What to Bring to a Funeral or Celebration of Life?

Family Gathered Together | Eternally Loved

What is the Difference Between a Celebration of Life, Funeral or Memorial Service?

A celebration of life, a funeral, and a memorial service are all types of events that honor deceased loved ones. However, each of these types of services have differences that make them unique.

Celebration of Life

A celebration of life is an event that focuses on celebrating the life of the deceased and sharing memories of the loved one with family and other guests. It is typically held 2-4 weeks after the passing of a loved one and can be held at any special location. It also has a much more positive tone than that of a funeral and focuses on family coming together to celebrate and honor the deceased.

Funeral Services

A funeral service is a traditional event in which mourning family and friends gather to grieve the deceased. Funeral services are usually held in a funeral home with a funeral director guiding the service. This may also be followed by a graveside service where the body is buried and the grieving family gathers to say their goodbyes.

Memorial Services

A memorial service is a ceremony that honors the deceased after a burial or cremation has already taken place. For this reason, memorial services are usually held a few weeks or even months after the passing of a loved one. Memorial services are usually somewhere in between a celebration of life and a funeral service in that the tone of the ceremony is somewhere between celebratory and somber. They can be held at a variety of locations such as a funeral home, community hall, or even someone’s home.

What Should I Bring to a Celebration of Life or Funeral Reception?

It is common for guests to be unsure of what to bring to a funeral service or celebration of life. When deciding what to bring, it is important to consider your role or relationship with the deceased.

For example, immediate family members might bring extra items to the event such as a guest book or a photo album. Other guests, such as acquaintances or coworkers, may need to only bring themselves. Below are some more detailed ideas and guidelines on what to bring.

Should I bring a gift to a funeral?

Although it is not required to bring memorial gifts to a funeral or celebration of life, bringing a gift is a nice gesture to show sympathy for the family.

Celebration of Life and Funeral Gift Etiquette

If you do not want to arrive empty handed and decide to bring gifts to a celebration of life or funeral service, it is important to keep proper memorial gift giving etiquette in mind. Important things to keep in mind when deciding on a sympathy gift are to make sure that the gift is in a good price range and not something too expensive, is an appropriate gift, and is something small.

In general, small gifts such as flowers, cards, or even food plates are the best options and the most common gifts to bring to a funeral or celebration of life.

Types of Small Gifts

Celebration of Life or Funeral Flowers

One of the most traditional ways to honor a loved one who has passed away is to send flowers to the family. Sympathy flowers can be bought from a florist or even a local grocery store.

It is best to send flowers to the family’s home or have them sent to the funeral home ahead of time. The most common funeral flowers or celebration of life flowers are lilies, carnations, orchids, roses, and chrysanthemums. Other floral options include red roses or white flowers.

Whether you decide to send a single flower or a small floral bouquet, sending flowers is a great way to send condolences.

Sympathy Cards

Another thoughtful gift to bring to a funeral or celebration of life is a sympathy card. This memorial gift can be given by itself or in addition to other memorials gifts such as flowers or a gift certificate.

A sympathy card with a brief note is a small but thoughtful gesture that can go a long way. When considering funeral gifts, a sympathy card is a simple and easy way to show you care.


Many families may also appreciate if you bring food that was prepared ahead of time as a celebration of life or funeral gift. Often times, grieving families are busy preparing for the funeral or memorial service and haven’t had much time to plan food.

Bringing a small dish in disposable containers to the reception can alleviate some of the stress. Good options to bring are a casserole, pasta, favorite meal, or even dessert or coffee/tea.

Another option if you do not want to bring food as a celebration of life or funeral gift, is to bring a gift card to a favorite restaurant that the family can use at their convenience.


Photographs can be a great gift to share with the grieving family. You can bring printed pictures included in a sympathy card, framed photos, a photo album, or even a scrapbook.

Family photos are an excellent memorial gift and a great way for the family to look back on special memories.


Sometimes families choose to accept donations in lieu of flowers or a gift. This information will typically be in the memorial announcement or event website.

Common types of donations that a family member may request are a charity donation to support a cause that was important to the deceased or a funeral donation to help with the costs of the memorial service.

Other Ideas

A few additional ideas if you would like to bring a gift to a funeral or celebration of life service include memorial jewelry, plaques, or other personalized memorial gifts. If you are close to the family, these types of personalized gifts are a small gesture that the grieving family might cherish.

What Not to Bring to a Celebration of Life or Funeral Service

Paying attention to proper funeral etiquette is important when planning to attend funerals and deciding what to bring or not to bring. Although a small gift such as a card or gift card is generally acceptable to bring to a funeral or memorial service, not all gifts are appropriate for these types of occasions.

Expensive gifts

One type of gift that is not usually appropriate for a celebration of life or funeral service is an expensive gift. A memorial gift should be a small token to express condolences to the grieving family.

Be sure to stay within your budget and remember the most important thing is to simply be there and be supportive of the family.


Although flowers are a traditional gift, it is best to not bring the floral gift to a funeral or celebration of life service. Instead, sending flowers ahead of time to the memorial service or to the family’s home is the most common way to give flowers as a funeral or celebration of life gift.

Noisy Electronics and Inappropriate Attire

It is not necessary to bring a gift to celebration of life services or funerals, but it is important to respect proper funeral etiquette.

When attending a funeral or celebration of life, be sure to turn off or silence all phones and electronics. This will help eliminate electronics from unexpectedly going off and causing a distraction from the service.

Also keep in mind the dress code and that you wear appropriate attire to the funeral or celebration of life. A good rule of thumb is to wear clothing that is generally modest and not too revealing.

A Celebration of Life with Eternally Loved

A celebration of life ceremony is a great way to celebrate and remember the life of loved ones who have passed away. Unlike funerals, the focus of a celebration of life is to celebrate the life that was lived rather than mourning one’s death.

At Eternally Loved, our goal is to make the planning process effortless and easy, so that you can focus on being present to honor your loved one and embrace the support of family and friends.

Our event planner services include a complimentary consultation to determine your memorial service needs, coordination and contracting with all service providers, and staying involved throughout the entire process to ensure a successful and memorable event. 

If you are looking for help in planning a celebration of life event, please contact us for additional information on our services and what to expect during the process.

Food for Funeral Reception

Bringing food to a celebration of life or funeral reception can be a thoughtful way to show the family you care. It is best to bring simple dishes such as casseroles in disposable trays that the family can easily reheat or save for later.

Sympathy Cards and Family Photos | Eternally Loved

Celebration of Life Service

A celebration of life service focuses on honoring the life of the deceased in a more positive tone. Family gathers together to share memories and celebrate the life of their loved ones who have passed away.

Memorial Stone and Flowers | Eternally Loved

Memorial Services

A memorial service is similar to funerals and celebration of life services in that it focuses on honoring and remembering the deceased. This type of service is usually held a few weeks after the passing of loved ones and has a somber yet slightly more positive tone than that of a funeral which is more focused on mourning one’s loss.