Updated: Jul 14, 2020
Planning a funeral can be both logistically and emotionally challenging, and more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Holding the memorial service virtually can help keep your family safe during these hard times. We have created a simple guide to planning a virtual funeral to properly honor your loved one.
Create an itinerary
Create a guest list
Prepare and assist your guests
Participating in a virtual service
1. Create an itinerary
You’ll need a clear itinerary of the order of the service. Despite the event being virtual, you may find it best to follow the same structure as an in-person funeral. Some key components can include:
Words of welcome
Prayer, scripture reading, or other religious component
Speeches and tributes
2. Create a guest list
Similar to an in-person funeral, your guest list is an important aspect of the service. However, some new tradeoffs arise with virtual services. While there is no physical restraint on the number of attendees, technical difficulties are more likely to arise with more people on the virtual platform.
It is therefore a good idea to maintain a clear guest list to keep the service aligned with your expectations.
3. Research equipment
Now it is time to decide what kind of technology to use. Depending on your desired level of production and the platform you will be using to stream the funeral service, you may have the option for high quality cameras, microphones, and tripods. However, if cost and time are a concern, a smartphone or tablet may be the most convenient option.
Whichever platform or type of equipment you decide to use, make sure you are familiar with the technology. Create an account with the streaming platform (Zoom, YouTube Live, Meet, etc) well in advance and be sure to distribute any necessary links to your guests.
Tip: place a single person in charge of IT and setting up the streaming platform to avoid confusion and resolve technological issues quickly.
4. Create visuals
Virtual funerals make it easy to display meaningful visuals. These can be photos, slideshows, or music to honor the deceased and help guests remember their friend or loved one. Zoom and other streaming platforms make it convenient to share a screen or have guests create/present their own visuals.
While authenticity of the moment is important, running through who does what, in what order, and with what technology is the best way to reduce stress and make sure that your virtual service runs smoothly.
6. Prepare and assist your guests
Because not all of your guests will be equally comfortable with technology, it is a good idea to send clear instructions ahead of time (for example: included with the invitation).
The instructions should cover steps for logging in or making an account with the streaming service and what is expected of the guests. Make sure you include the proper links as well as directions to test audio and video if those will be allowed for all guests.
For those speaking at the virtual funeral, you must also communicate details like whether they will be using their camera/microphone or pre-recording a message. Speakers should be sure to test their technology before the event.
7. Participating in a virtual service
Virtual funeral attendees may get involved by saying a few words or typing messages into a virtual chat. As an attendee, it would therefore be a good idea to have some thoughts prepared beforehand.
Dress code is also important when attending a virtual funeral. While it may not be as strict as for an in-person service, it is respectful to wear black or a neutral color that won’t be a distraction.
For more tips as a virtual funeral attendee, please read our post How to Attend a Zoom Memorial Service.