The powerful emotions surrounding a memorial service can make its planning a painful experience for the bereaved family. Deciding who to invite to the service has the potential to be one of the more painful details because of the fear of forgetting someone or because of family disputes about who should and should not be invited. There are ways to make this detail less painful and more efficient.
Define the reason for the memorial service. That may sound like an odd goal, but memorial services have many different functions. They may be an event limited to a person's family. They may be a means of offering a population at large the opportunity to express gratitude for a life of community service. They may be an opportunity for a specific group, such as a business or a social club, to honor the deceased. Each of these involves a different means of inviting people to the service.
Have each family member independently make a list of people to invite to the service if it is purely a family event. The lists should be submitted to someone outside the family for the purpose of totaling numbers and estimating seating. Each family member is responsible for inviting the people on his or her list, with the person outside the family dividing up the people who appear on more than one family member's list.
Invite people to a public memorial service through what is essentially a press release. A notice to newspapers, radio and television stations will notify the public as a whole about the service. Allow enough time for people to be able to plan for the service. A minimum of 5 days should be allotted between the time of the deceased's passing and the memorial service. Usually, this is also needed for planning.
Use communications mechanisms within a business or social club to invite people to the memorial service. If the deceased was a long time member of the American Legion, for example, contact its secretary and have the secretary create a general announcement.
Use a combination of these means of inviting people if the service has more than one function. For example, a large memorial service for a retired and widely respected member of the military might involve all of the means of inviting those who would want to participate. The advantage of defining the purpose of the service is that it takes a haphazard and emotional job and breaks it down into smaller tasks.
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