Celebration of life funerals tend to focus on the life that someone lived, their legacy and happy memories, but that doesn’t mean they’re not also an occasion for tears of sadness that someone’s gone.
In recent years, more and more people are seeking to break from tradition and opt for a colourful celebration of life funeral, with lots of personal touches. What is a celebration of life? Although many people still prefer the sombre dignity of a traditional funeral or religious funeral rites, a celebration of life is an alternative way of saying goodbye to a loved one.
Is a celebration of life funeral non-religious?
A celebration of life isn’t necessarily secular: For people of many faiths, a funeral is a celebration of sorts. It’s occasion for mourners to give thanks for a life that’s been lived – and hope that their soul has journeyed onto a better place. Songs of praise and uplifting music may well be a part of a more contemporary religious funeral service. A pastor or religious minister may able to advise on the steps you can take to include elements of faith within a celebration of life
Celebration of life funerals are, though, a way for many people who were not religious, to personalise some’s funeral in a way that’s meaningful to them. You might choose for a civil funeral celebrant to host a non-religious funeral, or a Humanist funeral.
Planning a celebration of life
Whether you are planning your own funeral, or a loved one, a celebration of life reflects on how someone will live on, in the hearts and minds of others. For some who are close to the end of their lives, it’s a comfort to talk with loved ones about a ‘happy’ funeral’ and celebration of their life that will include wonderful memories and smiles, as well as tears. A celebration of life may be part of non-religious funeral, which includes a service and a committal – the person’s burial or cremation – all in one day. Or it may be a special memorial you plan in the days and weeks after a lower-key funeral; giving many people the opportunity to play a part in remembering the life of the person who has died. If you’re intrigued by this way of saying goodbye, here’s a host of celebration of life funeral ideas to inspire you.
Who can help me arrange a celebration of life?
What do you do at a celebration of life?
So long as it’s legal, it’s up to you. If you’re the person organising a celebration of life funeral, you’ll need to think about the elements that would have mattered most to them. It’s also good to be mindful of the wishes of other members of the family – a funeral is not just a farewell, but an important first step in the grieving process.
Would your loved one have wanted people to sing, or dance, hit the surf or have a barbecue? Be sure to include details ahead of time, so that other people know what to expect; a celebration of life dress code can be very different from a traditional funeral.
If you are a mourner or guest, take your lead from the family and celebrant – and go with the flow.
Where can you hold a celebration of life funeral?
When you’re organising a celebration of life, you can take advantage of a location provided by your funeral home, or include other venues as part of the day. It could be that, after you’ve arranged for the burial or cremation itself, you’d prefer the celebration of life ceremony itself to be in a place of special significance.
Alternative funerals can take place after someone has been cremated and include the committal or dispersal of their ashes. If your loved one was a passionate gardener for instance, a park or botanic garden might be fitting for their celebration of life party, where you could arrange for mourners to release butterflies.
You can also host a celebration of life at your own home or in the local community hall or even pub. Just like any social gathering, as long as there is enough space to host the people you’ve invited, a celebration of life can be held almost anywhere.
Who can conduct a celebration of life funeral?
A celebration of life may be a more informal kind of funeral, but you’ll need someone officiate at the service. For this, you’ll need a celebrant to lead the proceedings and introduce the other people taking part in the funeral ceremony.
For non-religious celebrations of life, there are many civil celebrants who can help you create an order of service that reflects your loved one’s life and interests.
A member of the family could even officiate.
Spreading the word about a celebration of life
It’s helpful to include details of the celebration of life funeral in your loved one’s obituary. While it’s unusual to send out invitations to traditional funerals, you may want to invite people to a celebration of life or get other people to spread the word on social media.
Include details about any dress code or particular colour you’d like for people to wear, any special requests and the kind of atmosphere you are hoping to create, to remember this special person by.
Is there an order of service at a celebration of life funeral?
The order of service depends entirely on the elements you’d like to include at the celebration of life. Like a traditional funeral, you may want to include music and singing, funeral poems and speeches about the person who has died.
An alternative funeral could be an opportunity to play their favourite music, or for people to dance.
A life celebration might be centered around a cavalcade of motorbikes doing a ‘last blast’ in their honour, the release of doves, or even a Viking funeral.
Who will speak at the life celebration?
Just like any funeral, it’s a good idea to include several speakers at the celebration of life. A more informal funeral venue could mean there are fewer time limits, giving more people the opportunity to share things they’d like to say.
It’s good to include a eulogy which expresses their best qualities, highlights of their life story and how much they will be missed.
There are lots of poems for funerals and funeral songs and even quotes about death, life and love that can add a personal touch to a celebration of life. Some people choose to have an ‘open mic’ for any guests to stand up and share a memory of the person who has died.
Celebration of life ideas
Plant a memorial tree: A tree-planting ceremony is an enduring way to memorialise a loved one by and also benefits the environment. A memorial tree provides a physical location for family and friends to visit a loved one in years to come.
Have a barbecue: If your loved one was an easy-going character who enjoyed a social gathering with good food and drink, a barbecue may be an ideal tribute to commemorate their life. It’s a fitting way to gather friends and family to remember happy memories.
Dedicate a star: Gift companies offer fun packages that include a certificate with a dedication date, telescopic coordinates, and your loved one’s name. Gather family and friends together to celebrate your loved one’s life in an after-dark party where you look out for their star twinkling in the night sky.
Butterfly release: Some people choose release butterflies as a beautiful farewell to someone: You can find companies online that specialise in butterflies suited to your local area.
Pick a theme: A Viking-style celebration of life funeral could be a spectacular send off, while Star Wars has influenced the life celebrations of a number of fans. A celebration of life could also be based around singing and music, or a hobby or interest that they loved in life.
Memory cards: Ask your celebration of life guests to write their favorite memory of the person who died on a note card. These cards can then be kept in a memory box for future generations of the family to read.
Swap black for bright colours: Make your celebration of life service a little brighter by incorporating colour into it. You may ask guests to dress in the person’s favourite colours or personalise floral funeral tributes or decorate the hearse in their favourite hues.
Make a memory board or photo display: Create a collage of your loved one’s life by displaying a board filled with photos and memorabilia highlighting their hobbies, interests and achievements – ask people to bring their own photos to add.
Serve their favourite food and drink: If your loved one was known for being a foodie or enjoyed a good party, celebrate their life by serving their favourite things to eat and drink at the reception or wake.
Make a video montage: If you have home videos of your loved one, you could put these (or a collection of photos) into a montage, which can be displayed at the celebration of life funeral service.
Play their music: More people are choosing a joyful way to say goodbye by playing their favourite music or even getting a live band to play at the wake.
- Give them an unforgettable send off: If the celebration of life is for someone who has been cremated, their cremation ashes scattering could be central to their alternative funeral. From shooting them into space, to heading out to sea, there’s a host of amazing and personalised options for scattering ashes.
Hand out memorial gifts
Memorial gifts are a great celebration of life idea, giving people something to take away after the ceremony that reminds me them of the person who has died.
Seed packets so that mourners can grow flowers in your loved one’s memory.
Repurposing funeral flowers as a small posy that can be taken home by guests.
Handing out bookmarks with your loved one’s photo and favourite quote.
Giving away their favourite books with a memorial sticker on the inside cover
- A memorial candle or magnet with your loved one’s photo.