Celebration of life ideas

More and more people are choosing a ‘celebration of life’ over a traditional funeral. If you are going to plan a celebration of life for a loved one, here is our guide to help you.

What does celebration of life mean?

A celebration of life is an opportunity for family and friends to pay tribute to a loved one who has recently passed away. It lets people say goodbye and honour their loved one’s legacy in a uniquely personal way.

What is a celebration of life memorial service?

It’s an up-beat alternative to a traditional funeral. It doesn’t focus on the sadness of saying goodbye, but instead celebrates the life of the person who has passed. Mourners are often encouraged to share positive, happy memories of their friend or family member who has died, but, like any funeral, it can be an important step in the grieving process for many attendees.

How to celebrate the life of a loved one

A celebration of life can be part of a non-religious funeral, which includes a service and committal. Or it can be a separate memorial that’s held on a different day to the funeral – perhaps in the days or weeks that follow. Planning a celebration of life memorial service is not too dissimilar to planning a traditional funeral. Here are some things to consider:

  • Dress code – black is the traditional colour for funerals, but at a celebration of life mourners could wear a bright colour, or your loved one’s favourite colour.
  • Transport – instead of a traditional hearse, you could organise something a bit different to carry the coffin. Perhaps a VW campervan or a horse-drawn carriage?
  • Coffin – coffins come in a range of colours and prints, why not pick one that reflects the personality of your loved one?
  • Day and time – you don’t need to feel restricted by time or day. If it suits you and your guests better, consider a weekend, early evening or night time memorial service. Create a soft warm ambience with candles, fairy lights and fireworks with a night time or ‘twilight’ memorial service to mark your loved one’s final journey.
  • Venue – a funeral service doesn’t have to be held in a church or crematorium. There are lots of places which will host a service for you, speak to your funeral director for more information.
  • Music and readings – you can find some ideas for uplifting music in our guide.
  • Memory board or table – ask guests to write a personal message, or bring a photo or item that represents the person who has died.

Here are seven unique celebration of life ideas:

1. Plant a memorial tree
2. Host a campfire gathering
3. Create a quote board
4. Host an open mic or karaoke night
5. Take a painting or pottery class together
6. Host a BBQ or dinner party
7. Celebrate with live music

Who conducts a celebration of life funeral?

Whether it’s religious or not, you’ll need someone – a celebrant or close family member – to officiate the service. They will lead the proceedings and coordinate the other people taking part in the service. Speak to your chosen funeral home or funeral director if you need help organising someone to run the service.

What do you say in a celebration of life invitation?

Although it’s not required, some people choose to send out an invitation for their loved one’s celebration of life service. Alternatively, you can create a social media post listing the details: time, location, dress code or particular colour/item you’d like people to wear, and any special requests.

What to say at a celebration of life service?

Just like any funeral, a celebration of life can have a multiple speakers. These are usually close friends and family members who will deliver a eulogy, uplifting readings, or poems. Some families choose to have a section of the service where guests are invited to share a memory or story of the person who has died.

What do you wear to a celebration of life event?

This will depend on the request of the family or person who has organised the event. If they want you to wear an alternative to black – a bright colour or sparkly piece of clothing – they will usually specify this in the invitation. Aside from that it’s respectful to wear modest clothing that is funeral appropriate. Read our guide for more information about what to wear to a funeral.

Do you bring something to a celebration of life?

Unless the family specify in their invitation, usually there is no expectation to bring anything. If you wish to bring a card or send some flowers to the grieving family’s house, that can be a nice gesture – though not appropriate in all religions. Or some families will ask you to donate to a particular charity instead of giving flowers or a gift.

How to make a celebration of life video?

Ask friends and family to share their favourite stories and memories of your loved one. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just something simple that does justice to the memory of your loved one.

If you need guidance on planning a celebration of life, please get in touch with your local funeral director where our friendly team will be able to help.

Step by step guide

There are several steps in the Funeral Planning process you will have to consider.

Types of funerals​

There are a number of different types of funerals available. Which type of funeral service is right for your loved one?

What happens at a cremation service?

Cremations are fast becoming the norm in Britain with over 70% of families choosing this type of

Further Reading: Cost of a funeral

Find out about funeral costs and what financial support could be available.