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How to Plan a Virtual Memorial

Daniela Fortino
Daniela Fortino
February 8th 2023 - 10 minute read
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Virtual memorial events can allow more family and friends to attend and reduce costs compared to an in-person event. Learn how to plan a virtual memorial in this how-to guide.

A memorial is  a great way to honour and celebrate the life of a deceased loved one. However, planning in-person memorials that work for everyone can be challenging and costly. Virtual memorials can eliminate many restrictions impacting in-person events, allowing more family and friends to attend. It can also cost a fraction of an in-person gathering. Learn how to plan a virtual memorial below.

What is a memorial?

A memorial refers to an object or place used to commemorate something. In a funeral context, a memorial is used to remember a loved one who passed away. This typically means a commermorative event, but it can also include a sculpture, statue, landmark, gravestone, etc.

A memorial event is a more casual ceremony or party to memorialize the life and death of a loved one, typically without the deceased person’s body, casket, or cremated remains present. The event is usually upbeat and less structured than traditional funeral services. However, it is typically a mix of happy and sad moments that family and friends experience through activities, food, music, decorations, etc. Memorial events are also sometimes referred to as celebration of life events.

In-person vs virtual memorial

A virtual memorial or memorial service is like an in-person memorial, but family and friends gather virtually using video conferencing platforms (e.g., Zoom or Google Meet), social media, websites, etc. Hybrid memorials combining in-person and virtual elements are also possible.

To participate in a virtual memorial event, you need a computer or smartphone (or tablet) and an internet connection. This offers flexibility to attendees, especially those restricted from attending in-person events due to location, weather, health, venue capacity, and cost. It also eliminates the requirement for travel.

How to plan a virtual memorial

Many elements go into the planning of a virtual memorial. The following considerations are discussed in greater detail below:

  • Memorial type
  • Online platform
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Event date and time
  • Invitations
  • Activities

Virtual memorial event vs online memorial

Before planning a virtual memorial, it is essential to know the type of memorial chosen because planning considerations vary slightly.

With a virtual memorial event, family and friends gather for video conferencing and participate online instead of meeting at a venue.

That said, an online memorial page or website can be made in their memory instead of resurrecting a physical monument or marker for a loved one. For example, Eirene offers a free online memorial pages used to post a tribute to deceased loved ones and a place to post memories.

A virtual memorial can also combine these two aspects: An electronic gathering and a webpage or post.

A video-conferencing call has a set date and time, but a memorial page will likely be posted permanently so people can access or visit the page at any point. If a memorial page is made on a specific platform. Video calls are also more affected by Internet issues, power outages, software issues, etc.

Hybrid memorials

Memorials do not have to be entirely in-person or online. Instead, virtual elements can be added to in-person celebrations, allowing attendees to participate physically and virtually. For example, an in-person event can be streamed on platforms like Facebook, Vimeo, Google Meet, Youtube, among other options. This allows those that can't attend at the venue to still attend via the Internet.

Online platforms for virtual memorials

Platforms vary depending on the type of memorial chosen. These options are discussed below.

Video-conferencing call

A video-conferencing platform or app is used for a virtual memorial service. Examples include:

  • Skype - Ideal for small groups and will work for up to 100 people for free.
  • Zoom - Depending the account used it can accommodate 100 people or more. Free accounts are available.
  • Microsoft Teams - For 100 people and larger. Free accounts are available
  • WhatsApp - Up to 32 people. Free video chat service.
  • Facebook Messenger - Up to 50 people per video call. Free.
  • Google Meet - 100 users or more. Free accounts available
  • Apple Facetime - Video call with group of up to 32 people for free.

Many of these services are easy to use and access. However, there are certain limitations. For example, video calls through Zoom are limited to 40 minutes with a free Basic plan. The host can upgrade to a paid plan, which would add cost. However, Zoom has call management features that can help a virtual memorial run smoothly (e.g., the ability to mute everyone except the person speaking).

Other video-conferencing considerations include software compatibility, accessibility, tech knowledge/capabilities of attendees, platform settings, price, etc. It is a good idea to use a platform that people are more familiar with, is free or cheap to use or access, and is user-friendly and familiar to attendees.

Memorial page or website

A memorial page or website is a great way to make a permanent or semi-permanent online memorial for a loved one. These can be easy to make, access, and share with many people. They can also share information about in-person and virtual memorial services. However, considerations vary between platforms.

For example, making a Facebook page or group is straightforward, but interactions are limited for those without a Facebook account. This is the same for other platforms like Instagram or Twitter.

A memorial website can be made for free or by purchasing an account on web-building platforms like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc. Some of these web builders are beginner-friendly, while others may require experienced users. Professionals can also be hired to create the memorial page, but this can be expensive.

An alternative would be to post on an online memorial website like EverLoved or Legacy. These sites allow family and friends to post personalized memorial pages, often for cheap or free.

It is also common for funeral homes, like Eirene, to have an online memorials feature on their website. Memorials by Eirene is a free and collaborative way to honour a loved one. It allows users to share stories, notify family and friends, and post-funeral service details. Learn more.

Streaming platforms for hybrid memorials

Streaming an in-person memorial service allows family and friends to participate in the service virtually if they cannot attend physically. Platforms that allow streaming include but are not limited to:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Vimeo
  • Youtube
  • Tiktok
  • Twitch
  • Livestream

These services present many of the same challenges and restrictions as video-conferencing platforms.

Roles and responsibilities

Planning a virtual memorial works well as a group effort, as there are many aspects to consider beforehand and during the service or proceedings. However, allocating roles and responsibilities to specific individuals can help the memorial event run more smoothly.

Since the success of a virtual memorial is heavily dependent on technology, it is good practice to have a designated technology person who can be available to setup and support the virtual event. They should be well-versed in the platform being used and be ready to assist attendees and troubleshoot potential problems. For example, if using a platform like Zoom, the tech person should be responsible for muting and unmuting participants. This individual should also be introduced to participants, so they know who to contact for tech help.

Another common role would be a host or emcee. This person would control the order of service and introduce the schedule of events to those attending. They could also be the main point of contact for questions about the memorial planning and logistics. Or a separate person can host the event while another person is designated for planning and logistics.

Other roles and responsibilities depend on the service, activities, attendees, platforms, etc. These requirements can be discussed as a group and can benefit from input from attendees. A group working as a team will help ensure an event is managed well.

Date and time

When picking a date and time for a memorial service or event, it is good practice to consult friends and family who would like to attend and provide as much notice as possible. In addition, hosts must consider time zones if they have family outside the city or country. It is also crucial to ensure there is enough time to plan and prepare for the service.

Invitations

Some video-conferencing have maximum participation limits. So it is important to ensure the guest list does not exceed the capacity of the service. If an event grows past those limits it is important to understand the threshold and to see if additional capacity can be purchased if needed.

Most websites can accommodate many visitors at once without crashing or lagging. Therefore, hosts can usually invite as many or as few people as they would like.

Invitations can be issued via email, social media, text, or a call. You can even mail out paper invitations. The invitations should include any important information and logistics about the memorial. For example, if choosing a video-conferencing application, invitations should include the date, time, link and password (if applicable) to access the platform and contact information for a tech support person, should they be needed.

Activities

Options for memorial events or activities are almost endless. Of course, most virtual services are limited to what is technologically available on the participant’s computer or smartphone. Similarly, much of the activities should be sedentary, as it can be challenging to lug a laptop to different locations or do an activity that involves both hands when holding a phone. Nonetheless, there are still many great options. Below are some ideas:

  • Let family and friends take turns sharing memories of their time with the person being celebrated.
  • Hold a social media memorial. Choose a day, week, or month where friends and family of the deceased person can post pictures, videos, and stories with a specific hashtag (that can be used to find these posts in the future).
  • Create a collaborative memorial page or website where loved ones can comment, share pictures, etc.
  • Collaborate on a music playlist and listen to the songs together.
  • Host a virtual game night.
  • Create a video or slideshow for the event.
  • Share home videos.
  • Hold a virtual candle-lighting ceremony. Participants simultaneously get on a video call and light a candle for the deceased person.
  • Create a virtual guest book.
  • Have a virtual karaoke night where participants can take turns singing some of the deceased person’s favourite songs.

Virtual memorial considerations

Virtual memorials rely heavily on technology so it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the different platforms and websites that will be used beforehand. Understand the settings, know how to troubleshoot common issues, understand software limitations, etc. Doing a dry run before the event is also beneficial to test features and settings and verify they are working correctly. Having a backup platform is also helpful.

Regardless of preparation, certain issues may arise that are out of our control (e.g., power outage, Internet outage, etc). Likewise, it is impossible to make everyone happy. However, the purpose of the memorial is to remember and honour the life and legacy of a loved one. Therefore, the memorial will fulfill its purpose if it is done with those intentions in mind.




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