How to Make a Funeral Memory Board

The increasing presence of memory boards during wakes, visitations, funerals, and memorial services has mirrored rising interest in personalizing end-of-life services. Learn how you can create a traditional personalized memory board that both honors the deceased and proves meaningful and memorable for his or her surviving loved ones.

Four women making funeral memory boards
 "P1170018" by basykes is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Items Needed to Make a Funeral Memory Board

A traditional or "analog" version of a funeral memory board uses physical items, such as poster board, glue or tape, and, of course, actual photographs.

Discuss this personalization option with your funeral director or provider if he hasn't already suggested it during the funeral arrangement conference. Often, funeral homes will provide a display easel or two, and many will even provide some of the necessary materials. In general, however, you will need the following items:

  • Display Board: Typically, people buy a 48-by-36-inch paper poster board from a local office-supply store or superstore to provide enough display space, but numerous sizes are available. You can use other types of boards, including foam display boards, tri-fold poster boards, easel-pad sheets, corkboard, dry-erase boards, corrugated cardboard, magnetic boards, or even pieces of plywood cut to size. Check with your funeral provider beforehand for a recommended size and how the memory board will be displayed.
  • Adhesive: You need some method of affixing photos to your display board, and common methods include glue, tape, pushpins, spray adhesives, photo corners, low-tack, or removable bonding agents. While your display board material will largely dictate the best adhesive (pushpins don't work well in thin poster board, for example), you should also decide how valuable the photographs are to you/your family before affixing them. Permanently gluing a photo you printed from a digital image is fine, but you shouldn't use this type of adhesive on the only copy of a family photograph.
  • Date Labels: Ideally, to help create a meaningful, memorable funeral memory board, you should label each image with the date or year in which it was taken, if known. Even "circa 1980" or the approximate age of the deceased is better than nothing. Therefore, you'll need a pen or permanent marker that works on the photograph's border or on some less-permanent labeling surface, such as removable tape or a sticky-note.
  • Decorative Items and Mementos: You can use glitter, colored paper, markers, and balloons to enhance the board. You can include small personal mementos, such as ribbons/medals, ticket stubs, matchbook covers, personal letters, etc.
  • Photographs: This is the time to pull your old photographs out of the closet or from underneath the bed. Ask for digital images from smartphones, tablets, computers or other electronic devices. Don't forget to check social media accounts for suitable photographs. You should print copies of any digital images you want to use.

Steps for Making a Funeral Memory Board

A challenging part of this project is selecting which images to include. This can be a significant, cathartic exercise for family and friends that elicits the sharing of memories, stories, and feelings at a difficult time.

  1. Gather the needed materials.
  2. Invite family members, friends, and other close loved ones to help you select the images and create your memory board. You do not need to handle this project alone, and you will probably discover that family members and friends will eagerly assist. You might consider making this an event by letting people know its purpose, asking attendees to locate possible images beforehand, and even providing food and beverages.
  3. Choose an arrangement. Chronologic order often proves best (earliest to most recent), or organized by theme (childhood, school, marriage, etc.), but many memory boards feature images in no particular order.
  4. Affix the photos and mementos.
  5. Deliver the memory board to your funeral provider beforehand. You can delegate this task to someone else if you wish.

The Right Way to Make a Funeral Memory Board Is Your Way

Don't stress that you're not doing something "right." The purpose of a funeral memory board is to trigger memories and the sharing of personal stories by those viewing it. It helps personalize the deceased's end-of-life services in order to create a meaningful, memorable experience. Even if you place your selected images randomly, rest assured that your funeral memory board will still honor your loved one and provide solace for the mourners.

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