Whether you have planned a funeral service before or it is your first time doing so, you may not know how to put together a funeral program. Either way, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know and more when it comes to putting together the funeral program that your loved one deserves.
This guide will address what the purpose of a funeral program is, why it is important to have one, how to design and write a funeral program, and where you can purchase or print funeral programs. We will also discuss answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the design factors, pricing, and time you will need to create funeral programs.
There are several reasons to have a funeral program at your memorial service.
From an organizational standpoint, the program will be of great help in outlining the key points of the funeral service.
A funeral program will inform guests of the order of the service, so they know what to expect. Funerals are memorials where guests of all ages are in attendance. For those on the older and younger ends of the age spectrum, it is especially helpful to have a program that informs them of what is going to happen when.
The funeral program will also list important information regarding who will be singing, sharing the eulogy, who the pallbearers are, and any other information you feel is relevant to the day’s events.
A clear display of this information through a vessel of the funeral service as prominent as its program is a simple yet touching way of acknowledging those who participate in the deceased’s celebration of life.
From an emotional standpoint, putting together a funeral program can be very cathartic and help in your grieving process. Whether you decide to use a template or create the program from scratch, it is a beautiful way to honor the deceased as you process the loss you are experiencing while simultaneously celebrating their life.
A funeral program can help guests work through their emotions at the service. Attending a service can be overwhelming but having a funeral program to remind loved ones of the life the deceased lived and all the things they loved can comfort and ground them.
It is possible that some of the attendees do not have any physical tokens of the deceased to remember them by, so gifting them a funeral program with personal details about an important person in their life will mean a lot to them.
A funeral program can summarize the life of the deceased, as well as share their achievements and important milestones. Much like cremation jewelry, a physical funeral program is a (metaphorical) piece of the deceased that your guests can hold in their hands and take home with them to help them celebrate the life of your loved one and grieve the way they need to.
Designing the funeral program may seem daunting, but what it ultimately comes down to is how you think your loved one would want to be remembered.
The first step in designing the funeral program is deciding what your overall budget is for the programs and how many you want to have made. This number depends on how many guests you plan to invite to the service and how many extra copies you would like to keep after the funeral.
Once you have your own roughly estimated number, you should also ask close family members and friends if they would like extra copies so you can integrate their numbers into your total. Some people may not be able to attend, so it is wise to save a few copies to send to them to have as keepsakes.
Once you settle on a budget and know how many programs you need, you need to gather the information about the deceased and photos of them that you want to include.
Working together with family and close friends is a good way to collect these pieces while you grieve in a healthy way together, which you can read more about here.
While you will probably find the bulk of images and information you want through the deceased’s inner circles, it can be prudent to reach out to former classmates, professors, teammates, and mentors. They may have pictures and stories of the deceased that close friends and family have never seen or heard of!
These new photos and anecdotes can be wonderful to see and hear as they preserve the legacy of your loved one and can be included in the funeral program as a physical manifestation of who they were.
It can be difficult to choose just a few pictures to symbolize the entire lifetime of a loved one. We recommend collecting a handful from different stages of life (childhood, adolescence, middle ages, and old age), some of their proudest moments (graduations, weddings, births of their children, travels), and a few where they are smiling and happy.
Once you collect them, try sitting down with their loved ones to communally decide which ones you love the most from each group.
As with anything, the best place to start with personal information is at the beginning. Including when and where the deceased was born and their full legal name, as well as their birth time if you can find it, is quite common.
Whether they travelled constantly or stayed in the same home their entire life, mentioning the places the deceased lived their life in the program helps to paint a picture of who they were.
Another area of information to include is their personal achievements and big milestones. Stating who they married, when their children were born and how old they are in the present-day, surviving family members, and pets are all important pieces of information to include. It is also typical to include the date and place of the deceased’s death.
If it is appropriate, it is a very nice sentiment to mention the joys of life they loved the most, such as their hobbies or their favorite poems, books, artists, songs, movies, as well as anything else that reminds you of them.
One of the most important reasons to have a funeral program is to include logistical details about the service. You should include the time, place, and date of the funeral service. You can also include the same for the burial.
Acknowledging who the pallbearers are, who will be officiating, and who will be delivering the eulogy by their full name is also common practice when writing a funeral program.
Once you know what you want to include about the deceased, it is time to put the program together. There are several ways to do this and many online resources that will help you through the process.
The first choice you must make is whether you would like to create the program through a full service funeral home company, your place of worship, or create one yourself by using a template, computer program, or original design.
If you choose to use a funeral home company to design your program, ask to see all of their templates. If possible, ask to see real examples of funeral programs they have made for past services so you can see how much flexibility you have with what you are able to customize. Pick one that both encompasses the essence of the deceased in its appearance and that will last the test of time when people take the program home with them after the service.
Full service funeral design and printing companies are a good option if you do not have a lot of time to design and print funeral programs by yourself. However, these companies can cost more than what some people can afford (see our FAQ below to compare the costs of each option), so you should only opt for a full service funeral program company if your budget allows for it.
If you are planning on doing the service through the deceased’s place of worship, you can also ask its members and representatives if they have funeral program templates you could use. This option is slightly more personal than the funeral home company as the templates may reflect the deceased’s town/city and community more accurately.
Be aware that finding a template through a place of worship will usually place the responsibility of printing the programs on you. The place of worship may have a printer that you can use, but if it does not or you want to print somewhere else, we discuss various printing options further down.
If you decide to go the DIY route and create your own programs, whether it is to save money on funeral expenses or because you prefer a personal touch, there are many ways to do so. There are online templates that you can purchase or download for free and then edit in Word or Google Docs.
You can also create your own program from scratch using free online sites like Canva or downloadable software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. When designing your own program, you must also decide on what paper, fonts, and art to use.
The best way to do this is by thinking about what kind of visuals the deceased liked and designing a program that reflects them.
If you are creating your own program, you will have to structure it yourself. The structure of a funeral program is (usually) as follows:
Once you figure out how you want to structure the program, you must decide what layout you wish to use. You have several choices regarding layout. You can opt for something on the simpler side that consists of a standard piece of paper folded in half, or you can choose something more complex like a trifold or a graduated fold layout.
If you decide to use a layout that has more folds, make sure you have enough information to fill each side so that your end result looks polished and well-formatted.
Be cognizant of the fact that more complicated layouts will cost more than standard ones if you are purchasing your programs through a full service funeral company.
For the cover photo, you should use a high-quality image of the deceased. Low-quality images will hinder the desired effect of the funeral program, especially if used on the cover of the brochure.
You should also choose a picture of the deceased that makes you and their loved ones happy when you look at it. The memorial brochure is going to be a part of their lasting legacy, so it should feature a photo that makes you smile.
The background graphics can be anything from pictures of their favorite places, flowers, sunrises/sunsets, religious symbols to something as simple as a color-blocked design scheme. If you choose to use an image as the background, try to find one that is uncomplicated so that it does not distract from the main photo of the deceased.
If possible, it is nice to use an image that the deceased photographed themselves. If you choose to use a color-blocked background instead, it can be a nice sentiment to use the deceased’s favorite colors and fonts.
If someone else is responsible for writing the funeral program’s obituary, you only need to format it once they have sent it to you. If you are in charge of writing the obituary but do not know where to start, here is a short but comprehensive guide on how to do it
An obituary in a funeral program differs from one that you would publish in a local newspaper. It is longer, more detailed, and less formal.
It is normal to include information such as the deceased’s full name, the age they lived to, their birth and death dates, the cause of death, their parents’ names, and their surviving family members.
You can include details about different stages of their life, such as their childhood and their career. You can also include sentimental details such as what made the deceased special, their role in their community, and the parts of life they loved the most.
Do not worry if you do not consider yourself a writer and you are tasked with writing the obituary. What is important is that you write from the heart.
When formatting the obituary, there are two main things to keep in mind.
The first is the type of font you choose. A font that is legible is of the utmost importance, as you will have people of all ages that receive copies of the program.
You should also use a font that is beautiful, so the program is aesthetically elegant and deserving of the deceased. Remember that legible does not equate with beautiful, so if you can find a font that you think is both, you should use it.
The second thing to consider is font size. Much like the legibility of font, the words of tribute in the obituary will be lost on your guests if the letters are too small to read. On the other hand, a font size that is too large will take up too much space in the program and potentially look unappealing.
A great way to find which type of font and font size is going to work best for you is to print a trial copy on regular paper to see if it looks the way you want it to.
We have outlined a typical funeral order of service above, but every service is special and different. You may have a different order that you want to follow or additional aspects of the service that you have planned, and you should alter this part of the program as you see fit.
You can also list the names of the people who will be involved during each part of the service alongside the events in the program so that unacquainted guests or old friends can connect afterwards.
As the funeral order of service is text, it is once again important to consider font type and size here. If you have found a font type and size that works well for the obituary, you can use it again for the funeral order of service.
One of the best ways to express human emotions is through poetry or scripture. Including the deceased’s favorite poems and verses in a funeral program is a lovely way to enshrine the pieces of art and faith they revered the most.
If you can find annotated copies of these poems or scripture from the deceased’s loved ones, it is a very nice touch to include good-quality images of them in the pamphlet.
While you are dealing with text in the brochure again, poetry and scripture are different in nature from the obituary and the funeral order of service. It may be visually and metaphorically meaningful to choose a different font from what you have been using to make the artistic language stand out from the rest of the program.
Photo collages are a wonderful way to display the treasured memories you have collected of the deceased. Similar to creating the funeral program, there are several free online resources to help you put multiple images together to create a clean, neat collage.
You can even add captions and clip art over some of the photos to denote when and where they were taken and who the deceased was sharing the moment with.
These are just a few ideas of what to include in the funeral program. You have the freedom to include whatever means the most to the deceased’s loved ones when you create the program yourself.
There are three common options for purchasing or printing the funeral programs - through a funeral home, through a printing service or do-it-yourself at home.
If you have designed your program through a funeral home, it is likely that your purchase will include the cost and act of printing copies of the program in addition to the template.
If printing is not included through the funeral home or you have designed your program through a place of worship or by yourself, you can have your programs created at a variety of places.
Some standard options include using Staples or FedEx to print your programs. It is advisable to call your local store to determine what you need to do in advance before going in-person to get them.
Some stores may have you use their websites to upload the programs through their own software and pay online while others may ask you to email the program design before you go and pay when you pick the copies up.
If you decide to print the programs yourself, you will need specific supplies to ensure you end up with the correct amount of high-quality copies. Once you have finalized your DIY funeral brochure and are ready to print, you will need a good printer, extra ink, and special paper (cardstock, matte card, etc.). In some cases, you may also need special ink.
Make sure you collect all of the printing supplies you need well in advance from when you decide to print the programs so that you have ample time to make corrections if you need to.
There are several ways to turn the funeral program you have created with so much love into a lasting memory for all funeral service attendees.
One of the best ways to give the funeral programs a lasting impact is by incorporating them into a memorial package or gift. A memorial package can consist of personalized jewelry, portraits, keepsake boxes, and more.
These tokens allow loved ones of the deceased to carry memories and reminders of them and can help immensely with grieving. Alongside the personalized memorial photo magnets or memorial initial keychains that you include, your guests will be able to keep the program with the deceased’s life story, their moments of happiness, favorite poems, and all the things they loved most.
Including the funeral program as part of the memorial gift elevates the depth of package.
Another way to maximize the impact of the funeral program is to send them out to close friends and family of the deceased each year on the anniversary of their death. By doing so, you are also honoring the legacy of the deceased. Reminding their loved ones of who they were, what they loved, and what they lived for is a precious way to keep their memory alive.
If you decide to begin this tradition, remember to account for the extra copies you plan to send out when creating your budget and printing your programs. If you decide to print the programs out each year, make sure you save the electronic design on your computer or an external hard drive, so you are able to access it when necessary.
We know that losing a loved one is difficult enough without the added stress of planning a funeral service and creating funeral programs. Although designing and writing funeral programs can help you grieve, you may also need alternative resources to help you with your grief after the service ends. Please check out our free Education Center for well-researched information on everything from writing letters as a form of grieving to coping with Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD).
Sometimes a funeral program is not enough of a permanent memento to remember a loved one and keep them with us after they pass on.
If you find this is the case for you, we also specialize in custom fingerprint jewelry, cremation urns for ashes, and pet cremation urns.
We are extremely familiar with the difficulties and nuances of loss and grief, and our articles and products are designed to be sensitive to your situation. We want to help you as much as possible as you navigate the passing of a loved one, so please utilize our resources if you find them useful.
Here are some of the questions that are asked most frequently regarding funeral programs and our answers to them. We hope you find them helpful and informative.
The leaflet at a funeral can be called many different things. Some people use the term “funeral program” while others prefer “memorial brochure” or “pamphlet.” Any combination of these terms generally refers to the informational and sentimental mini booklet that is passed out to all attendees at a funeral service.
It typically contains logistical information about the service, details about the deceased, nice pictures of them, and the names of those participating in the memorial.
Depending on how you choose to create them, funeral programs vary greatly in cost. If you use a full service funeral printing and design company, a standard 8 ½ by 11-inch single fold program that includes a few photos, basic information the funeral’s order of service, pall bearers, and acknowledgements will cost between $90-$300 for 100 programs. Add-ons, such as more photos and additional information, will cost more.
If you choose to use a template from online or entirely DIY the program, you can use websites that are entirely free to design the brochure. The only costs associated with making a funeral program yourself are what they cost to print. Printing them through a store such as Staples or FedEx will cost around $120 for 100 funeral brochures.
If you choose to print your programs at home, you will have to spend money on colored printer ink and paper. Complete sets of colored printer ink that you can buy online range anywhere from $50 to $350. The type of paper you choose can also vary, but it is priced at a standard cost across most sellers and is typically around $14 for 1 ream (or 500 sheets).
It is entirely your choice whether or not you decide to have a funeral program at the service. The funeral is for the deceased and their loved ones, and the extraneous details of the ceremony should reflect their wishes. If a funeral program is not befitting of the occasion and the person whose life you are celebrating, there is no need to include one.
However, funeral programs can make the service run smoother and can be a comfort to the guests while in attendance and after they leave. You are the best judge of what the deceased would want, so you should include a funeral program if it is what makes the most sense on both an organizational and emotional level.
The time it takes to create a funeral program depends on how you choose to create it. Opting to use a full service funeral printing and design company will take you the least amount of time in total.
With this option, you will only have to spend time finding the company you want to use, collecting the information and photos you want in the program, and sending it all to them. They will print them and also most likely ship the programs where you need them, so you do not need to pick them up yourself.
Finding a blank funeral program template online is the next least time-consuming option. Most templates are easily customizable within minutes, so all you have to do is replace all of the stock information and photos with what is relevant to the deceased.
Creating a program from scratch is the most time-consuming design option, but because it is 2021, it is also the one with the most flexibility. You can custom design a funeral brochure online that perfectly fits the vision of what you want for the service, but your specific vision will take the most time to put together.
Once you finalize your design, you can print through FedEx/Staples or print at home. Printing through an outlet is the more efficient choice, but we recognize that not everyone may be able to choose that option if they do not have any printing businesses near them or cannot afford to. Printing at home is quite time-consuming, but necessary in some cases.
Depending on the decisions you make as you create your funeral program, it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks to create and print the programs the way you want them.
One of the advantages of creating a memorial pamphlet in 2021 is that you do not need any special computer software to do it yourself. Free websites like Canva are available to all and are extremely user-friendly. You can edit and control every aspect of the brochure design through it, and thousands of YouTube videos exist to help walk you through the process of using it. A simple search of “How to use Canva” will yield the videos with the best ratings.
If you have already paid for the Adobe Cloud software or have individually purchased Photoshop or Illustrator, you can also use them to create your brochure. If you have an internet connection, there is no need to purchase additional software to create the beautiful funeral program that the deceased deserves because there are so many options online that are free.
Funeral programs are normally printed double-sided, so the type of paper you choose to print them on matters if you want them to look as nice as possible and keep the ink from bleeding through.
In terms of color, white paper is the best choice to opt for so that the photos and text pop as much as they can for a beautiful effect overall.
For paper thickness (or weight), it is best to stay away from standard paper and instead choose heavier weighted paper. Standard paper has a weight of 20 pounds. While it is good for everyday printing, it is too thin to print funeral programs on and will result in a blurring of your design as the ink seeps through. The best paper to print on is anything between 28-pound and 32-pound paper. These weights are the highest you can go before reaching card stock thickness. Heavier paper weight will give your brochure a more solid feel while ensuring that your design appears as planned.
If possible, avoid printing on card stock. Many home printers cannot print on card stock at all, and if they can, they tend to jam. Additionally, card stock is difficult to fold into a brochure-like pamphlet, and you will not be able to present your program as you intended.
Just as you will have to use your judgement when planning other aspects of the memorial service, you will have to use it when deciding if you should list estranged family members on the funeral program. Ask yourself questions such as:
These questions can help you decide which course of action is correct for you and your specific circumstances.
The passing of a loved one is never easy, but we hope that this guide can help you in planning for the celebration of life that you are putting together.
The guests will be able to leave the service knowing that the deceased is loved and well-cared for, and they will take the physical memento of a funeral program with them that they will treasure for years to come.
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