What is a Celebration of Life
A Celebration of Life is a type of memorial service that allows family and friends to honor their loved one who has died, but in a more personal and non-traditional way. Instead of mourning the individual's death, guests celebrate the joy he or she brought into everyday living. A celebration of life service can look similar to a funeral or memorial, but the family can decide "the rules" of the service. If you are tasked with planning a memorial service, this type of informal memorial service can be a refreshing change to the typical stuffy and somber funeral service.
Planning a Celebration of Life Service
A celebration of life service is typically held in lieu of a memorial service after the deceased individual's burial or cremation although it is becoming more common to host this type of gathering in place of a traditional funeral. Instead of being a somber event, guests use this time to talk, laugh and share the good times they had with the person who died. See our article on planning a funeral for additional information.
Celebration of life services are either intimate with close family and friends or larger and include business colleagues and extended family members. The size depends on budget, as well as the personality and lifestyle of the deceased person.
The service is not typically convened in a church or funeral home, but rather an outdoor garden, rented hall or even a close family member's home. Some celebration of life services are also held at the beach or other favorite place of the one who died. It is assembled soon after the person died or weeks or months later when the timing is more convenient for out-of-town guests.
There are no set guidelines or rules to follow when planning a celebration of life service, although it typically is what you and your family are most comfortable with presenting. A religious officiant can preside over the service, which typically lasts for about an hour to 90 minutes, or host it yourself.
Celebration of Life Ideas/Simple Memorial Service Ideas
What you include in the celebration of life service is completely up to you, unless your loved one had specific instructions before he or she died. Listed below are some simple celebration of life ideas that can be useful for memorial service planning. A typical service may includes:
Speakers: Including the officiant, these presenters can talk about the deceased person's life, hobbies, work, etc.
Music: Live or recorded songs is appropriate and is usually a genre that the deceased person enjoyed. It is played sporadically or continuously throughout the service or only at the beginning (procession) and end (ressesional)
Poems and Readings: You can choose memorial poems, quotes, and a variety of other readings to recite at your service. You can also provide a printed version in funeral programs that may be distributed at the service.
Refreshments: Depending on the location of the service, guests can enjoy light refreshments or a catered meal. Callers may also gather at a nearby restaurant after the service.
Mementos: Scrapbooks, photo albums, video slideshow and personal items of the one who died are typically presented on memory tables and display boards. Check our our article on on Funeral Photo Display Ideas for more ways to display momentos and photos of your loved ones and for other celebration of life decoration ideas.
Memorial Booklet: A simple brochure or pamphlet outlining the celebration of life service is given to all who attend as a keepsake of the event. That is easily made by downloading templates from Elegant Memorials. We have several celebration of life wording templates to choose from.
Celebration of Life Decoration Ideas
Memory Table: Display photos, scrapbooks and personal items about your loved one. For example, if he or she was a member of the military, you can display the uniform, American flag, medals or commendations, pictures, discharge papers, letters, etc.
Video slideshow: Typically one of the more emotional aspects of a celebration of life service, a video slideshow outlining the deceased person's life is a beautiful sentiment to add to this event. Include childhood photos, as well as those showing your loved one at his or her best. Consider making copies of the slideshow to hand out to callers as a keepsake. See our article on Memorial Slideshow Videos for more information.
Memorial notecards: On colorful card stock or index cards, guests can write a note to the family or their favorite memory of the person who died. These are then placed in a special memory box or bag and kept for future generations to read.
Keepsakes - Funeral keepsakes are gifts or momentos distributed at memorial services or celebrations of life that help mourners remember their loved ones after the service is over. These keepsakes can include memorial bookmarks,memorial prayer cards, candles, charms, and many other trinkets. When you plan a memorial service, consider handing out some of these items to help make the service even more special.
Balloon release: Using biodegradable balloons, have guests launch them into the sky at the same time. This is a typical activity when celebrating the life of a child who died.
Lantern Release: Releasing paper lantern into the sky dates back ancient Eastern tradition of releasing Kongming laterns to help guide the spirits back to the grave. These paper lanterns can be purchased on the internet, and are reasonably priced.
Guestbook: As with typical funerals or memorial services, a guestbook is available for callers to sign.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to planning a celebration of life service. Be sure to keep the event in check with what your loved one would have wanted.
Celebration of Life Planning Links