After our most recent beach remembrance ceremony for October 15th I received many emails and fb messages asking me to share ideas on how to hold a ceremony. I received so many emails that I was unable to reply everyone so I decided to write a guideline to help inspire others to hold a remembrance ceremony in their own town.
Most people think that holding an event would just be too hard – too expensive and really just not possible unless you are a large charity – not true! You can do it! I found the idea of holding an event so daunting and at my first one I was so very nervous! But it was amazing and I am now completely comfortable hosting ceremonies.
The following is just a guideline it can be changed to suit a ceremony with only 10 people to one with 100 people.
Get help! Ask your closest friends and family to help you host this event. Only ask those who you can truly rely on. You cannot pull this off by yourself – trust me! You will need people to:
- Take photos
- Welcome people
- Play the music at specific times
- Bring Food
- Speak at the ceremony (because this is such an emotional event you will need back up readers)
- Help you set up and clean up afterwards (allow a couple of hours to fully set up)
- Someone with first aid knowledge (also bring a first aid kit with you to the event)
Where will you hold the event? I usually hold my events outdoors and usually at the beach. There is quite a risk in holding an event outside. If the weather turns nasty, you may have to cancel your event which would be such a shame! It is always a good idea to have a plan B. So have a good think about it! You could contact your local council or church to see if they could help you out with a venue that would be suitable.
Once you have sorted out your volunteers and venue you need to invite people. You need to work out whether or not you will allow children to attend your ceremony. Facebook is a great way to spread the word and you can create events on there as well. You need to ask people to RSVP by a certain date and get them to email you with how many people they will be bringing with them. Make sure that if you are holding your event outdoors that you inform everyone that the event is weather permitting. You may also want to ask them to bring chairs and a blanket to sit on. I always recommend that you provide a supper or morning tea with water and juice. Sometimes tea and coffee can be just too hard to organize if you do not have power at your event. Ask your friends and family to bring a plate of food with them, don’t plan to bring food yourself as on the day you will not have the time! Trust me!
MUSIC AND MICROPHONES
If you are expecting more than 30 people it is a good idea to organize an amp and microphone. Check to see if the venue where you are holding your ceremony has these supplies as it will save you the expense of hiring them. If they don’t maybe ask around your friendship group and see if anyone can loan you an amp and microphone.
Music is such an integral part of your ceremony. You will need to have a portable stereo or battery operated ipod/phone docking station. (don’t forget to charge batteries fully before your event!) Spend a Sunday afternoon looking for the perfect pieces for your ceremony. Youtube the score music from your favourite movies. At the events I host I play music throughout the entire ceremony. Mostly instrumental pieces. I have them playing in the background softly. The following pieces below you can listen to through youtube. If you like any of them have a search on itunes for them. And if you don’t have itunes….. seriously consider getting it!
I recommend having a song with lyrics played for a time of reflection in your ceremony. Starchild by Lucinda Drayton is a PERFECT choice! Just listen to the lyrics!
Some other pieces that you could play throughout the ceremony are:
- Romantic Flight from How To Train Your Dragon
- Now We Are Free from Gladiator
- Brian Eno’s Suite from The Lovely Bones
- Jake’s First Flight from Avatar
- Bella’s Lullaby from Twilight
- My Name Is Lincoln from The Island (my personal fave)
You cannot go wrong with any of the above songs.
Choose a theme for your ceremony. I always have a beach theme, star fish, seashells, mermaids and driftwood. I choose natural colour tones. Other themes that could work are Butterflies or Dragonflies, Flowers or Stars. You can incorporate your theme throughout the ceremony from your memory table to your ceremony booklets.
Avoid harsh fluorescent lights. Go for fairy lights and candles they will create a truly magical atmosphere. If you have some pretty lamps from home bring them too for some extra light. People will prefer a dimly lit room or area in this sort of circumstance.
MEMORY WALL AND TABLE
At the beginning of the ceremony as you welcome people in, invite them to place their mementos onto the table. They might bring a photo of their baby or a blanket or teddy bear. To create a magical table decorate the table with some special things from home. You could place a special painting or photograph up. Candles are a lovely warm touch too. The photos above was taken of my memory table and wall in my studio.
All you need is a large vase and some broken branches from a tree. Decorate the tree to suit your theme. For example hang butterflies throughout the tree or place seashells or flowers at the base of the vase.
REMEMBRANCE TREE TAGS
These are so easy to make. You will need to visit your local art or scrap booking supply store and pick up some yarn, tiny wooden pegs and some card paper. All you need to do is cut up some card paper (doesn’t have to be really thick just the next step up from your normal sheet of paper) punch a hole at the end of the tag and thread the yarn through. If you have chosen to go with pegs you can just place a peg on each piece of card. If you are expecting a large turn out you may want to make both so that the name tags all fit on the tree. To pretty the tags up you may want to add some sort of sticker or transfer, maybe even a stamp. Little stars or butterflies could work really well. Go with something from your theme. When people arrive at you event have someone designated to direct them to the table to write their babies names on the tags and place them up on the tree.
Where them! That way people can see who is running the event. Go for the plastic sleeve ones that have a pin or clip on the back. Your plain old sticker ones will peel off. You can usually find these name tags in news agencies.
If children will be attending your event it would be lovely to have something there for them. Because all my events are usually at the beach or outdoors we always have fairy dust and bubbles. You can never go wrong with bubbles!
We used to hold balloon releases but after researching what happens to the balloons after they are let go we have made the decision to no longer hold balloon releases. People like to also do lantern releases although you may want to do some research first as they are illegal in some states die to them being a fire hazard. You could also organize a butterfly release but please note that they can be very expensive. If your ceremony is on the beach you can bring baskets of petals for families to throw into the sea.
If you are speaking at the ceremony you may feel completely overwhelmed before you start. Take deep breaths. Be confident – you are amazing and you can so do this! Use a big clear voice and don’t race through your words. Don’t be embarrassed if your emotions come to the surface. Everyone will understand. This is not a ”happy” event. Make sure you have back up people to read for you
If you can make up booklets of your ceremony proceedings, they don’t have to be greatly detailed just include all of the steps that the ceremony will take. One sheet folded in half should be more than enough.
When people arrive have someone greet them. Get that person to write down the names of their babies who are being remembered so that those names can be read aloud during the ceremony, make this an option to the family, not everyone may wish to have their child’s name read out. Invite people to come and place their mementos up on the memory table when they arrive. If you are in a hall or church you may want to let people light tea light candles.
While you are waiting for people to arrive hand out the bubbles to the children to keep them occupied. Once everyone has arrived welcome everyone to the ceremony and introduce yourself and your helpers.
- Light the Remembrance Candle
- Speak about October 15th and how it began.
- Read a poem
- Read out all of the children’s names that are being remembered.
- Play a song for a time of reflection
- Release balloons or butterflies
- Read another poem or piece of writing
- Close the ceremony and invite people to stay for some supper.
THANK YOU GIFTS
Depending on how many people are attending your ceremony you may want to consider sending everyone home with a small thank you gift. In the past my girlfriends and I have made these little Hope Treasures (pictured above) they are a sweet idea but if you are having a very large turn out they could end up being a little pricey. A simple thank you for attending card will be enough, you could include a beautiful poem with it.
It is sometimes lovely to have a table with support group and business information on it for the people attending you event to take home with them. Choose business’and charities that you yourself would support.
And your done! I hope this guideline has sparked some ideas in your heart for your own October 15th Ceremony. Be brave… and just do it!