Instead of a funeral service that typically involves mourning and sadness, a celebration of life allows loved ones to honor who has passed, either a relative or pet, but in a more special and personal way. The attendees can celebrate the happiness that their loved one brought into their lives and share with others how important they were to them.
What is a celebration of life event?
The celebration of life service is held in lieu of the traditional service that happens after the loved one’s burial or cremation. This sort of casual memorial service can be an uplifting variation to the gloomy and disheartening funeral service. In place of the despondent, somber eulogy, guests of the service get to ‘celebrate the life’ of their loved one. They can use this event to laugh, share, and continue the good times that they had with the individual who passed.
This alternative event after the formal burial or cremation services are generally intended for close family and friends, but some celebrations of life are held at larger venues to include business colleagues, extended family members, and others who have been touched by the deceased loved one. The size depends on budget, as well as the personality and lifestyle of the loved one that has passed.
The celebration memorial is not normally held in a funeral home or church to help prevent the mourning ether. Most services are booked at local parks or beach, a family member or friend’s home, or at the loved one’s favorite restaurant or brewery. Generally, the planning begins soon after the loved one has passed with a date set out in the future when timing is more convenient for family and friends that are not local to the event site.
There are no set rules, directions, or special instructions for planning a celebration of life service. Each event is tailored to honor the loved one and be a festivity that they would want to attend. From special keepsakes to a bar of their favorite food, the program for the celebration service is not just a party in their memory, but a gathering of friends and family who are maintaining the positivity they brought to the lives of everyone around them.
The main event
For a true tribute honoring your loved one, keep the event in line with what your loved one would have wanted, designed specifically for them. The possibilities are endless when planning a celebration of life memorial service.
When attending a celebration of life, it is intended to be a pleasant and joyful event. As implied by the name, the guests are there to celebrate, rather than mourn. Often, the loved one that has passed may have even requested this type of event before he or she died.
The event may appear to be more of a party than something commemorating the person’s death due to it being different from the standard format and conventions of a religious funeral service. But that is the intent of this kind of event: cultivating the cheer and excitement that the loved one brought to the lives around them.
Standards with a twist
Like any occasion or get together, there are certain aspects to be included, such as food. With celebrations of life, the joyful atmosphere opens the door for a better experience. Here are some ways to put a personal touch to the traditional elements of a memorial:
- Special location Hold the event at your loved one’s favorite restaurant or local park. If they were an animal lover, hosting the celebration at a local shelter would be an amazing way to honor them and provide an opportunity for guests to donate to that shelter. If the celebration of life is for a wine or beer sommelier, have their favorite brewery or winery be the location. This event is to remember them and what we loved about them.
- Favorite food If the venue hosting the celebration of life allows, have the event catered by the loved ones favorite restaurant or hire a specialty food truck. Having options for your guests is necessary but have the meal and snack areas have meaning to the loved one that passed. If they were from Philadelphia, cheesesteaks and calzones could be served with Utz brand potato chips and Tastykake brand sweets for dessert. The celebration is of the individual’s life and food is always important.
- Dedication Table Instead of usual photos of the loved one, include more items that are specific to them. If the individual was a doctor, have their office plaques and achievements on display for the guests to appreciate. If the celebration of life is for a pet that has passed, display their collar(s), favorite chew toys, and maybe even have their picture resting inside their favorite bed. Make the memories more personal, beyond just photos on a table.
- Guestbook Provide a guestbook that can be signed by the attendees but make it more than a plain notebook with nice paper. Create a printed book with different photos of the loved one on each page so that as the pages fill, each signature page will be unique.
- Live music/DJ As an alternative to a playlist or mix tape of their favorite music, hiring a live band to play the loved one’s favorite songs gives the event more joy and excitement. Finding a tribute band to Queen would be an exceptional way to honor any Freddie Mercury enthusiast.
- ‘Favors’/keepsakes To carry on the memory further, making specific take-aways for the guests will provide them with another way to remember the individual that has passed. If they were a huge Dodgers fan, there could be peanuts and cracker jacks inside a miniature baseball cap or cup with the Dodgers logo. For the avid gamer and casino-goer, poker chips with the loved one’s name and dates could be placed on the tables where the guests will sit.
There are no set rules or guidelines about what needs to be done for a celebration of life event. It’s beneficial to have a type of structure, even if it isn’t bulleted. The possibilities to organize a celebration of life are endless.