What is a celebration of life?

Signing cardboard coffin with messages.

Looking for a fitting way to say goodbye to a loved one? Something different from a traditional funeral service? A celebration of life service could be the right fit. We’ll take you through the ins and outs of a celebration of life below. That way you can remember your loved one in the way that you want. 

What’s 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. The aim is to look back at the positive effect they had during their life instead of grieving their death as you would at a traditional funeral service. 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?

A celebration of life service can be whatever you’d like it to be. That’s the joy of it. What you include and how you celebrate your loved one is up to you and your family. And it can be completely unique to the person you’re celebrating.

You can ignore the formality of a traditional funeral and create a party atmosphere with music, food and drinks instead. Or you can take some parts of a traditional funeral service and add them to your celebration of life if that feels like the right fit.

How long does a celebration of life last?

It can last as long as you’d like. It could be an hour or you could celebrate 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. If you’re celebrating for a day think about how you’re going to feed family and friends. Will you need catering? Or will the rest of the family bring a dish with them?

Depending on how long the celebration of life lasts, you may need to let everyone know what you’re planning in advance so that 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 service?

You can organise whatever you’d like for the celebration so the same goes for the dress code. If the celebration of life is going to be the complete opposite of a traditional funeral you may want to avoid wearing black. Wear something brightly coloured instead.

You may want to request that guests 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 you’d like guests to wear.

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

What should be included in 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.

Celebration of life ideas

Now that you’ve got the essentials organised here are some celebration of life party ideas to give you some inspiration:

We hope this info has given you some ideas about how to celebrate your loved one. If you’d like support arranging it use our funeral director finder to find a professional in your area who understands what you’d like to do.