There are actually no rules when it comes to funerals, so the options are endless when planning a memorial for a loved one.

Traditionally, it is common to arrange a funeral service shortly after someone's passing, usually within a week, in order to honour their life. These services are typically held in a church or funeral home, with the presence of the coffin, following a standard format and maintaining a formal atmosphere. However, it is important to understand that you have the option to opt for a less formal approach when saying goodbye to your loved one. Just as each person is unique, a funeral or memorial service can be personalised to reflect their individuality and does not have to strictly adhere to a formal structure. Your preferences and the unique personality of your loved one's life can guide how you choose to commemorate their life.

Here are 10 ideas to get you thinking about how you can create a personalised memorial for your loved one or even get you thinking about what you want for when you pass. All a funeral service really needs is family and friends gathered to celebrate a loved one’s life. The rest is up to you.  

1. A meal at a favourite restaurant, bar, venue.

A memorial can be as simple as inviting friends and family to share a meal at one of your loved one’s favourite restaurant or RSL. Book a table, or for a large group book a room or the whole venue. Share a meal, have a toast and share memories. You might even have open mic time where everyone can share a memory. Keep it informal and personal for a relaxed.

2. Open house memorial.

Have a day or evening where you simply hold an open house at your home. People can come and go as they are comfortable. You then have the freedom to chat with people as they come. You might want to organise a photo slideshow going on loop for people to stop and watch, or have photo albums out for people to flip through. You could set up a table for people to write down memories and messages. Being in your own home is a comfortable, safe place to farewell your loved one.

3. Organise a send-off at a favourite place.

Did your loved one have a favourite place they liked to visit or somewhere that held significance? If so, it's a good idea to organise a send-off there. You can hold a small service at a surf club or simply do something less formal, but there is nothing that says you must have a memorial service in a funeral home or stuffy venue.

4. Play their favourite hobby in honour.

Organise a golf day, a trivia night, a group trip to the football, ten pin bowling night, a night of bingo – whatever your loved one’s favourite hobby was. Getting loved ones together through their favourite hobby is an incredible way to commemorate and honour them.

5. Ashes scattering service.

After a cremation you may like to host a service that includes the scattering of your loved ones cremated remains. Celebrants are more than happy to conduct scattering services for you, or you could do it yourself. Some favourite music, a short eulogy, a few tributes – there is no set formula and the more personal and from the heart the better, anyway.

funeral alternative memorial celebration of life bbq
A BBQ in the backyard or special place could be a more fitting way to celebrate your loved one’s life than a traditional funeral.

6. Movie night memorial.

Did your loved one have a favourite movie, or is there a movie that reflects their life? Why not hold a movie night? A number of local cinemas allow private functions so you could book out a cinema, otherwise book a local hall or hold it at home. You can even book outdoor projectors and screens for an outdoor movie night. Pop some popcorn, have a bit of an open mic to begin or end the night where people can share thoughts and memories, and all sit back, relax and watch a movie together.

7. Serve the community to honour your loved one.

Was your loved one known for how they gave for others? If so, honour them in a way that gives back to the community. Organise a time where you all donate blood, a tree planting day, cleaning up the neighbourhood, get together and cook meals to feed the homeless or engage in the charity your loved one was involved in. The options here are endless. If you are considering honouring your loved one by giving back to your community, contact your local council or charities in your area. They would be thrilled with the offer of help for a part of a day by a group of people wanting to give back.

8. Organise the service on their birthday.

It is a common feeling for many people to have a sense of urgency to hold a memorial service soon after someone has passed away. However, it is completely acceptable to take the time you need to plan a memorial that is appropriate and meaningful. You can take the time you need, and often taking time helps you to be able to concentrate on yourself and your grief immediately after passing. As an alternative, why not hold your special memorial on your loved one’s birthday? This should give you something special to look forward to on that day and you can avoid being alone on what has the potential to be a very difficult day.

Instead, get together with family and friends and have a memorial, or even a birthday party in honour of them. Of course this day will involve lots of memory sharing, laughter and tears, but it could be a special way to spend their birthday.

9. Live music memorial.

Gather friends and family to go see your loved one’s favourite musician or group live. Or hold a private event where you book a cover band. Often we can’t get to see the original, but nothing is stopping you booking an Elvis impersonator or a Beatles cover band.

Did they love to dance?  Book a venue and band or DJ and hold a dance party. The idea is to reflect on someone's life by getting together and enjoying what they loved. There is nothing more powerful than sharing music with others.

We’ve created this Spotify playlist to give you a few ideas for some suitable songs you might like to include in your loved one’s funeral or end-of-life memorial service.

10. Do something a little more private.

Of course there is nothing that says you need to hold an event that involves lots of people. You may just not be able to do that and that’s ok. You can still do something alone or just with the immediate family to honour your loved one and this in itself can be very healing. Ideas could be:

  • Go on a holiday to a special location;
  • Set up a place of homage in your home for a while, with candles, photos and memorabilia in a part of the home where you can go and reflect;
  • Plant a tree or make a small memory garden;
  • Donate to a cause in memory of your loved one;
  • Write your loved one a letter or create a memory book of photos and memories;
  • Create a piece of art as a memorial. Even take a pottery, jewellery or painting class to do so.

At Bare we stand by the mantra – Go Your Own Way. We truly believe that you should do what reflects your loved one. There are no rules here and you should have the freedom to do whatever you feel is best.

Final thoughts on non-traditional funerals.

A direct cremation gives you the choice to manage the cremation now and, when you feel the time is right, create a heartfelt event to celebrate your loved one. Remember, it's okay to take your time. At Bare, we understand that saying goodbye is deeply personal. Whether you're thinking of something simple or a detailed gathering, let it reflect the special person you remember. And if a traditional service feels right for you, we're here to support that choice too with our flexible Bare Funeral offering. Your comfort and wishes are our priority.

For more ideas about personalised end-of-life ceremonies, read our articles how to personalise an end of life service and how to plan a memorial with a cremation.

We can help in personalising your loved one’s funeral or memorial. If you’re unsure about what’s right for you and your family, our team is only ever a phone call away – visit our website or call 1800 071 176.