Ideas for Holding a Celebration of Life Ceremony

May 27, 2021  - by 

Around the world, celebrations of life are taking the place of traditional funerals. While funerals are more somber and focus on memorializing the deceased, celebrations of life, as the name implies, take a more celebratory tone, as the focus is on the life of the individual. 

How does a celebration of life differ from a funeral? 

Celebration of life ceremonies and traditional funerals may look similar, or they may look very different. They have some things in common but vary in the following ways: 

Celebration of Life Ceremony Traditional Funeral 
Can be held anytime after the passing of the deceased, even up to a year later. Usually held within days or weeks of the passing of the deceased. 
The body of the deceased has already been buried or cremated. The body of the deceased is present and out for viewing during the ceremony. 
Mourners may wear a more casual attire and even favorite colors of the deceased. Funerals around the world will typically have a mourning color for their attire, often black or another dark color. 
Has no traditional venue or schedule of events. Usually held in a funeral home, church, or other religious location. 

Funerals Around the World 

A traditional funeral is greatly influenced by the culture and religion of a given area or people. In North America, a traditional funeral may include a viewing, the funeral service, and a committal service held at the gravesite. Attendees often wear black or dark colors.  

In Hindu regions, mourners may wear white to symbolize purity. Part of a funeral service held in many Asian countries may include a wakeprofessional mourners, a funeral service, and more than one memorial service over a lengthy period of time. 

Some African nations consider wearing red an appropriate color choice. Their funeral services may include a procession through the streets with music and dancing. 

A Celebration of Life 

A celebration of life ceremony will also be influenced by the culture and religion of a given area or people. In addition, celebration of life ceremonies can be done in a less religious fashion which is appealing to those who do not affiliate themselves with any one religion or denomination.  

Because a celebration of life is often held after the remains of the deceased are buried or cremated, this type of ceremony can be held any time after the passing of the individual. It allows for more time to plan a special event. Some families hold celebrations of life up to a year after the death of their loved one. This is especially helpful for those who are struggling with the process of grief and loss.

There are no hard or fast rules for a celebration of life ceremony. Instead, the event can be individualized to the wants of the deceased or their family members. 

There is an air of liveliness at this type of end-of-life event, and it is a time to share stories, laugh, and remember the things that made our loved ones important to us. 

What do you do at a celebration of life? 

collection of photographs of a woman at her celebration of life ceremony.

As stated above, celebrations of life are unique to an individual and may not include any religious rites. For this reason, it may be held in a restaurant, a park, or other unique venue. Attendees may be asked to dress in a special theme or color; consider jerseys or team colors of the loved one’s favorite sports team. You may be asked to participate by sharing a story, singing along to a favorite song, or even playing a game! 

A celebration of life often includes food or refreshments that the deceased enjoyed while living. You may also enjoy live music, videos, pictures, and displays. 

You may send flowers to a family who is having a celebration of life ceremony. You may send it to their home or directly to the venue if appropriate.  

At this event, it is appropriate to laugh, cry, share funny or special stories, and engage in activities. Just as its name implies, a celebration of life is meant to be a joyous celebration. 

Ideas for a Celebration of Life Ceremony 

Woman holding photograph of her and her loved one together.
  • Hold a celebration walk, bike ride, or run, in honor of the deceased 
  • Choose a location that has special meaning to your loved one 
  • Make a quote board of funny sayings or favorite quotes the loved one used 
  • Decorate the venue in the deceased’s favorite color, and have guests wear that color 
  • Light lanterns or candles to honor the deceased 
  • Create a video slideshow to show the highlights of your loved one’s life 
  • Play favorite games by leaving them on tables for the guests to play 
  • Create a memorial hashtag, and share your celebration on social media 
  • Serve favorite dishes and treats of your loved one to guests 
  • Hand out a special memento or keepsake to attendees 

Have you planned or attended a celebration of life ceremony for a family member? If you have, consider writing about the details of the event and your feelings as you remembered your loved one. You can share your story and pictures of the event to the memories section of the FamilySearch Family Tree for all to enjoy. 

Amie Tennant

Amie Bowser Tennant is a genealogy researcher, writer and presenter.She writes blog articles and other content for many top companies and societies in the genealogy field. Her most treasured experience is working as a consultant for family history. Amie lives with her husband and three children in Ohio, surrounded by many of her extended family.

Latest posts by Amie Tennant (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

  1. Our family has held both celebration of life ceremonies in combination with a funeral as well as separate from the funeral. When my wife passed away in 2003, we held a separate celebration of life in another state where she was well known. At my mother’s wake, to which we refer as a “viewing”, as well as at her funeral, I had several clip boards and pencils available. I encouraged those attending to write a memory of my mother. That exercise produced some of the most beautiful things ever said about her which I cherish to this day.