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Celebration of life funerals are becoming more popular. Whether you’re arranging or attending one, you might not be sure what to expect. Here, we answer everything you need to know. From “what is a celebration of life?” to what to wear and more.

What is a celebration of life?

A celebration of life is a way for family and friends to get together and pay tribute to a loved one who’s passed away in a cheerful and uplifting way. While all funerals can be sad, a celebration of life service aims to focus on the positive, showing gratitude that you were able to have a connection with your loved one while they were here. It’s all about concentrating on the good times you had with them and celebrating their personality.

What happens at a celebration of life service?

As with all funerals, a celebration of life service can be whatever you’d like it to be. There’s no strict set of rules to follow. The only thing that connects celebration of life funerals to one another is the positive and joyful atmosphere that they create. Remember that a celebration of life doesn’t have to be all or nothing too. You can combine elements of a traditional ceremony with a party atmosphere with music, food and drinks if you like.

How long do celebrations of life last?

A celebration of life can last as long as you’d like. It could be an hour-long service followed by a wake or you could celebrate in your own way over a few days. Do what feels right for you and your family and what best represents the life of your loved one. Did they want you to raise a glass for them at their local pub? Or did they want you to stay at their favourite beachside town for a few days? Whatever you’re planning, think about family and friends who may not be able to stay for the whole event and how to include them. Depending on how long the celebration of life lasts, you may need to let everyone know what you’re planning in advance so they can make arrangements to attend.

What to say at a celebration of life?

What do you say to family at a celebration of life? At a traditional funeral service it’s common to share your condolences. But at a celebration of life the focus is on remembering the positive impact the person had. Instead of saying “sorry for your loss” you could thank them for letting you be a part of the celebration. Or perhaps you could share your favourite memory of the person who passed away. There may even be an opportunity to share stories with everyone as part of the celebration. But don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. Family and friends will understand your intention and be happy to have you there.

What to wear to a celebration of life?

The dress code for a celebration of life is entirely up to the person organising it. If it’s going to be the complete opposite of a traditional funeral, you may want guests to avoid wearing black and choose something brightly coloured instead. You may want to ask guests to wear a specific piece of clothing. It could be a type of clothing or accessory that the person who passed away wore regularly and was well known for. Or it could just be a particular colour that they liked.

If you’re attending a celebration of life funeral and dress code hasn’t been mentioned, you can always contact the person who’s organised the funeral for advice. Choose what best fits the celebration of life and the personality of the person you’re celebrating. But keep in mind that you should still be respectful of the family members organising the celebration. If in doubt, get in touch with the organiser to see what’s appropriate.

Who leads a celebration of life service?

If you’re planning on a celebration of life service that includes some speeches, readings or poems you may want someone to lead it. You could hire a  celebrant to officiate the service . But if that feels too formal you can ask a family member to lead things instead. Maybe you don’t want this type of structure at all and you just need a couple of family members to show guests where to go. Do what feels right for the celebration you’re organising.

Do you take anything to a celebration of life?

You may not be expected to take anything to a celebration of life service. Sending a card or flowers is a nice gesture but keep in mind the tone of the celebration and whether the organiser has requested something in particular on the invitation. The person who passed away may have wanted you to donate to a charity. Or they may just want you to share a memory of them as part of the celebration.

How to plan a celebration of life

There really is no right or wrong way to organise a celebration of life for a loved one who’s passed away. But if you need some inspiration or want to know where to start here are a few things to think about.

  • Ask other family members and friends what they think.  Do they have any ideas that would work well for the celebration? Getting other people’s opinion may spark an idea that’ll remind everyone of what made your loved one unique. Whether it’s music, a dress code, or an activity that the person would have loved, it may help to make the celebration special.
  • Choose a venue. Whether you’re planning something small, or you’d like to have the celebration in a large open space you’ll need to consider things like accessibility, catering, and if you’d like to play music or show videos. And think about what will work best for the length of time that the celebration will last for. Do you need to find somewhere nearby for guests to stay for example?
  • Discuss your ideas with your chosen funeral director. If you’re using a funeral director, you can discuss your ideas with them. They’ll be able to give you ideas and recommendations to make sure the celebration goes as you’d like.

Celebration of life ideas

If you’re planning on celebrating the life of a loved one who’s passed, you might not be sure where to start. Here you can find a few ideas to help.

Celebration of life invitations

Seeing as a celebration of life is an alternative type of funeral, it’s good to let guests know what the funeral will be like ahead of the day. Celebration of life invitations are an easy way to share this information. They could include details about the type of celebration, a dress code, an order of service or anything else that could help everyone prepare and know what to expect.

Celebration of life poems and readings

If you’re holding a celebration of life service, or have been asked to do a reading, you might be looking for the right words to say. A lot of funeral poems and readings focus on grief, but you can find some more positive options in our collection of uplifting funeral poems.

Celebration of life songs

A celebration of life tends to have more cheerful funeral songs than a traditional funeral. These can be played at the service, the wake or other celebrations you might have planned. For some ideas, take a look at our choice of uplifting funeral songs.

Planning a celebration of life?  

Our directory can help you to find the right funeral director to help with the next steps.