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6 Creative Budget-Friendly Ways to Personalize Memorials

Explore how to personalize memorial services on a budget, honoring your loved ones memory without the stress of high costs. Learn planning tips for meaningful, affordable gatherings.

Holding a memorial service for a loved one is a beautiful way to honor them while giving some closure to the people they loved. However, sometimes families grapple with the expense and complexity of gathering after a loss, whether a large, traditional service or a tiny DIY event. 

Funeral prices can be expensive. According to the latest numbers from the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost is over $8,000, including the burial of the loved one, with viewing and service. Sometimes, it can be helpful to think of those expenses in two parts: the handling of the body and some kind of gathering. With a little planning, you can personalize memorials on a budget while still honoring your loved one’s uniqueness.

Funeral vs. Memorial: Budget-Friendly Ideas

Strictly speaking, when we talk about a funeral, it means a body or remains are present at the service where families and friends gather to say goodbye. That can be an essential aspect of the gathering for many, depending on their values, religion, or family traditions.

But many families may opt for a memorial service, scattering, celebration of life or casual party to remember the loved one, giving them more flexibility in timing and expense. There is no right or wrong way to say goodbye, and affordable memorial services are as meaningful as those that cost more. 

These six tips can help you create a low-cost celebration of life or memorial. 

Choose a Theme

Like with a wedding, event organizers say it is sometimes helpful to pick a theme. Consider these DIY memorial ideas:

  • To celebrate a sports fan, ask those attending to wear sports jerseys with the team colors. 
  • Encourage guests to wear bright colors for a loved one who embodied joy. 
  • If your loved one was a coach, hold the event at a stadium, gym, or other sports venue. 
  • Were they movie buffs? See if you can rent a local movie theater.

Having a theme will give your event a cohesiveness that will help you weave together the full narrative of your loved one’s life without making it more costly.

Make it Musical

If your loved one liked music, you can make a playlist (using online software like Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music, or similar) that can play in the background of a memorial as people are coming and going, or you can even select a few songs to play in full during a more structured part of the service. Here are some tips for adding tunes to your personalized memorial tributes: 

  • If you aren’t sure what music they liked, see if they posted songs on a social media platform or had their own playlists. 
  • You can also select the songs you like that remind you of them, perhaps that remind you of time spent with them, or tell a story reminiscent of them. 
  • Oftentimes, someone in the family or circle of friends can play an instrument or sing, which is a lovely way to pay tribute to them.

Virtual Memorial Services

“What started as a necessity during the pandemic has proven to be a phenomenal way to connect people across the globe,” says Be Ceremonial cofounder Megan Sheldon. Before, during, or after the memorial, invite people to join online and bring an object connecting them to the deceased person. Sheldon suggests that everyone shares or writes in the chat what they brought and what it means to them. Many funeral homes provide virtual memorial services, so families across the country do not have to travel but can still log on and participate.

Take a Ritual Walk

Sheldon says instead of meeting in an expensive venue, you can invite your guests to join you for a special walk, stopping along the way to share stories and do simple rituals together, like lighting candles or singing a heartfelt song. Sheldon has more ideas for a ritual-filled memorial here.

Create a Virtual Memory Book

Ask friends and family to send a photo and personal story to the host and turn those images into a virtual memory book or memorial. Many websites, including Afterall, have free areas to create an online memorial. An online memory book or memorial is a great way to engage people and keep printing costs down, Sheldon explains. Some families link memorial sites with a QR code that can be printed on a program or placed in a physical location.

Make a Toast or Have a Bite

A favorite food or drink your guests enjoy can pay a personal tribute to the loved one you lost. If Grandma loved her martinis, a toast may be the perfect way to honor her. A shared favorite food can be homemade, catered, potluck, or enjoyed at a restaurant.

These budget-friendly memorial tips help bring out the stories and memories of the one we’ve lost. Sharing those memories and stories about your loved one is the best and least expensive thing you can do to honor their memory and help everyone in their healing. 

With these six affordable memorial service ideas and resources like this, you can create an affordable and personal celebration that brings those to the fore and accurately and sweetly honors your loved one.