First Time

If this is the first time planning a service for a loved one don’t be anxious. Although the primary task of handling the affairs of your loved one has been left to you, take your time. You’re dealing with many emotions as well as others’ emotions. It’s ok to take some time to acknowledge those emotions, gather yourself and continue handling the arrangements.

Understand you will be flooded with calls, visits of comfort, lots of support and assistance until the service. Some comments, people and calls may rub you the wrong way. Keep in mind both of you are grieving which manifests itself in a variety of ways. Therefore take such words with a grain of salt—or a heap if need be!

Don’t try to do it all. You are only one person and there are people who are ready and willing to help, take advantage of it. Focus your energies on the most important tasks as well as the ones that you wish to personally attend to due to your relationship with your dearly departed.

Step 1: Determine what services you will have

Decide if you want to have a service; wake and service; wake, service and repast/reception; or a combination of any of these. This actually helps determine what keepsakes you will want to have for them as well as for attendees.

Step 2: Determine what keepsakes you want and how many

Once you have decided on what services you will have choose what type of keepsakes you want to distribute to attendees as well as what you want for yourself, family and those closest to your dear one. There are three factors to consider when choosing keepsakes:

  1. What keepsakes are those in your culture accustomed to having?
  2. What keepsakes do I want people to have that will pay tribute to the amazing legacy of my loved one?
  3. What keepsakes would be best displayed or distributed for each memorial event?

In some cultures attendees expect to have a Prayer Card or Bookmark, whereas others are open. Many look for Programs at the memorial service since it has an order of service as well as obituary. Other keepsakes like a Tribute Video that runs during the wake and repast or a Large Photo Collage to display are great ways to show a full and wonderful life lived. If you are having more than one type of service, such as a wake and memorial service, you may want to have a different keepsake for each service so that you do not run out.

When deciding on quantity estimate how many will attend each service and then add 25-50. Those extra cover you if more attend than you anticipate as well as provides keepsakes to send to family and friends out of state or country who cannot make the service. Keep in mind some may attend only one service, some may attend both, but all will want a keepsake at each service they attend. Running out of keepsakes is bad! It says that you underestimated how many people cared about your loved one and wanted to pay respect. We cannot tell you how many times families call us in a frenzy trying to get more during the service or after due to ordering less than what they anticipated. Many are not used to seeing keepsakes of our caliber and as a result take several for themselves and others. It’s better to have more than less.

Step 3: Gather content and pictures for your keepsakes

Overall it is best to have a variety of pictures in your keepsakes. It’s the pictures that aptly show their life, accomplishments and the ones they cared dearly for. Cherished Keepsakes’ design collections are created specifically with your pictures in mind. We will show them in an elegant and organized fashion sparking stories, laughter, reflection and bonding—exactly what a celebration of life should be! When gathering the content for your keepsakes consider the following factors.


The obituary is their life story, their highlights and achievements. It need not be dry, but reflective and even a bit amusing. When people read it they should say, or even laugh to themselves saying, “Yep, that’s exactly how they were.” Obituaries usually are 3–5 paragraphs in the following format:

  • Paragraph 1: Date of birth, location of birth, parents names, which one they were of their siblings (oldest, youngest, etc).
  • Paragraph 2: Where they went to school, any secondary schooling (college, graduate or trade) and what their occupation was.
  • Paragraph 3: Life accomplishments, hobbies, habits, things they personally enjoyed doing and aspects of their personality that defined them.
  • Paragraph 4: Whom they are survived by.

The obituary is not an autobiography. Treat it as a synopsis of key events in their life. If your obituary is too long it will have to be reduced in size in order to fit in the space provided. Smaller type is harder to read especially for older ones.

An important tip: do not misspell any names! People get extremely upset if their name is spelled wrong in the program because keepsakes are permanent. Spell check, spell check, spell check!


When it comes to the order of service as well as other aspects of the program be 100% sure that those whom are called upon or volunteer will do what is listed. Will they have the emotional strength to get through it? Will they be in attendance for the service? General rule, if you are unsure about who will do what during the service, leave it blank and those who will do it will get up at the appropriate time.

Below are some sample obituaries and orders of service you can use as a guide. Keep in mind the order of service varies by faith. Often your church or the pastor performing the service will have a template either in digital or print you can use.

Sample Obituary 1

Sample Obituary 2

Sample Obituary 3

Sample Order of Service (General)

Sample Order of Service (General With Name Participants)

Sample Order of Service (Catholic)

Sample Order of Service (Catholic With Name Participants)

Funeral Program Template (Blank With Section Titles)



Choose pictures that are balanced, meaning they aren’t dark or cracked since they won’t reproduce well. Older pictures, early childhood, sepia, family shots and pictures with stories behind them are best. If you do have one or two images that you want to include, but are ripped, cracked or otherwise damaged we might be able to retouch the photos here at Cherished Keepsakes just give us a call and let us know. Depending on the design collection you choose our keepsakes can accommodate more pictures than average. You can use the list below as a guide.


Poems, Prayers and Songs

These also vary by faith and culture, but choose ones that will help ease the grieving process. You can find a list of songs, prayers and poems you may want for your keepsakes on our Prayers, Poems, Songs & Scriptures page.

Overall, enjoy putting together a life story of your loved one. If you find that you are overwhelmed with producing the keepsakes you can download our Funeral Program Template and use it as a guide. You can also look at the samples in our Products page of how some families put together keepsakes for their loved one. Set up an appointment with us and we will discuss your specific needs. Do not hesitate to contact us for advice, suggestions and assistance in choosing the best keepsakes that will help you, family, friends and attendees gain greater comfort in the days to come.