When planning a funeral service, every element contributes to the overall funeral experience. From the funeral displays you see to mourners you hear expressing condolences, all five senses come into play: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
Author and grief counselor Alan Wolfelt discusses how the five senses help create meaningful and personalized funeral services in his book: Creating Meaningful Funeral Experiences: A Guide for Caregivers. We further explored this topic and how creating memorable funeral experiences helps those grieving begin the healing process.
Sense #1: Smell
Smell has a more powerful impact than you may think. The way something smells can instantly impact your mood and opinion about the situation. If the smell isn’t inviting or is displeasing, it automatically throws off the vibe. By implementing comforting and pleasing scents, you can help create a meaningful funeral experience.
Below are a few examples of comforting smells:
- Food and refreshments served at the post-funeral reception
- Floral arrangements
- Incense or candles
- Perfume or cologne
- Nature if it’s an outdoor funeral service
Sense #2: Taste
Taste come into play for the post-funeral reception. You want the food you serve to be tasty, comforting, and possibly bring back memories of their loved one’s cooking. By carefully planning out your post-funeral reception, you can create a menu that will not only taste good but stay with those grieving on an emotional level as they remember their loved one.
Below are a few examples of incorporating taste at the post-funeral reception:
- Tastiness of food
- Variety of food
- Memories of their loved one’s cooking
- Snacks, desserts, and candy
Sense #3: Touch
Touch not only is important for comforting those grieving but by touching funeral displays and other mementos, it helps those grieving come to terms with the reality of the situation. Moments like hugging your loved ones and holding the deceased’s mementos all come together to form a meaningful funeral experience and the beginning of the healing journey.
Below are a few examples of touch:
- The seating comfort level
- Touchable photo and memorabilia displays
- Register book and funeral program
- Therapy dogs
- The casket or urn
Sense #4: Sight
Sight is one of the most impactful senses, as there is so much to take in, especially at a funeral service. From the funeral displays and floral arrangements to mourners’ funeral attire and the funeral location, there is a lot for those grieving to see that impacts their funeral experience.
Below are a few examples of sight:
- Funeral décor, theme, and color scheme
- The deceased
- Lighting at the funeral location
- Cleanliness of the funeral location
- Funeral guests and their funeral attire
Sense #5: Sound
Lastly, sound is a crucial sense to consider when planning events like funerals. You want to take the time to pick the right songs, prayers, and readings for the service. But there are also sounds that can disrupt the funeral experience, such as a cell phone ringing. By carefully selecting the funeral music and readings and trying to eliminate negative sounds, you can help create a meaningful funeral experience.
Below are a few examples of sounds that can help make a funeral experience more meaningful:
- Funeral music, musicians, and singers
- Readings, eulogy, and prayers at the funeral service
- Tribute video in honor of the deceased
- Funeral guests expressing sympathy and sharing memories of the deceased
To limit the amount of negative sounds, consider asking guests to silence their phones. You might also want to provide an area where children can play, or where families can go with younger children who get fussy during the service.
What other ways can you incorporate the five senses in funeral planning? Share your ideas in the comments!