How to Plan a Virtual Funeral Service

Due to the global pandemic, people worldwide have had to cancel, reschedule and alter major life events to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition to limits on social gatherings, the pandemic has increased travel restrictions for air and bus travel, making it difficult for friends and family to travel for funerals. In response to these restrictions, many have turned to virtual funerals in order to honor their loved ones. 

With the help of technology and social media, it is now possible to hold a virtual funeral service or online memorial service that’s as meaningful as any other type of service. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how you can plan a successful virtual funeral service. 

Note: Cameras are not appropriate for every occasion. Some people may believe that filming the deceased’s open casket is disrespectful. Others may feel that filming mourners in their time of grief is insensitive. Before you decide to allow the ceremony to be filmed, get the agreement of all members of the immediate family.

What is a Virtual Funeral?

A virtual funeral is a service that allows the family and friends of the deceased to gather on an online platform, which can be anything from a blog on Tumblr or Facebook page to an actual video streaming site. The services are often streamed live, so people who are unable to attend in person have the opportunity to view the funeral service. 

Virtual funerals can include a funeral procession, funeral service, or other custom options. There are often alternative funeral music options as well as the option to purchase funeral flowers and donations to charities in the name of the deceased.

In terms of how they’re conducted, virtual funerals usually resemble traditional funerals with eulogies from those who knew the family member, funeral readings or funeral hymns, and funeral prayers.

Individual funeral directors can also be approached for funeral planning, though many funeral homes only provide funeral planning services to those who are planning a funeral in person. However, there are funeral planning apps available online, which might make the process easier for clients accustomed to using smartphones and other mobile devices.

For example, a virtual funeral planning service like GatheringUs goes above and beyond the capabilities of a funeral home to assist you in planning a virtual funeral. These services include everything from start to end: event planning, tech support, recording, invites, thank-you notes, and day-of-funeral coordination. And you may choose between a virtual-only ceremony or a hybrid funeral that allows you to invite guests in person.

Some other examples of virtual funeral service planning apps include:

Some funeral homes also have their own funeral planning app available for download on a smartphone or tablet.

How to Plan a Virtual Funeral Service or Virtual Memorial Service

Digitization has taken over many aspects of life. From shopping to dating, messaging to banking, more and more people are choosing to take advantage of the benefits digital lifestyle elements provide. 

One area where digitization is slowly adding to funeral traditions is through virtual funeral services. For those who are experiencing the loss of a loved one, this can be an important choice to make in how to commemorate their life and send them off in funeral ceremonies.

The process for planning for a virtual funeral service or virtual memorial service starts with making funeral arrangements.

1. Plan Your Funeral Arrangements in Advance 

Funeral arrangements must be made before there can actually be funeral services. This includes funeral arrangements such as funeral home selection, funeral service planning, and burial or cremation preparations. 

If you are considering cremation for your funeral arrangements, the Neptune Society offers simple and affordable cremation preplanning packages that will give you and your family peace of mind. To learn more, call 1-800-637-8863 or contact us to request information.

2. Select a Funeral Director 

The next step in the process is to select a funeral director. Selecting a funeral director should include checking state licensing requirements for funeral directors, finding out whether they are available 24 hours per day, and you should ask funeral directors about their funeral home’s philosophy. 

3. Schedule the Funeral Service 

Once funeral arrangements are confirmed, funeral services will be scheduled. You can then explore options for presentation such as music, seating, and catering. Read our article on Utilizing Technology to Plan a Funeral or Memorial Service for ideas on how to use technology to plan a virtual funeral or memorial service. 

 Virtual funerals can feature funeral program readings, online condolence cards, funeral music played during the ceremony, an online guestbook for people to sign, funeral readings pre-recorded for family members to play at their funeral service, or even a funeral service that is both live and virtual.

The funeral director may offer recommendations about what type of services would work best with the funeral arrangements and funeral service they already have planned.

4. Choose Your Equipment

There is a variety of equipment that you can use to live-stream a funeral. You may produce the equipment yourself, or the funeral home may already have equipment. 

There is a wide range of video and audio capturing and recording gadgets for you to choose from, from basic cell phones to professional high-definition videography equipment.

If you’d rather keep it basic, most cellphones and/or tablets can shoot video and audio and post it online using a program (Zoom, Skype, Facebook Live, etc.). Of course, it won’t be of professional quality, but it will suffice.

If you desire to have a more professional presentation, you’ll need a professional camera, a laptop with plenty of processing power, and an internet connection (either directly or through WiFi) to obtain a higher-quality live stream. This entails more equipment and setup, but the result will be considerably cleaner and clearer.

Some of the basic equipment that you will need to live stream a funeral include:

  • A smartphone or tablet that has video and audio capabilities
  • A laptop with a webcam and microphone
  • A DSLR camera 
  • Stabilizers for smartphones
  • Tripods for cameras 
  • HDMI cables 
  • A reliable internet connection 

If you are unable to obtain more advanced equipment or simply don’t know how to use it, the bare necessities for live-streaming a funeral are a smartphone, laptop, and a reliable internet connection. 

5. Choose a Streaming Platform

Some of the best video streaming platforms for virtual funerals include:

To learn more about how to host a virtual funeral service or virtual memorial service with these popular online live-streaming platforms, continue reading. 

Facebook Live is a popular streaming tool for virtual funerals.

How to Plan a Virtual Funeral With Facebook Live

Facebook is ideal if you would like to live stream a virtual funeral for your Facebook friends. You may easily adjust your privacy settings as you go live.

1. Log Onto the Correct Facebook Account ( Or Create a New Account )

When you announced that you will be live streaming the funeral of your loved one, it’s important that you mention whose account you’ll be using. Make sure the person filming is logged into the correct account.

All persons involved in the funeral must have a Facebook profile, so be sure to confirm that attendees already have an existing profile or to create a new account. 

To be safe, double-check that the sender and recipient are Facebook friends. 

2. Select “Live” From the Drop-Down Menu

When you go to Facebook on your phone, you’ll see three choices listed under “What’s on your mind?” The options are “live,” “photo,” and “check-in.”

To access the live stream video, click on “live.”

Tip: If you decide to go live, you’ll need to allow Facebook access to your phone’s microphone.

3. Who Has Access To the Live Stream?

Select who you want to access your video. Consider whether or not you want all of your Facebook friends to have access to this event or if you want to only stream it to a specific group of people.

You’ll also be able to describe the event and indicate its location.

Live Streaming Funerals and Privacy 

An important tip when planning a virtual funeral is to limit the audience to close family and friends. You may not want strangers or casual acquaintances to witness a loved one’s funeral while scrolling through their daily feed. You may also be compromising the security of your home if potential burglars know that you are attending a funeral.

Skype is one of the most popular live streaming platforms available today.

How to Plan a Funeral With Skype

Skype is one of the most popular streaming services available, as it is free and easy to install. You can use Skype on your personal computer, smartphone, or tablet.  You may limit who has access to the live broadcast on Skype. Only people you contact will get your video feed.

Here are some tips on how to successfully host a virtual funeral via Skype: 

1.  Create a Skype Account

In order to use Skype, you must create a Skype account. Your guests must also make their own Skype account in order to view the service, so make sure that everyone has created an account in advance. If you or any attendees are not familiar with how to create a new account, click on the link below:

Don’t wait for the funeral to begin to double-check that you have your Skype password. Funerals are frequently high-pressure situations. Don’t make things worse by resetting passwords at the last minute. 

Tip: Make sure the recipient is assisted if he or she is not tech-savvy.

2.  Open the “Contacts” list at the bottom of the Skype home page.

Look for the individual (or people) who will be attending the virtual funeral. In one call, you may select numerous participants. You can have up to 50 people on the same call.

3. Choose the “Video” option

Once you’ve decided who will be receiving the call, press the video button.

Pro tip: A video button resembles a movie camera. It’s a rectangular box with a tiny triangle next to it. 

Make sure you’re using the right settings

You may want to chat with the recipients when you initially contact them via Skype so that you can ensure they are present and to prevent technical difficulties. 

Zoom is a popular live-streaming service that has become a staple for businesses and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to Plan a Funeral With Zoom

Zoom has been a popular live-streaming platform for businesses and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing communities to gather virtually and maintain connections during the lockdown. But Zoom can also be used to host a virtual funeral or memorial service with ease.

1. Create a Zoom Account

To create a zoom account, go to the Zoom website to create your free account. From there, you can schedule your virtual funeral service.

2. Create a Virtual Event Calendar

After you have created a Zoom account, create an online calendar for the event. The Zoom web portal should already be mapped out on your account home page, but make sure to check if it’s correct before sharing it with family and friends. The funeral is only effective if everybody in the family is on the same page.

3. Invite Friends and Family Members

After you create your Zoom calendar, share it with all of the attendees. They will need to download the Zoom app before they can join the event, so make sure they have enough time to set up an account with their computer or smartphone. You can also send invites through email or social media as a backup.

Whatever you do, try to stick to a single method of sharing the information so that nobody misses out on joining the ceremony.

That’s it! After the funeral is complete, be sure to thank those who participated and keep them updated on future updates about your loved one.

Additional Considerations for Planning a Virtual Funeral Service

Live-streaming any event invites an opportunity for technical difficulties. But during a delicate event like a funeral, you should do your best to prevent technical issues.

 But even professionals experience technical difficulties that are out of their control. Remember why you have organized this event and give yourself credit for taking steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

If you have been invited to attend a virtual funeral, you may be wondering how the etiquette differs from a traditional in-person event. If you are hosting a virtual funeral, you may want to give your guests tips on virtual funeral etiquette. 

Read our article on Virtual Funeral Etiquette to learn more.

Virtual Funeral Services Provide Safety and Accessibility 

Losing a loved one can be a frightening and emotional time, especially when it comes to making funeral arrangements. By offering virtual funeral services, funeral directors and funeral service providers hope to provide families with more options. Virtual funerals are more accessible and can be more affordable compared to traditional in-person funerals. During these unprecedented times, many of us have had to make sacrifices and compromises for the safety of others. We hope that this article has provided you with the tools you need to honor your loved one in a safe, unique, and modern way.