There are so many details that go into planning a Celebration of Life.  At a time when emotions and stress are high, and timeframe is tight, the planning process can become overwhelming. Make the process a little smoother–see how to plan a Celebration of Life in 5 steps.

How to Plan a Celebration of Life in 5 Steps 


1. Guest List

First things first—get your guest list down and determine how you’ll notify them. You’ll need to have an estimate of how many people will attend so you can pick the right location and set up an accurate budget.


2.  Budget 

Budget will dictate where the Celebration of Life will be held and which activities it will include. It’s best to itemize your wish list to easily see which things may need to get cut if your spend starts looking too high.

There are always options for cutting your budget down, especially if you expect over 300 attendees at your event. For example, consider cutting a full menu and opt for serving light snacks and beverages instead. You can also set up a crowd fundraising campaign with sites like, to help offset some of the costs during your difficult time.


3. Time & Place

Your venue location will primarily be determined by your budget and the estimated number of attendees. It also helps to pick a place that holds special meaning for your loved one, like a beach, park, church or reception hall, or even a backyard for a small event.


4. Pick a Theme & Personalize

A theme makes for a cohesive event. When adding personal touches to your event, consider the décor, food, event activities and keepsakes.

A. Décor 
  • You can decorate or incorporate a theme based on a hobby, ethnicity, spirituality, or profession.
  • A memory table is also a great way to decorate your event–having photos and memorabilia placed out for all to see allows you to decorate with meaning and value.
  • Flowers are a common decorative element at any event, and they also help add significance to a Celebration of Life. Most choose a color or type of flower that was favored by the deceased.Flowers can be used traditionally (as décor at the venue) or in a more unique manner (such as spelling out the name of your memorialized loved one). For unique ideas on what to do with the flowers after the ceremony (jewelry, charms or keychains), check out our add-on services.
B. Food

If you have the budget for food, make a menu based on your loved one’s favorite meal or type of food. See how your food can be incorporated into your theme.

C. Activities 

There are many different activities to include in a Celebration of Life, which can help attendees feel comfortable and aid in the grieving process.

  • Releases are an inclusive and uplifting activity and act somewhat as group therapy in letting go. Balloons, doves, butterflies, and lanterns are common items used during a therapeutic release.
  • Reception activities help bring everyone together in remembrance. Depending on the theme and décor, and taking your loved one’s personality and interests into account, you can set up an activity for everyone to partake in.
  • Memory trees, where attendees can write and tie messages onto the tree, is an easy activity to include.  You can do the same thing with stones. Another option is including your loved one’s favorite hobby, such as wine tasting, golfing, cooking, crafting, candle making, etc. into the event celebration.
D. Keepsakes 

Consider if you’d like to have memorable keepsake items at your event. Programs are a nice keepsake item from a Celebration of Life, so make sure you put some time into making these, and include a lot of photos.

You can also have other items available to give away at the end of the event, such as candles, seed packets, and bookmarks, to help guests remember the special day dedicated to an amazing life that was lived.

5. Ceremony Set-up

Various levels of planning will be needed based on your desired theme and personalization efforts. Here are a few things that need to be accounted for before the Celebration of Life to ensure the event goes smoothly.

A. Officiant

Even if your Celebration of Life does not hold religious significance, you’ll need a ceremony officiant to lead the event, introduce speakers and be responsible for running the ceremony.

B. Speakers

Decide on a few speakers beforehand. Have family or friends who wish to speak prepare before the event—having an open mic often becomes too chaotic.

C. Eulogy

If you wish to have a eulogy, decide who presents it and at what part of the ceremony it will take place.

D. Readings

Readings add meaning to a celebration of life. See if you’d like to incorporate a poem, scripture, book passage or meaningful quote reading during your ceremony.

E. Video Presentation/Sideshow 

Many people opt for a slideshow or video montage dedicated to a loved one.  If you want to incorporate this at your event, make sure your venue is equipped for it. Your location should accommodate a screen, projector, computer, and speaker system. If your location doesn’t provide the equipment, you can rent it from any audio visual company.

F. Videographer/Photographer

Fondly remember your celebration with photos and videos. Recap videos are ideal to hand out post-celebration, especially if you had people that could not make it to the event. Be sure to book a reputable videographer and photographer, and always look at portfolios and work samples in advance.

G. Music

Musical elements add a special touch to a Ceremony of Life. Think about hiring a live band, soloist, or trio to play before and after the ceremony. Music can also be incorporated during the event—consider playing music from your loved one’s favorite artist or genre, or a favorite song that was special to them.

Let Eternally Loved help with your Celebration of Life.

There’s a lot to think about and a lot to do when putting on a Celebration of Life.  Don’t forget to breathe, take a break, and ask for help when you need to. A professional event planner can make your life easier and help your emotional well-being during a difficult time.  Contact our team to discuss your needs. We’re ready to work with you to plan a memorable, meaningful Celebration of Life.