Choosing who to invite to a funeral and deciding what the invitation should say is hard work. Invitations are an important, often overlooked aspect of funeral planning. Many people don’t think twice about their invitations until they are in the unfortunate position of planning a funeral.
Funeral invitations should be sent to those who were a big part of the deceased’s life. Think of all the people they cared about and vise Versa. The invitations should include the person’s name, dates of life, the funeral venue, and the date & time of service. Special requests should also be listed.
If you’re having a hard time thinking of all the people who were apart of the deceased’s life, or are unsure about how to word your invitations, read on for more tips.
Who To Invite To The Funeral
A funeral is a time to honor the deceased. The most important thing to think about when deciding who to invite is who the deceased would want to be there, not who you want to be there.
This is not a time for you to think about who you like and dislike. If you don’t like the deceased’s best friend, for example, this is the time to push aside your own feelings for the occasion and invite them to the funeral. This is the right thing to do, and you will feel better about inviting them in the long run.
Often, those planning for a funeral do not get ample time to plan. Planning and preparation are done quickly and there is a lot to do. Due to the many moving parts, sometimes people who should be notified of the funeral are not and do not hear about the date and time of the service until after it has happened.
To avoid this, try to think of everyone you would like by sectioning them in groups. Below are a few examples of groups that might pertain to your loved ones passing.
1. Childhood friends
2. High school and college friends
3. Church or other religious groups
4. Hobby groups (e.g. book club, running, etc.)
5. Volunteer group
6. Close colleagues and/ or supervisors
7. Extended family
Of course, these are only a few examples of circles the deceased may have been apart of, so it is important to think about their life and all who they may have touched.
Once you have identified all the groups, then you can begin finding the individuals you want to invite. This method of grouping will help so you are less overwhelmed in thinking of all of the deceased’s loved ones.
You can also work with another family member or close friend of the deceased and come up with your own guest lists and then compare them, this is another excellent method to make sure you haven’t overlooked anyone by mistake.
Spreading the word more easily
Groups are also helpful because they can help you send the word out regarding the funeral. For example, if you would like everyone in the deceased’s religious group to come, you can approach one person and ask them to spread the word to others. This removes some of the burden from you and is an effective way to reach a lot of people.
It is also okay to have a very small, intimate funeral. Even though the deceased may have touched many people’s lives, it is completely reasonable if the family would rather hold a service just for family members and the closest friends.
Everyone grieves differently, and the needs of the family are also important to take into consideration. If this is the case for you, think about all close family members and best friends of the deceased. Perhaps long-term childhood friends or a college friend whom they were inseparable from are good additions to an intimate family-centric funeral.
If you would like to have this type of funeral but still want to include others that aren’t as close to the deceased, then hold a reception after the funeral service that is more open. The reception could be open to the public, or here is when you can think about all the different groups the deceased was a part of, and apply the steps we laid out for funeral invitations to the reception.
What To Say On The Invitation
When sending out invitations, it is important to keep the text simple and to the point. You can choose from one of the phrases below to include on the top of the invitation:
1. In memory of
2. Rest in Peace
3. Celebrating the life of
You may also want to include a line or phrase from a poem or book that meant something to the deceased.
Other important information you should be sure to include is the person’s name, dates of life and death, when and where the service is taking place, and remaining family members.
Check out some example text for a wedding invitation below.
In loving memory of Jane Doe who passed away the evening of November 1st, 2019.
Jane was the caring mother of Susan Doe, and loving wife to John Doe.
Jane’s Celebration of Life will take place at Jeffrey Funeral Home at 10 am on Sunday, November 9th, with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, we ask for donations to Jane’s favorite volunteer organization, PAWS Independence, a nonprofit that trains dogs to be service animals.
Pictures of the deceased, floral patterns, religious symbols, or special requests for flowers or donations are also an option to include as extras but are not necessary. The most important information is the who what and when. After that, you can customize the invitations as you see fit.
How To Send Out Invitations
Not all of your invitations have to be sent out via snail mail. People are increasingly relying on emails, texts, and phone calls to let others know funeral details. A paper invitation to a funeral is actually quite rare.
If you would like to do paper invitations, you don’t have to mail them to everyone you would like to invite if you do not have time. Choose close friends and family, and then rely on electronic or phone communication to invite others.
Even if the funeral is public, it is still a good idea to invite close friends and family personally. These are people who may expect an invitation and might feel hurt if they are not invited.
If you decide to invite people via telephone, you do not have to call everyone by yourself. This can be exhausting especially in your time of grief. Ask a couple of family members to help you call friends and family. Create a list of who each person should call so there are no double calls.
Electronic invitations are also a good option. There are many great resources for ordering memorial service e-cards. Memorial e-invite websites have many layouts to choose from and can make your work easy if graphic design is not your strong suit. Below are some other great websites for electronic invitations.
Breaking the News
One of the hardest things about funeral planning, among dealing with your own grief, is breaking the news of a death to someone who does not know. As the funeral planner, this is something you must face perhaps multiple times before the funeral happens.
If it is possible, you should tell the person in person if they are a close friend or relative of the deceased. Some family and friends may live in different states or countries, and then a phone call, FaceTime, or Skype call will suffice.
Make sure to block out a good portion of time to talk to the person. You want to make sure that you will have plenty of time to talk to them without feeling rushed on either end. It is important that you both are comfortable and in a safe space such as your home.
Be clear and direct
It is going to be very hard to break the news, so it is best that the first thing you say is that the person died. If you delay the inevitable, it will make you uncomfortable and the person you’re talking to may start to panic.
Make sure to not use any euphemisms such as “they are in a better place” to begin with. These can come later. People in grief or shock may not understand what you mean if you are not clearly stating that they have died.
Dealing with immediate grief & shock
Comfort the person, and be there to listen to them, answer their questions if need be, and support them. People react differently to grief, so make sure you understand what they want before you rush to hug or hold them.
Sometimes people react very strongly, and you may not be able to stay with them for as long as they need. If this is the case, contact one of their friends or loved ones to be with them so they are not left alone.
Sometimes, the weight of the death is too much the person planning the funeral, and they are afraid they will break down if they have to tell other people. This is a completely natural and valid way to feel. If this is the case for you, then ask a loved one or friend to be there supporting you when you deliver the bad news. If this is also very difficult, then ask a loved one if they can break the news for you. Everyone will understand and no one will have hard feelings that the news did not come directly from you.
Creating a guest list for a stranger’s funeral
Unfortunately, not all the people who die do so surrounded by loved ones or close friends. Sometimes it befalls to a neighbour or other acquaintance to plan the funeral of someone they only barely knew.
If the person who has died wasn’t a disciple to the internet age, then you may have to rely on your skills to dig through their address books, old letters or even a yearbook to find guests.
The main aim is to connect with someone who knew the deceased better in the past and then enlist their help to at least notify as many people as possible and to invite them to the funeral.
If you are really unable to find documentation to help build a guest list, then spending a little time and money writing a brief obituary in the local or national newspaper including time for the funeral or even a contact number may generate some leads.
Organize A Guest List for The Future
Although it may seem bleak, it is always good to be prepared for your own death. Preparing can never start too early, as death is inevitable.
Instead of thinking of preparing for your own funeral as depressing and sad, think about it as helping the loved ones you left behind. If you make choices about your funeral before you are gone, then others will not have to be left guessing about what you would or wouldn’t have wanted.
If you want your own funeral to be a celebration rather than a sad occasion, check out my article on 41 surprisingly fun funeral ideas.
Prepare your own guest list in advance
Organizing a guest list is one of the most simple and helpful things you can do for preparing for your own funeral. You of all people know your friends and loved ones the best, so it is a great idea for you to complete this task on your own.
If you like doing things the old fashioned way, then, of course, you can keep files in your house of people’s names, numbers, and emails that you want to be invited. There are, however, many easier ways to plan for your own funeral guest list.
One option is to create an email group called “funeral.” That your loved ones can easily access after your passing. This group should have the names and emails of everyone you wish to be notified about your death. Creating an email group makes it very easy on your loved ones.
All they have to do is hit “email all”, and they will be able to contact each person at once. This leaves no room for error in miscopying an email address or misreading your handwriting.
21st-century guest list planning
If email just isn’t your cup of tea, then there are websites you can check out that assist with funeral planning. Funeral Update is a great resource that can take contacts right off of your Facebook page. Not on Facebook? No worries! You can also manually insert the names and contact information (numbers and email) of those who you would like to celebrate your life.
With the right mindset and attitude, planning your own funeral can be fun! Digging up old photographs and looking back on how great your life is should be a joy. Everyone has to go at some point, so being able to turn the inevitable into something positive is a great skill.
Why not celebrate all the amazing things you’ve accomplished instead of dreading the fact that they one day will have to come to a close.
Planning Websites to Use Right Now
There are a number of websites that focus on planning for your death and focusing on living life to the fullest. See below my list of sites you don’t want to miss.
1. Afternote – Afternote is a resource for you to document your life as well as write notes to those you will leave behind. You can upload pictures and videos of yourself so people can fondly remember you and share them at your funeral.
You can also write messages to your loved ones that they can read after passing. Another function of the website allows you to make any last wishes known. Want your social media accounts to be disabled? Done.
Wish for your ashes to be scattered at a certain location? Sure! Minimize your families’ guesswork by making your wishes clear.
For more information, please read my full article on finding help with funeral costs for a disabled person.
2. BeRembered – BeRemembered is a site that focuses on the accomplishments and triumphs of your life. You get to choose how you are remembered. Upload pictures and videos of your life, your travels, and you with your loved ones. There is also a function to write private messages to loved ones and to plan details of your funeral or celebration of life service.
3. MyWonderfulLife – This website is so you can plan your own funeral from top to bottom. If you would like to have a large amount of control in how your celebration of life goes, or if you would like to take the pressure off family members, then this website is for you. You can plan every step of the funeral down to the casket, flowers, and location. You can even design your tombstone and write your own obituary.
Why planning your own guestlist & funeral invitations is healthy
Whether it’s your own death or a loved one, death is one of the hardest subjects that all humans have to grapple with. Coming to terms with your morality is a very healthy thing to do that albeit may take some time.
One way to come to terms with your death is to start preparing for it! All of the tips and websites I gave you make death seem a little less abstract. Having this sort of control after you are gone may give you peace of mind in the present.
So even planning who to invite to your funeral and thinking about what you want to write on your own funeral invitation cards can really help set your mind at ease.
Treating death as a normal topic that is not taboo is also helpful. Talk to your family about death, especially if you have children. When the people that you care most about come to the same understanding regarding death, you will begin to feel more comfortable with your own death.
Think about what kind of death you would like to have. Although it is not possible to plan the way you are going to die, there are a few things to think about and discuss with your loved ones.
If you are on life support, would you rather be removed from it or stay on? Do you want to die in a hospital or be discharged and go home? Who of your family do you wish to be there if it can be arranged?
The more planning you can put into your own death, the better you will feel when the time comes. You don’t want to feel rushed or worried in your final moments. Knowing you have left behind many resources for your family by helping to plan your funeral will benefit everyone in the long run.