The Unitarian faith is a helpful model for what to expect at a memorial service. Most Unitarian members cremate their dead and they hold memorial services that are a celebration of life, scheduled at a date convenient for the family.
Their memorial services are personal with favorite music and readings. The families are very involved in their planning and they often share funny and poignant stories of the deceased. Attendees are invited to participate so if you attend and knew the deceased and have a story to share, your contribution is welcome.
It’s appropriate to show your respect and dress up for the memorial service in neutral colors. For women this means a dress, skirt or pants outfit and coat and tie for men.
What are you expected to do? Upon arriving at the service, sign the guest book. You can make a donation as requested by the family either before or after the service.
The bereaved family usually provides flowers for the sanctuary so you are not expected to send flowers. But you can check this out ahead of time to see what is appropriate. There is often a reception held in the social hall after the service. If you are a family member or close friend, you might offer to bring photos or something for the reception.
It’s up to the family on how they choose to handle the ashes. It might be a private affair or you might be invited while the family interns or scatters the ashes in a memorial garden.