How to Make a Traditional Funeral Memory Board

Learn how to create a meaningful traditional "analog" memory board

Funeral Memory Board
A traditional funeral memory board features meaningful, memorable images of the deceased. Photo © Chris Raymond

The increasing presence of memory boards during wakes/visitations, and funeral and memorial services, has mirrored rising consumer interest in personalizing end-of-life services for the past few decades. This article explains 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.

Items Needed for 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.

Please note that before making a traditional memory board for use at a loved one's wake/visitation, or funeral or memorial service, you should discuss this personalization option with your funeral director or provider, if he or she 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 48" x 36" paper poster board from a local office-supply store or "superstore," such as Target, Wal-Mart or Amazon.com, to provide enough display space, but numerous sizes are available. That said, it is not uncommon for families to use different materials, such as foam display boards, tri-fold poster boards, easel-pad sheets, cork board, dry-erase boards, corrugated cardboard, magnetic boards or even pieces of plywood cut to size.

As noted above, you should check with your funeral provider beforehand for a recommended size and how the memory board will be displayed. Ultimately, the underlying material you choose for your memory board is less important than what you will place upon it, so use whatever's convenient or least expensive, and don't stress about it.

Adhesive. Obviously, you're going to need some method of affixing photos to your display board, and common methods include glue, tape, pushpins, spray adhesives, old-fashioned photo corners, and 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.

Miscellaneous Items. Ideally, to help create a meaningful, memorable funeral memory board, you should label each image with the date/the year in which it was taken, if known. (Even "Circa 'XXXX'" or the approximate age of the deceased is better than nothing.) Therefore, you'll need a pen/permanent marker that works on the photograph's border or on some less-permanent labeling surface, such as removable tape, a sticky-note, etc.

In addition, some families decorate and/or enhance their funeral memory boards using glitter, colored paper, markers, balloons, or small personal mementoes, such as ribbons/medals, ticket stubs, matchbook covers, personal letters and correspondence, etc.

Photographs. Most families possess a shoebox stuffed with old photos, and this is the time to pull your old photographs out of the closet or from underneath the bed. Otherwise, if you or your loved ones harbor images on their smartphones, tablets, computers or other electronic devices, you should print copies of any digital image(s) you want to use. And don't forget to check social-media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, for suitable photographs.

How to Make a Traditional Memory Board

After gathering the necessary basic supplies above, the most challenging part of this project will undoubtedly prove selecting which images to include. For many families dealing with the forever-loss of a loved one, creating a funeral memory board is not a mundane funeral-personalization task but actually proves a significant, cathartic exercise that encourages/elicits the sharing of memories, stories and feelings at a difficult time.

Therefore, you should gather the needed materials and invite family members, friends and other close loved ones to help you select the images and/or create your memory board (assuming you feel up to it). You do not need to handle this project alone, and you will probably discover that family members, friends and others will eagerly assist, so you might consider making this an "event" by letting people know its purpose, asking attendees to locate possible images beforehand, and even providing food/beverages.

Once you have selected the photographs, the remaining steps in creating a funeral memory board are relatively easy: Affix your chosen images to your display board(s) using your chosen adhesive(s). 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. Then, you will need to deliver the memory board(s) to your funeral provider beforehand -- a task you can designate to someone else, if you wish.

If time constraints, not knowing the date of a particular photograph, which image(s) to feature and/or any other factor cause you stress that you're not doing something "right," then please don't worry about it. The purpose of a funeral memory board is purely to trigger memories and the sharing of personal stories by those viewing it, and to help 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 trigger fond memories and the sharing of personal stories by the deceased's family members, friends and other loved ones.

Related Articles You Might Like:
How to Prep for a Funeral Arrangement Conference
How to Plan a Funeral or Memorial Service
What is a "Personalized" Funeral?
How to Write/Deliver a Great Eulogy

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