When it comes to saying goodbye to a loved one who has died, a church, minister and dark suits isn’t necessarily what people want from a farewell these days. Instead, you may be after some unique memorial service ideas to better pay tribute to your person's passions in life.

At Bare, we are passionate about breaking from tradition and instead celebrating life in the way it was lived. We arrange an unattended, direct cremation service to allow families and friends the time and freedom to consider unique memorial service ideas that are more befitting of how their loved one lived their life.

There is no obligation to arrange a formal, expensive and cookie-cutter funeral service if that is not what you or your family really want. That’s why we have put together this unique memorial services ideas list. We hope it inspires you to think outside the box when a loved one has died – in more ways than one.

Memorial options to consider after a cremation

A memorial, or celebration of life, generally happens separately from any cremation service or burial. Without the coffin or casket present, families usually like to set up a memory table as a focal point. This is usually decorated with a photo of the deceased person, accompanied by their urn if cremated, and other personal effects that pay tribute to their memory.

The below list provides some unique memorial services ideas to help plan a more personalised memorial or celebration of life.

A Star Wars themed memorial
Themed memorials, like Star Wars, allow you to personalise the send-off to celebrate what your person loved. Picture: Courtesy of Country Road Funerals

1. Themed memorial

Unlike funerals, memorials or celebrations of life offer more freedom for personalisation. It is common to plan memorials themed around the deceased person’s passions. Fandoms like Star Wars or a loved TV show, favourite colour, sports team, cultural affiliation, collectables like teddy bears, or crazy socks or loud shirts are just a few ideas. Themed memorials allow you to decorate the venue or location in a way that expresses what your person loved.

2. Fireworks display

Why not send your loved one off with a bang? Ashes to Ashes can create a spectacular fireworks display with cremated ashes. Experience an unforgettable moment of reflection, wonderment and celebration.

3. Drone scattering

Similarly to the fireworks ashes display memorial service idea, drone scattering is another spectacular take on the standard scattering ceremony after cremation. Companies like Blue Horizon Memorials make it possible to release ashes over the beach, ocean, farmland – or any other location. Ashes can even be combined with coloured powders to add to the visual experience.

Drone scattering is a spectacular take on a standard scattering ceremony after cremation.
Drone scattering is a spectacular take on a standard scattering ceremony after cremation. Picture: Courtesy of Blue Horizon Memorials

4. Viking style send-off

Due to strict regulations, a traditional Viking funeral isn’t possible in Australia. However, it may be possible to replicate the Norse tradition as a form of ashes sea scattering after a cremation has taken place. Alternatively, a cardboard box or small replica boat might be set off to sea carrying an item of significance to the deceased person, like a photograph or personal effect. A paper origami sailboat could also be a simpler alternative.

5. Hire out the local RSL or community centre

If a few beers at the pub, or a glass of wine and mingle was more their style, a more befitting memorial service idea might be to gather family and friends together at the pub, RSL, community centre, or some other local venue. Fill the walls with amazing memories while you raise a toast.

6. Cricket match, lawn bowls tournament or trivia night

If your loved one had a favourite sport or game, consider turning their send-off into a game or tournament in their honour. The interactive element will no doubt celebrate their life and create a lasting tribute. Some ideas could be sporting related like a lawn bowls tournament or cricket match, or a different type of game like bingo, trivia - or even a video game or Pokemon tournament if that’s more their style!

7. Beach farewell

Perhaps your loved one had a favourite holiday spot or enjoyed a beach stroll. You might prefer a simpler send-off at the beachside where you can share a few stories and take a walk along the shore as the sun sets on the horizon. You might even like to include a beach scattering element too.

8. Art gallery charity auction

A dear friend’s mother was a passionate artist and teacher. So the family developed a memorial service idea that was an art gallery of her paintings at a local community centre. Her beautiful pieces were auctioned off among family and friends so they could take home a personal memory and the funds were donated to a charity that supported her in life.

9. Butterfly release

A butterfly release is a more environmentally sustainable alternative to a balloon release, as these can be harmful to animals and plant habitats. Butterflies are symbolic of life, and many cultures believe the butterfly is linked to our souls. There are many companies across Australia that provide sustainable, hand-raised butterflies for release at events like funerals and memorials.

Butterfly release memorial service idea
Butterflies are symbolic of life, so releasing them into the sky could be a lovely tribute memorial service idea.

10. Movie night

Did your loved one have a favourite movie, franchise, or actor? Another memorial service idea could be to hold a movie night in their honour. Most local cinemas allow private functions for booking out a cinema. Start the event with some tributes, pop some popcorn, then watch the movie together.

11. Live music tribute

Perhaps your loved one was a huge fan of a musician or band. Hiring an impersonator or cover band to perform at a private event could be a fun way to honour what they loved. Or if they loved to dance, consider booking a venue and live band or DJ to hold a dance party.

12. Backyard BBQ

For something more relaxed and informal, gather the family and close friends and have a picnic or barbecue in the backyard for a relaxed. Raise a glass in their honour and share some fond memories.

Coping with grief by planning a backyard memorial celebration
A backyard BBQ with AC/DC blaring on the speakers could be another unique memorial service idea.

13. Social media tribute

Video tributes and photo slideshows are commonly shown at funerals and memorials to celebrate precious memories in the deceased person’s life. But social media allows these to be shared online afterwards. Family and friends can enjoy these tributes at any time, from any location – particularly special for those who aren’t able to attend the service in person.

The video, in addition to other photos and messages from the service, can be shared directly onto the deceased person’s memorialised Facebook page. This is an easy way for family and friends to share their own memories of the deceased.

Final thoughts on unique memorial service ideas

If a memorial isn’t right for you (or if it is not possible to plan an event right now due to COVID-19 restrictions), doing nothing at all could even be the best option for now. Alternatively, you could simply scatter your loved one’s ashes somewhere of significance, or keep them in an urn on display at home. There might be a time that feels right later for a small memorial – perhaps on your loved one’s birthday or anniversary of passing.

Whether you are leaving funeral instructions as part of your Will or planning your own prepaid funeral, or if you are arranging a memorial for a loved one, we hope this article has given you some memorial service ideas. Our Memorial Service Planning Checklist may also be helpful.

Remember, there are no rules when it comes to planning a funeral or considering memorial service ideas. You have the choice to plan a farewell in the best way that honours the life lived.

At Bare, we have partnered with some of Australia’s best celebrants who can help you plan a send-off that truly does right by your loved one. Our celebrant team can work with you to arrange and conduct a personalised family-led memorial service. You can review the celebrant profiles on our Bare Memorial webpage, or chat with your dedicated Bare funeral arranger for a personalised recommendation.

To find out more about our Bare Memorial Service, visit the Bare Memorial webpage here or chat with our dedicated funeral arrangers. Call 1800 202 901 for a prepaid arrangement, or 1800 071 176 for an immediate need arrangement.