The passing of a dearly loved one is a difficult time for anyone. In a time of mourning, friends and family come together, sharing the grief, longing, and precious memories. No matter the religion, culture, or beliefs, funerals and memorial services are held as a way to pay tribute and respect the life of the person who has passed.
Generation after generation, a funeral or memorial service has been the go-to method. However, family members have recognized it as a somber affair, mainly focusing on mourning the loss of the deceased. It is a time to grieve the loss. For many, it is seen as a final goodbye.
In recent years, there has been a shift in how people are choosing to say goodbye. The traditional funeral service is no longer the only option available. Many families are now opting for a celebration of life instead!
Why Do We Have Celebrations of Life?
What exactly is a celebration of life? A celebration of life is just what it sounds like — a time to celebrate the life of the person who has passed away. This type of service is less focused on sadness and more on happy memories. It is a time to come together and share stories, laugh, and remember all the good times.
Why should we have a celebration of life service? Why is this method of remembering and paying tribute to a deceased loved one becoming more popular?
Traditional Funeral Services Can Be Too Upsetting
For many, the funerals have become difficult to get through. The passing of a beloved family member already brings forth a range of intense emotions. To then have to sit through a service where an individual’s physical remains are present and the focus is on mourning can be too much for some to handle.
A funeral service traditionally follows a specific order and format. This is an officiant — most commonly a pastor or a priest. Traditional funerals have the committal service commonly held at the cemetery, where the deceased’s body is cremated or buried after a respectful automobile procession. Prayers are led, readings shared, eulogies given, and final goodbyes are said.
Memorial services or traditional funeral services generally expect the grieving family and guests to sit quietly and listen to the funeral director and officiant, go through the very predictable funeral order, and cry until the committal service ends. It’s certainly not a party.
For many families, the traditional funeral order can be helpful in providing a sense of structure during such an emotionally chaotic time. However, for others, it can feel constricting and like they are going through the motions. There is always a somber feeling in the air, no matter how close you were to the deceased.
A Celebration of Life Is More Uplifting
A celebration of life service is a more upbeat and positive way to pay tribute to a loved one. It puts the emphasis on celebrating the life of the person who has passed away, bringing together the surviving family and caring friends. It is the only celebration where the focus is not on the person who is no longer with us, but on those of us who remain.
There is no formal service. Instead, there is sharing of fond memories, reminiscing all the good times, and celebrating a life lived well. A life celebration is more of a very personal story. It’s a remarkable celebration as it can be customized to reflect the individual’s unique personality.
For example, if the loved one was an avid fan of a certain sports team, friends and family could wear jerseys or t-shirts with that team’s logo. The sky’s the limit when it comes to personalizing life celebrations!
Celebrations of life services are a good approach to the emotional and spiritual needs of the bereaved family. It is like drinking in a loved one’s life rather than wallowing in their death. It is a step toward healing, closure, and acceptance.
A life celebration can take place anytime after the death of a loved one. It can be held on the same day as the funeral service or even weeks or months later. There is no set time frame for when a celebration of life should be held.
Celebration of Life Ideas
A celebration of life ceremony does not have to be serious. It can be as creative or traditional as you want it to be. Think of it as a hybrid event — part funeral, and part party. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Choose a Special Location
A celebration of life could be a place that was significant to the loved one or a place with special meaning to the family. Think of a venue that would be comfortable for everyone and that would reflect the loved one’s personality. Some popular locations for a celebration of life include:
- Family backyards
- Favorite restaurants
You can also get creative and hold the event in an unconventional location, like a bowling alley or roller skating rink. The options are endless for celebrating life!
Have a Theme and Plan the Program
Choose a theme that reflects your loved one’s interests, hobbies, or personality characteristics. For example, if they loved the beach, you could have a Hawaiian-themed celebration. The program for a celebration of life should be unique, just like the person being honored.
You can include anything that you feel would be meaningful to the guests. Here are some popular ideas:
- Photo slideshows
- Video tributes
- Live music
- Poetry readings
- Remembrance tables
Any combination of the above works! You can release butterflies after a dinner party or anything that pays tribute to your loved one. The key is to ensure that the celebration of life service is personal and reflective of the life of the individual being honored!
Invite Close Family and Friends
A celebration of life is a more intimate gathering, so you’ll want to invite only those who were closest to the loved one. A celebration of life is a time to celebrate and remember the life of a family member or a friend, so you’ll want those who knew them best to be in attendance.
Moreover, even before the celebration of life service, you can reach out to those who will be attending and ask them to help you with the planning. This will not only take some of the burdens off of you, but it will also help to ensure that the event is truly reflective of the life of your loved one. Planning an event like this can be difficult, so it’s important to have the support of close family and friends.
Send Out Invitations
The invitations for a celebration of life should be just as distinct as the loved one’s unique personality! Invitations should make people look forward to the event, not feel sad about it. Include all the important details, and most importantly, don’t forget to include an RSVP card, so you can get an accurate headcount for food and drinks!
Serve Special Food and Drinks
No celebration is complete without food and drink! There are no rules when it comes to what to serve. You can go with tradition and have a sit-down meal, or you can keep it casual with finger foods and appetizers. Don’t forget about dessert!
When it comes to drinks, you can stick with water, tea, and coffee, or you can get creative and serve cocktails or mocktails that reflect the theme of the event. Personalize the celebration of life with everything your loved one used to enjoy. Even food and drinks can spark conversation about happy memories!
Select Significant Music
Music can be such an important part of any celebration, and a celebration of life is no exception. You’ll want to choose music that was significant to the loved one or that reflects their personality. You can prepare a meaningful playlist ahead of time, or you can hire a band or DJ to get everyone enjoying the music!
Have Fun and Celebrate
Life is precious, so take this opportunity to celebrate everything that made your loved one’s life special. A life ended, but that doesn’t mean the memories have to end, too. Use this time to create new memories with those who were closest to the individual being honored. Final prayers and goodbyes can wait until after the party!
Celebrations of life give you the freedom to cope with your loss the way that feels right for you, and they allow you to honor your loved one in the most personal way. You can explore many celebration of life ideas and get creative with the planning because — unlike very traditional funerals where there are the same funeral service options — celebrations of life services are unique to each individual.
By following these simple tips, you can plan the perfect life celebration for your dearly loved one. You can take comfort in knowing that you’re not saying goodbye, but rather you’re celebrating all the happy memories that you shared together.
Celebration of Life Service: An End Does Not Have To Be Somber
Some people may find comfort in the structure of a funeral service. Others may feel that it does not reflect the personality of their deceased loved one. If you find the traditional service to be too difficult to get through emotionally, you have another option.
Some families may choose to follow tradition and hold a memorial service in a funeral home, followed by a life celebration, or they may opt for one or the other. There is no right or wrong decision — it is entirely up to you. Do what feels right for you and your family! There is no set rulebook on how to do things. The most important thing for celebrations of life ceremonies is to focus on the life that was lived and honor the memory of your loved one in a way that is comfortable for everyone involved.
No matter how you choose to celebrate your loved one’s life, it must bring comfort and peace to those who are grieving. A celebration of life is a beautiful way to remember a beautiful life. It is an end to final goodbyes!