It is an honor to help plan and cater a memorial. My roll allows the family to process their goodbyes and know that the details are being taken care of in the best way possible. With some direction from the family and personal insight on the guest of honor, I go to work so they don’t need to. I keep the focus on what is important: family, spending time together and honoring the loved one.
Here are some highlights of a recent Beverly Hills Memorial of a “Southern Bell” and longtime resident of Beverly Hills and an overview of how to plan a somewhat traditional memorial in Los Angeles.
I schedule the regular housekeeper for a thorough house cleaning including all guests rooms so visiting family member might stay over. I make sure she is scheduled the full day-of as well for prep, keeping things tidy during the memorial and making sure the home is back to normal after guests leave. I have the landscape groomed and new flowers planted along the walk way up to the house. I fill the home with fresh flowers, and include the loved one’s favorites. Don’t forget to add small arrangements in the bathrooms. My favorite florist is Jacob at Bells and Whistles Couture Floral Design
This was a Jewish Shivah memorial, so I set up a small table with a pitcher of water and a large shallow bowl outside the front door with quality disposable towels and a small wastebasket. It is traditional for guests to wash their hands upon returning from the cemetery, symbolically washing away the burial and entering the remembering of a life.
Memorial Catering should be kept simple but elegant. Deli platters are common because they are just that, simple, easy, tasty and guests can build as they wish. I encourage others to add to the food table, it’s an honor for them to add to the love in the form of food. I make sure some items are added to the menu that reflect the life of the memorialized. In this case the guest of honor was a southern gal, so we had home-baked mini cornbread muffins and honey butter on the buffet. My favorite memorial caterer is LeAnne at L.A. Spice. A good basic Deli Platter can be ordered from Nate’n Al of Beverly Hills too.
I encourage the host to bring out their best china, silver and platters out because if there ever was a case to use “good plates”, this is it. I book the regular housekeeper to stay on throughout the day to wash the family platters with care and return them to their place.
I set up a table honoring the loved one with photos looking back at their life and accomplishments. I add any special awards or honors, photos of children, beloved pets.
I add very low mellow or classic background music, nothing sad or too celebratory. A trio or quartet of classic musician is also an option if the musicians play low.
The majority of guests will come after the burial service but It’s best to treat this as an “open house” where guests come when they like and leave when they like. I my client requests it, we have remembrance favors at the door as guests leave. These are keepsakes that will remind the guests of the loved one’s life and their time with family and friends at the memorial. Here are a few of the remembrance favors we have offered.
As guests gather, hug each other, enjoy a plate of food, the love and memories begin. This is the time to share stories and experiences of life with the loved one. Many stories will be told over and over and over. I accept this with a smile and know this is how we keep our loved ones a life. The coming together of hearts and memories and the breaking of bread together in the name of a passed loved one is one of the great events of life.