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How to Create a Celebration of Life for Someone Lost

The next time you attend a funeral, don’t be surprised if it more closely resembles the last wedding you went to than the somber farewell you bid your grandfather years ago. Funeral services have evolved from formal, structured ceremonies with little or no information regarding the life of the deceased to a personalized celebration of a life remembered. What Is a Celebration of Life? A celebration of life is a memorial service that is typically held after one’s remains have been cremated, buried or otherwise cared for. The key to turning a funeral into a celebration of life is planning a customized gathering that is representative of the decedent’s personality and honors their achievements. Nearly every component of the event can be personalized these days, including the readings, music, displays, décor, venue and food.

Celebration of Life Examples Here is a small sampling of how some recent funerals were tailored to honor decedents’ unique lives:

  • At a funeral for a well-known concert pianist, a family opted to have a Steinway and Sons piano moved to the gallery of the funeral home. The florist created a huge spray of white flowers cascading from the strings of the piano onto a large carpet of flowers surrounding the instrument.

  • Another family brought in items related to the decedent’s work as a professional horseman for his visitation. Saddles, boots, numerous bales of hay, partial fence structures and even a live horse in a make-shift corral transformed the funeral home into a fitting tribute to a passionate equestrian.

  • For the funeral of an avid huntsman, the florist turned the funeral home chapel altar into a hunting blind. The deceased’s beloved hunting dogs were nearby, standing in hunting position.

  • The funeral service for a cycling enthusiast displayed the decedent’s road bike and cycling medals next to the casket. At the cemetery, members from his cycling club escorted the hearse carrying his casket from the cemetery gates to the gravesite on their bicycles.

Celebration of Life Ideas While the examples above may strike some as peculiar, these personalized memorials are warmer, more intimate gatherings that encourage family and friends to reflect on the whole person and all the things they enjoyed in life rather than focus solely on their absence. Personal touches coupled with a less formal atmosphere also help funeralgoers feel more comfortable with sharing memories of the decedent.

Surprisingly, if you type into your favorite search engine "Celebration of Life Ideas", Pinterest comes up with an amazing array of ideas. Perhaps this is something you, your loved one preparing for their end-of-life, and your family can utilize to plan for the Celebration of Life

An increasing number of people are interested in having their surviving loved ones gather for an event that is festive and healing instead of merely solemn. But many are left wondering how to plan a celebration of life. Fortunately, there is no one right way to do so since these memorials can be extensively customized.

Other elements can personalize a funeral service in addition to themes and creative décor. For example, music at a funeral service is not strictly limited to religious hymns. Funeral song selection can and should include the decedent’s favorite music. Photographs can easily personalize a service as well. Today it is commonplace to feature not only photographs but also video tributes during a visitation. Favorite religious passages, prayers, poems and other written works can be read at the service or printed in programs for an added personal touch as well. Many families also choose to host receptions after the service, either at the funeral home, in the family’s home or at a favorite venue, such as a restaurant or park. These gatherings can be formal or extremely casual and usually include food and drink and sometimes entertainment. Receptions can be easily personalized with the decedent’s favorite music, activities, foods and beverages. Many are hosted pot-luck style these days to minimize the pressure and expense on surviving family and help guests feel more involved. The bottom line is that funeral services are changing to meet the needs of a generation that has different ideas about life and death. You, and those you care for, can expect more and demand more from the funeral planning process. Making a plan in advance is the best way to ensure that one’s memorial service matches their personality and preferences.

How Long Should a Celebration of life Last?

There is no set time limit on how long a celebration of life should last. The amount of time it will take is different for everyone, depending largely on their age, life, and whether they have any grieving children. When it comes to how long celebrations of life should last, it really depends on the person who has passed away.

First and foremost, you need to know what your loved one would have wanted. If they didn’t want a huge party, don’t do it. If they did, go all out.

A List of Ideas

These memorial ideas to personalize and make your loved one's Celbration of Life a little bit unique – just like your loved one.

  1. Take the time to write a beautiful eulogy

  2. Get a beautiful cremation urn

  3. Hand out memorial favors to those who attend, such as the person's favorite recipe or seed pack of their favorite flowers

  4. Create a video or photo montage set to their favorite song

  5. Livestream the service for those who cannot attend

  6. Display a custom portrait in place of or in addition to the traditional photograph

  7. Decorate with symbols of their favorite pastime, e.g., in the colors of their favorite sports team, or herbs and foliage for an avid gardener

  8. Serve their favorite food or treat at the reception

  9. Use “My special memory of you” cards to have people write down a favorite memory or story

  10. Have attendees bring a recipe to create a memorial cookbook

  11. Take pictures of projects the loved one helped with

  12. Collect photos for a scrapbook

  13. Ask for quotes that remind people of your loved one

  14. Have stones, wood tags, quilt squares, or Jenga blocks available for people to sign and write a message, then use them to create a memorial

  15. Set up a memory board for people to add their own photos, notes, memories, and condolences

  16. Fill a time capsule with notes, photos, and memorabilia; the burial can be a part of the service or a separate event

  17. Give out flower seed packets as funeral service favors, which crowdsources the spread of blossoms in memory of your loved one

  18. Name a star in their memory

  19. Ask family and friends to share a quote that represents your loved one and create a Quote Board

  20. Start a Book Club with family and friends in your loved one’s honor. Read their favorite genres, authors, or inspirational books.

By focusing the funeral service on thins, the decedent enjoyed, and the experiences shared throughout their life, it encourages storytelling and discussion, which is an excellent way to preserve family memories. In some instances, these conversations may allow the family to learn special things about their late loved one that they may have never known otherwise.

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