A celebration of life is not for everyone, with many families preferring the familiarity of a traditional funeral. However, if those who have passed had wishes of a happy send-off or were remembered for living a positive life, an end of life celebration could be the solution.
In contrast to the sombre nature of a traditional funeral, a celebration of life is a cheerful alternative and one that honours a person’s personality and how they lived their life. At the heart of the ceremony are happy memories of the person who has passed, as loved ones express how grateful they are for the time they have spent together.
Planning a celebration of life
Like a traditional funeral, the first step to planning a celebration of life service is to find the right funeral director for you and your family. You are not bound to the first funeral director you speak to, so feel free to get in touch with a few before choosing the one for you.
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After you’ve found a funeral director, organising a celebration of life service bares a lot of similarities to planning a traditional funeral. You will have to make important decisions about the service and the wake. Below are a few ideas to get you started with the arrangements.
Inspirational ideas for a celebration of life service
Go beyond flowers
The traditional flowers such as lilies and chrysanthemums are not necessarily as comforting as your loved one’s favourites. Choose the flowers your loved one favoured, or even go beyond floral arrangements. If the person who has passed was a keen shopper, consider burying them with their favourite accessory. Or, if they had a love for gardening, perhaps they could be commemorated with a plant-based arrangement. Have a think about your loved one and what they had a passion for during their life.
Switch up the venue
A celebration of life doesn’t have to be held in a Church like a traditional funeral. Hold the end of life celebration service on the beach, in a garden or perhaps choose a place that your loved one held close to their heart. If you do opt for a public location, ensure to go earlier in the day for more privacy.
Brighten up the dress code
A traditional funeral is commonly associated with black, as the colour of mourning. Instead of black, guests could dress in vibrant colours, the favourite colour of the person who has passed or even fancy dress! The dress code is open to interpretation with a celebration of life, allowing families to choose something they think they loved one would have wanted.
If you want to go all out, you can get a custom coffin created that truly fits the personality of your loved one, including shapes like a boat or a plane. Alternatively, cardboard coffins are now available in a variety of colours with personalised prints, or even glitter.
The poems, readings and music tend to be fairly sombre at a traditional funeral. Instead, those at a celebration of life service tend to be much more positive in tone. Some can even have an element of comedy, again perhaps representing the funny side of the person you are celebrating.
Pick a different hearse
A classic black hearse is often the norm at a traditional funeral service, but for an end of life celebration you can ask your funeral arranger to organise something a bit different. Perhaps your loved one had an obsession with Volkswagen campervans or loved their electric cars, either way these are all possibilities. Find something that suits your loved one’s personality and go with it.
One to remember
Although a sad time, a celebration of life could be a real tribute to your loved one and their life. Perhaps provide fireworks at the end of the celebration or, you could give each guest a sparkler to craft a guard of honour as the coffin is taken to the graveside or crematorium.
What do to for the reception
As with the service, there are plenty of things you can do to differentiate an end of life celebration from a traditional funeral. Here a few ideas if you’re not sure where to start.
Embrace your loved one’s favourite treats at their celebration of life. Maybe they could never have just the one biscuit or had an obsession with baking, choosing a food they favoured can be a thoughtful way to commemorate them.
Light a fire
Light a fire-pit at the reception and ‘send’ messages to your loved one. Encourage guests to write messages to the person who has passed, perhaps reading them out before adding them into the fire and ‘sending’ them.
A memory tree
If the reception venue has a woodland or trees nearby, print copies of your favourite photographs of your loved one and hang them from a tree. Encourage friends and family to bring their own photos, leaving blank cards for them to note messages and hang them throughout the reception.
Personalise the coffin, inviting close family members and friends to help decorate the coffin ahead of the funeral. Weave their favourite flowers into a wicker coffin, or perhaps leave messages on a customisable cardboard coffin.
Create a scrapbook with photographs of your loved one, asking friends and family to send in their favourite images. Or, create a memorial slideshow made up of both videos and photos of the person who has passed and project them onto a large screen at the reception.
A final goodbye
To bid goodbye to your loved one, release balloons, doves or butterflies into the air. This can signify an element of closure to friends and families, saying a final farewell to the person who has passed. Light eco-friendly paper lanterns and float them across a lake, or perhaps attach messages to helium balloons and release them into the open air. A cathartic adieu, be sure to do your research to avoid harming local wildlife.