Planning a funeral for a loved one virtually may be daunting as most of us have never done this before and there are no second chances of getting it right. So here is a simple guide’ to help you through the process.

First steps in planning for a virtual Funeral

If you will be using a Celebrant to deliver your funeral ceremony ask your Funeral Director to recommend a celebrant who is to happy to work with you on planning a funeral for your loved one virtually.

If you are organising the Funeral or if you have been asked by the family to sort out the arrangements, below is a ‘to do’ list for before the funeral:-

Guidance for the organiser/hosts/co-hosts 

List ‘attendees’. – Gather the names and email addresses addresses of all those who want to ‘attend ‘ the virtual funeral.

Share memories of your loved one– One way is to set up a watts app group including your celebrant beforehand to share memories or email your memories to your celebrant so that they can include these in the ceremony.

Agree format of funeral ceremony and content with your celebrant.

Decide which Virtual Media platform you will use. Many planned virtual funerals for loved ones have used Zoom but there are others. Checklists here are based on using Zoom.

Purchase Unlimited use Zoom subscription– Consider buying a months Zoom subscription to enable you to allow for delays and also if you want those who Log In to be able to chat after the virtual funeral. 

Watch some free Zoom tutorials-to become familiar with its features before you hold a practice session. 

Schedule a practice session. Hold this with a small number of attendees, 4 will mean you can test out the zoom functions you will need.  When planning a funeral for a loved one virtually,  practice becoming familiar with the facilities including the record function, setting a co-host, muting, gallery v speaker view, video on/off, sharing the screen and spotlighting if required. You can then consider any issues you are likely to come across and can iron these out before the funeral ceremony is held. 

Appoint a co-host– Consider appointing a Co-Host for the virtual ceremony – perhaps to admit those attending into the virtual funeral and to do  the technical aspects and organising, whilst you can take on the welcome role as people enter the event.

Schedule the practice session and your planned funeral for a loved one virtually through the Zoom scheduler making sure you set an ID and Password.

Keep ID and Password details safe– you may have heard of cases where a broadcast has been hacked- to avoid this happening to your planned virtual funeral, give ID and Password details only to those attendees and ask them not to share the security details. 

Use Waiting Room facility– After logging on using the ID and Password ‘attendees’ will be held in a waiting room which the host or co-host controls so is extra security. The waiting room can be customised and have, for example a welcome message for the attendees. 

Factor in additional time for ‘arriving’ Allow additional time to admit people from the waiting room into the funeral ceremony especially if there are large numbers attending,  For example, in the information you give to attendees beforehand advise that people will be admitted from 15 minutes before to ensure a prompt start and a note to say please don,t be late as latecomers will not be admitted. 

Provide Date and Time information– Tell all the attendees the funeral ceremony date and time by’phone and give ID and Password with a note to say please share ID and Password only with those who will be attending the virtual funeral. 

Recording the virtual funeral service– Zoom has the facility to record the service.  Set to local for quicker access to the recoding which will save in your documents.   After the ceremony is finished the recording is downloaded to a Zoom folder in your document automatically and then can be be emailed by WeTransfer to attendees, or published to Facebook or YouTube.

Advice on recording for attendees- Advise attendees that the funeral ceremony will be recorded. If they want to be seen, they will need to check on their settings that the video is switched on.  If they don’t want to be seen or heard on the recording, they need to ensure their camera and video is switched off.

Provide information to ‘mourners’-When planning a funeral for a loved one virtually, before the ceremony put together some Guidance Notes for yourself and for mourners  – see Checklists below.

Muting devices– It is advised that devices should be muted and ‘phones switched off unless mourners are using their phones to access the ceremony – this cuts down the risk of ‘phone interruption during the virtual funeral ceremony.

Use Speaker Screen View Zoom has the option of a gallery view which shows a number of the attendees on the screen or speaker view. To avoid distractions for the funeral service it is advised to set to speaker view.

Check your Background!– You won’t want the dirty laundry or dishes or worse on the recording!  Your device has the facility to set a virtual background or it is possible to upload a photo from your device to use … this depends on the functionality of the device you are using.

Check the camera position on your device – the best position is for the camera to be 3cm above your eyeline – you might need to raise your device to get the best camera position.

Dress appropriately for the funeral ceremony.  Plain block colours show up well on the screen.

Choose Sitting or Standing position– The Celebrant or officiant needs to check If it is better for them to sit or stand and check how near they need to be to the computer microphone or stand alone microphone so that they can be heard.

Check Microphone– do a sound check in advance to see if the celebrant and/or host needs an external microphone or if the computer microphone is sufficient.

Check Lighting– Advise the celebrant to make sure that they can be seen, that the lighting is appropriate in their premises and know if they need extra lighting- also that their background is suitable- some devices have virtual backgrounds built in which can be used if appropriate or a virtual background can be purchased and used for the ceremony.

Reading of Poems and tributes– If a mourner is reading a poem or a tribute- either they will have to make a noise and wait a couple of seconds so that the Zoom tracker can pick them up as the speaker or you can use the spotlight function. 

Group singing this can be a problem because of different bandwidths of devices causing sound delays – try it during your practice session and see for yourself!  So if there is singing use the Mute All facility and play the song from a device. 

Playing of music– if you want to play music during the ceremony make sure it is uploaded onto your device and consider whether you need to buy a Performing Rights Licence. Music playing during the time when attendees are waiting for the funeral ceremony to start can be effective.   

Symbolism – In virtual funerals, some celebrants have used a lit candle which is blown out at the committal stage of the ceremony.  Discuss with your celebrant how you want to mark this part of the ceremony.

Requests for help– or further information by ‘mourners’ – provide a help contact telephone number or email address for those ‘attending’ the funeral ceremony. 

Livestreaming and ceremony can have the huge benefit of being attended by loved ones who otherwise would not be able to be part of your ceremony through travel restrictions or health considerations … and at no extra cost to you. 

An online ceremony can be every bit as personal and emotional as a ceremony in person, in fact some guests comment that they can see and hear much more online than they ever would sitting at a distance from those speaking.’