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How to Plan A Meaningful Memorial Service

Coping with a loved one’s passing is the start of a journey none of us may ever be prepared for.  Planning a funeral service while going through a range of intense and varying emotions can truly be challenging and stressful.

To help our readers during their difficult time of grief, Forest Lake sat down with May Cardenas, Funeral Director of Forest Lake Chapels in Binan, Laguna to ask her for advice and tips on how to plan a meaningful funeral service.

May shares, “Thinking of this as two events, namely, planning the wake (first) and the interment day or cremation day itself (second) is one way of organizing your thought process for a well-planned funeral service.”

Below is a list you can refer to which will be helpful during the planning. A list like this serves as a guide that can help you stay calm and focused as you work on all the little details of the funeral.

Planning the Wake

Where the wake will be held.

Do you prefer holding the wake at a chapel, church, or residence? Take time to consider the following factors before deciding:

  • Convenience and comfort of the location for your family and your guests
  • Traditional practices and/or common superstitions – Most Filipino families have certain superstitions/traditions that younger generations are obliged to follow. Be sure to check with the deciding elders in your family so compromises can be made prior to finalizing the viewing location.

Duration of the wake.

How many days should the wake be held for? This is entirely up to the family. Some hold it for 3 days, some hold it until the 9th day while some hold it for as long as 2 weeks especially if they are waiting for relatives from abroad to come home and pay their respects.

Serving of Food.

You may serve whatever you think is appropriate depending on what your budget will allow and the time that you have for cooking and preparing.  Finger foods are often advised because you can save time on preparation and they are easier to eat. Some families opt to hire a catering service so they won’t have to worry about the serving of food. 

If the wake is to be held at a funeral chapel, it is best to consider if there is ample space for your caterer to set up and serve food or if it would be more convenient to have them serve packed meals. It would also be helpful if you can assign a family member to monitor and buy food supplies for the duration of the wake. 

To have a eulogy or not?

Eulogies are just now becoming popular with Filipino families. The more traditional families still prefer their rituals over a eulogy. Most modern families however, find that eulogies are a way to reminisce and celebrate the memory of their loved one. There is no right or wrong date to hold a eulogy. Often, eulogies are held on the last night of the wake since this would be the time most mourners would go, in case they can’t make it to the funeral. If you plan to hold it during the last night of the wake, make sure to ask your funeral home in advance if they can lend you extra chairs and tables, sound system, and what they usually provide for such programs (and the corresponding fees involved). Some chapels like Forest Lake Chapels Binan provide these as well as creating a video for the family as a complimentary service.

Interment Day or Cremation Day

Three Days Before.

Whether you decide on a cremation or burial, make sure to arrange the schedule with the cemetery or crematory at least 3 days before the intended date. This way, the cemetery can prepare the grave site for you; or if cremation is your choice, the crematory can schedule you for the date and time. Both offices will then be able to tell you if they provide added services such as balloons, flowers for offering, interment program, etc…

Two Days Before.

At least two days before the interment or cremation day, coordinate with your funeral home regarding what you would like to happen. Chances are they can help you organize the day and even arrange the little details you may forget such as what music to play during the procession, flowers for offering, snacks and bottled water for your guests, thank you cards, etc…

One Day Before.

If you plan on having a mass on the day of interment or cremation, make sure to inform your servicing funeral home at least one day before so they can coordinate the travel time from place of viewing to the church, and then to the cemetery or crematory. More often than not, your funeral home should be able to advise you of the sequence of events and plan the best routes for your funeral cortege. 

Division of Roles.

It is best to assign point persons to be in charge of certain tasks during interment and cremation day. One person can be in charge of food and drinks, another can be in charge of signalling the funeral crew when they can pack up the flowers, load the casket into the hearse, when to start playing the music for the funeral procession. Another can also be assigned to be the general spokesperson for the family if the eulogy is to be incorporated in the interment program.

Keep in mind that many decisions need to be made quickly and it is normal to feel overwhelmed, so it is crucial that other family members are involved to help in the planning. A well-planned and organised funeral service is a wonderful way to celebrate the life of your loved one.

If you are planning a funeral in one of our Forest Lake memorial parks in the Philippines, you may contact our site offices as stated here.  

You may also call our head office at (02) 809-4210. For chapel services in Binan, you may call (0917) 888 9955 / (0918) 824 2735.

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