How to Plan a Virtual Funeral
There’s no getting around it--technology influences everything around us, and every event we celebrate. More and more, that includes funerals and memorials. With the rise of Zoom and other live streaming platforms, families are honoring loved ones with a gathering that features at least some type of virtual component.
Whether because of economic issues, problems with traveling due to health or weather, or out of a wish to accommodate distant friends and loved ones, many families are looking for alternatives to traditional "in-real-life" gatherings. Hosting a virtual funeral or live streamed memorial is one option that is gaining in popularity.
Is this new way of honoring a loved one the right solution for your family? Well, it depends. But if you find the idea interesting, then read on to learn more about why virtual funeral services are one of the hottest trends in the industry.
What in the World is a Virtual Funeral?
A virtual funeral or celebration of life means different things to different people. Some see it as an entirely online, collaborative funeral service where family and friends can celebrate and memorialize their loved one digitally. It can be as easy as turning on your laptop, mobile device, tablet or desktop computer and activating a video stream. It’s a real-time stream that can be broadcast from a venue or just shared among people at home. Normally, as with any celebration of life or memorial, it will include elements like speeches, readings, a slide show, or other group activities that can be done remotely, such as lighting a candle or telling stories.
Depending on the platform, the event may be recorded to create a digital heirloom that can be shared and watched later. Others see a funeral live stream as one element to be combined with an in-person event, to accommodate far-away loved ones or because of space or other limitations. In that case, some people attend in person, while those who cannot be there physically simply connect through a Zoom link or another platform, where they can witness and participate in the funeral or memorial service.
Some Benefits of Having a Virtual Funeral
Why should you skip or accent a traditional funeral plan with an online service? Here are some of the benefits that come when you choose to host a virtual funeral, whether completely virtual or as part of an in-real-life event.
- Social Distancing: Recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have shifted how people can gather. Social distancing can be difficult when your friends and family are meeting for a big funeral or life celebration. Instead of asking everyone to wear masks and stay 6 feet apart, why not shift your funeral plan to accommodate the new normal? Virtual funeral services make it possible for loved ones to participate at their level of comfort, with funeral streaming services available from home.
- Long-Distance Travel: Even in less tumultuous times, when family and friends are spread across the country, it can be a challenge to give people enough time to travel to the funeral. Not only do loved ones need to schedule days away from work, but last-minute travel can be expensive. Take the stress off your family by making it possible to participate in the service from any location through virtual funeral services.
- Budget: Think of everything that goes into traditional funeral planning. It can sometimes be a financial burden on the family to book a venue and host a large group of people for the funeral or a reception with food and drinks to follow. Instead of worrying about seating, refreshments, and parking – you can choose to keep things more economical (and sometimes more simple from a planning perspective) by hosting a virtual funeral service. Not only do you save time and avoid the stress of planning a large event, but virtual funeral services can be cheaper than an in-person gathering.
Now that you can see the benefits of planning virtual funeral services, the next question is: where do I start? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If you’ll be hosting a virtual funeral (where the body is present), you’ll need to choose a funeral home to help you with those arrangements. Ask questions about the funeral home’s capabilities for live streaming a funeral. Some are more well-equipped and tech-savvy than others. If you find a funeral home you love but they do not have the ability to help you with a virtual funeral, there are great companies out there to help, including our Farewelling Partners at Salvi Media, who can help get you set up with whatever you need and at several different price points depending on how high your desired production value.
If you’ll host a virtual memorial or celebration of life (generally days, weeks or months after the burial or cremation and without the body present), the first step is deciding if you’ll live stream the memorial from a venue or just host a home-style production. If it’s very simple and at-home, you may choose to just host it yourself via a Zoom account or another platform, but beware these have limitations in terms of style and functionality. What may be fine for an office meeting may not meet your standards or an important an emotional tribute to someone very special. If you want to create an interactive, more polished online event, with technical support and lots of panache, take a look at our Virtual Events page. We've partnered with the live-streaming experts at Cadenza to blend technology and style for something truly beautiful, modern and seamless.
Many funeral planning decisions are the same for in-person and virtual funeral services. For example, you still need to choose an urn or burial plot, memorial products, and anything else related to the way your loved one will be laid to rest. You’ll also need to address other practicalities including paperwork, transportation, estate management, and more.
For more details about the technology and logistics of live streaming a funeral or memorial service, check out this detailed guide about how to live stream a funeral.
Also, look for tools that personalize the experience. For example, you might use Animoto to create a video or slideshow. Or, Tribute is a great resource to gather short videos from friends and family, then consolidate the clips into presentation-worthy media.
Guest Etiquette: What to Know for Attending a Virtual Funeral
What’s the proper etiquette if someone invites you to attend virtual funeral services? Here are a few things you need to know to avoid being that guest who disrupts the most touching moments of an event:
- Arrive Early: Even though you don’t need to worry about directions or parking, it’s smart to plan your schedule so you are online at least five minutes before the funeral starts. This cushion of time gives you the chance to troubleshoot if you encounter any tech glitches. Depending on the platform, you may need to wait for the host to admit you, so do be patient. As with weddings, sometimes funerals begin a bit late.
- Avoid Distractions: Be present during the virtual funeral services. Close down social media accounts and resist the temptation to multitask while at the computer. Show up to the event as if you were attending in person – giving the funeral your full attention.
- Dress: If the virtual funeral service is interactive, then there is a possibility that you might be seen on camera. Dress appropriately for the event. Brush your hair, put on makeup, so you are presentable if seen during the service.
- Background: Consider your surroundings. What will be visible in the video? It’s important to clean up the background area because a messy house could be distracting to other funeral guests. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-perfect, but make sure your background looks reasonably presentable.
- Mute Yourself: Are you a scheduled speaker for the funeral? Keep yourself muted until it is your time to talk. Keeping your device muted eliminates distracting background noises that might interfere with other speakers. When you are talking, speak clearly and slowly to accommodate people with slower internet connections.
It doesn’t matter if you are planning a virtual funeral or attending as a guest, keep an open mind about this modern way of celebrating a person’s life. It’s incredible that we can use technology to connect in a common cause, with friends and family from around the world!