The families of those killed in the Christchurch earthquake sat in silence yesterday as they watched footage of the fallen city that shattered their lives.

For some the heartbreak was clear to see as they bowed and shook their heads at the images, held each other and wrung their hands on their laps.

The 14-minute montage of footage taken amongst the rubble and destruction of the CBD where many people were killed was too much for one woman, who sat with her head in her hands looking at the ground throughout it.

More than 200 relatives of those killed in the February 22 quake sat together in a designated area in front of the main stage at the memorial service in Christchurch's Hagley Park.

They were dropped off at the area in police vans and carried yellow roses with them.

Some families did not attend as it was too soon for them.

Tracy Blackadder, whose sister, Amanda Uriao, was killed in the Canterbury Television building, said she watched the service on TV. "We just got out of town after Mandy's service ... for a break," she said.

"I think the service was quite helpful. It was probably a good thing for everyone. The way they [the speakers] spoke was very comforting. They all did a wonderful job."

One woman, whose son died in the quake, said the service was beautiful. "I thought it was really lovely," she said, not wanting her name published, to give her extended family privacy.

"I think everyone in Christchurch had mixed feelings as to whether it was too soon to have something like that, but I think any time is too soon. It will never bring my son back.

"But today it was good to know Christchurch was behind us."

Raemon Greenwood, who lost her parents, Earl and Beverley Stick, in the quake, said she couldn't bring herself to go to the service, having viewed her parents' bodies only in the past few days.

But she watched on television and found it "very poignant and very, very well done. I think a lot of people will find it very useful and now they can go forward."

The tens of thousands who attended the service came away having shed tears, but inspired by hopes of a brighter future for their earthquake-ravaged city.

Maureen Dixon, 64, from Christchurch, said the service was "wonderfully inspiring".

"It gave us all the hope and inspiration that we needed to get going again. I was very, very touched by a lot of what was said and particularly the care that people have shown."

Aleysha Knowles, now of Perth in Western Australia, used to work for Canterbury TV and has been back in Christchurch for the funerals of friends and former colleagues.

She said the service was very, very beautiful.

"It was really moving, but it was also giving a lot of people hope," she said. "It spoke about the future and rebuilding in Christchurch, which I think is important to the people who are here and will obviously stay here, because they need to now look forward."

Peter Haggett, 49, of Christchurch, said he doubted anyone would leave the service without a tear in their eye.

He said he and others would be leaving with mixed emotions.

"I think it's a tribute to those who have lost their lives and a way to thank the search and rescue guys, defence, police ... everybody.

"It's been a very emotional day for everyone."

Winna Harvey, 64, said the service was "very appropriate".

"I really loved all the different religions being up there - the different ways people look at things."