To Do Checklist

Guide to Getting Started
Create a Memorial

To Do List

The ceremonies and rituals that we participate in during funerals and memorials help us process death. The work involved in coordinating all of the events and people can be daunting, but there are a few key steps to follow to create meaningful impact. There is no right way to pay tribute - as long as the process feels inspiring and gives you the opportunity to move and heal.

Empowering a Point Person

After a death, there are many logistics to handle and people to communicate with. Assign yourself, a family member or friend to be the Point Person. She/he will create and engage your community. First steps for a Point Person are:

  1. Create a Memorial on GatheringUs (you can add an obituary, photos, and events later)
  2. Notify your community: share your GatheringUs Memorial event invitations with friends and family via email, Facebook, Twitter, SMS
  3. Create invitations to funeral and other gatherings
  4. Start a private group for additional coordination or to share private memories
  5. Link your bank account with Wepay account to withdraw funds raised

Caring for the Deceased

The average cost of a funeral and burial is $7,000 - 10,000. There are also less costly alternatives to a traditional burial, such as cremation and green burials.

If you work with a funeral home, they will transfer the body from place of death to the location of funeral, burial or cremation. You can also take care of this on your own in many states, especially if you’re planning a green burial.

Some tips for minimizing costs for funeral services:

  • Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.
  • Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don't really want or need.
  • Avoid emotional overspending. It's not necessary to have an expensive casket or elaborate funeral to properly honor a loved one.

Death Certificate

A death certificate is usually created by a funeral director. If you’re not working with a funeral director or funeral home, you can take care of this on your own in some states by going to the appropriate government agency. Be sure to get a few extra official copies, as you’ll need them for official documents.

The Gathering: Choosing & Scheduling Memorial Events

Holding events for your community to join and celebrate your loved one is especially important. It provides a space to gather, remember and celebrate a person’s life, loves and special moments. It should be meaningful, personal and a good fit for your family. Your choices can be as simple or elaborate as you wish.

A service does not have to be religious. What’s important is that the service provides a forum for family members and loved ones to come together and grieve. This gathering plays a vital part in the healing process.

There are endless types of events to consider. Here are just a few options:

Funeral, Memorial, Post-ceremony reception, Wake, Viewing, Burial, Ashes scattering ceremony, Out-of-town guests gathering, Family home visit, Shiva house (Jewish), 30-day gathering (Jewish Shloshim), 40-day gathering (Eastern Orthodox), 49-day gathering (Buddhist), Unveiling of grave, One-Year Anniversary (Jewish Izkor), Livestream Link

As you decide which events to hold, share them with your GatheringUs community by clicking on “Add an event.”

To help guide your event, you can also identify and hire a celebrant, doula or midwife. This can be a family member, clergy, or funeral director.

Creating an Event Program

A ceremony can feel like a spiritual movement – it can be sacred, uplifting and transformative for a grieving community.

Try to personalize your events where possible:

  • What would be a fitting tribute for your loved one? How did they spend their time (hobbies, work, accomplishments)? What and who did they love? Are there special places that meant a lot to them where you can hold a ceremony, burial, or disperse ashes?
  • What would be memorable, inspiring, and healing for you and the community that loved them? Think about potential speakers and the type of content they can share: poems, personal anecdotes, song lyrics, musical playlist, or anything else that celebrates the life of your loved one.

Ceremonies with Cremation

Cremation (like burial) is a separate event from the memorial service. Choosing cremation does not diminish the importance of a gathering where family and friends can say goodbye to a loved one and receive support from their community. A memorial service can be held either before or after the cremation has taken place. You may wish to have a viewing prior to the cremation, or hold a service with or without an urn present.


Saying a final goodbye to the person you have lost can be especially meaningful. Viewing a loved one, or viewing a closed casket or urn after cremation, can offer a sense of closure. It's natural to be sad at the time, but a viewing can help family and friends find a sense of peace. You can also choose to have a private viewing for close friends and family only. If you are uncomfortable with a viewing or feel it is not right for your family, you can choose to exclude it.

Moving through these steps will be tough at times. Remember that this is the process of celebrating your loved one, and to choose the tribute that feels most personal, honoring and healing to you.

Check out our Planning Resources page and our blog for more planning tools.
link on blog: