budget is not the first step in the process. One reason to wait is how important it is to consider the needs of all family members and to take the time to involve everyone in exploring all options available. With creativity and good stewardship many times great experiences can include much more than expected even on a limited budget.
It’s important too to have created a vision and plan first so that priority on spending can be given to what matters most. Sometimes spending too much can add unwanted burdens. For others, a beautiful family farewell experience can be priceless and well worth allocating significant finances.
A good corollary rite of passage event to compare to is a wedding. In the year 2015 the national average amount families chose to spend on a wedding rose to over $32,000. Clearly, beautiful family experiences are highly valued. By comparison, the average cost of a traditional funeral in 2015 was from $8-$10,000.
The important thing to remember is this, no matter where you decide to set your budget or what disposition is selected, a great farewell tribute event can be achieved with vision, teamwork, creativity and good planning.
Step #7- Track the Details. Preparation and Detail management is another critical element of farewell planning often overlooked. The rule here is that there is no such thing as over communication. At Moles Farewell Tributes, each family in our care is assigned an administrative assistant in addition to a funeral director. In our experience, from life story obituary creation and postings, to custom memorial cards and videos, to floral and caterings orders and deliveries and many more similar details, each element requires good communication and tracking. Tracking all these details can be overwhelming for someone going through the experience of the loss of a loved one. When you lean on others with experience in tracking the details, your mind can be present to experience the many healing aspects of a well planned farewell event.
Step #8– Announcing the Event with a Story The days of simple printed newspaper obituaries are over. In fact, we are seeing a majority of farewell event attendees reading obituaries online at molesfarewelltributes.com, through facebook or other social media, or through digital newspapers. The good news is that often this can bring down the expense of traditional printed newspaper obituary postings while at the same time opening up a number of additional new options.
In a future blog post, we will explore the many facets of this final step but in this context there are two key aspects to keep in mind. First, a good obituary should use carefully selected language to tell the story of a lifetime in a very concise format. This is an easy thing to say but a difficult thing to achieve. Secondly, don’t neglect posting your family photos and memorial videos in tandem with your life story obituary. After all a picture is worth a 1000 words and when space is limited why not utilize this wonderful opportunity to share memories.
Clearly great family farewell experiences can be planned. At Moles Farewell Tributes our mission is to create healing life changing experiences and by utilizing these 8 steps we see these great farewell plans turned into priceless family treasures time and again.
Though it is tempting to avoid working through each step in our experience this is a mistake. Hidden behind each one are very real therapeutic benefits which many have discovered by carefully walking together through this planning process. To anyone ready to plan a beautiful farewell we say….. invite all members of the family, spread out all the photos, start asking the key questions and capture this opportunity to make a lasting family memory.