What is a Celebration of Life?
A celebration of life is an event focused on sharing stories of the deceased and commemorating the joys he or she brought into the lives of others. As the name implies, it’s meant to celebrate the life of your loved one, opposed to grieving the loss. While there are often tears, these events tend to be creative, and focus on happiness and laughter. A celebration of life can take place immediately, or weeks or months after death and the body is typically not present.
The tone is peaceful rather than mournful, celebratory instead of sombre. Wearing black is commonly discouraged. You’re more likely to hear Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side of Life – according to a 2014 survey,
A survey of 2,000 people suggested that 54% wanted their funeral to be a “celebration of life”. Some 48% said they wanted it to incorporate their favourite “hobby, colour, football team or music”..
By looking back rather than forward, and focusing on happy memories rather than the immediate sense of loss,
Celebration of Life Service Planning & Outline
The most memorable events are highly meaningful, and capture the unique life and personality of the deceased. The following questions can help define the essence of your loved one.
- What were the individual’s religious or spiritual beliefs?
- What were their distinctive qualities?
- What were they passionate about?
- What do people think of when they think of the individual?
A memorial service or celebration of life can be held any time after death. You may choose to make arrangements immediately, though it is also acceptable to wait several weeks or even months.
It can be difficult to make decisions immediately after a major loss; planning the event several months into the future allows you to enlist help from others, or even hire a professional planner. Waiting also allows people to make travel arrangements, making it easier for friends and family to attend. You also will find more options available (location, venue, other services) if you’re not dependent on having the event in the next 7 days.
2. Type of Service
Decide the type of service and where you would like to hold it.
On the Beach , On a Boat to Scatter, VFW hall, Church Hall, In Your Home, At a Local Park, There are many places you can be creative with.
- Cremation and memorial service.
3. People to Invite
After you’ve determined the type of service and timing of the event, it’s a good idea to make a list of everyone you’d like to invite. Immediate family is a good place to start, then consider more distant relatives. Next make a list of friends, and not just current friends—include friends from different chapters of the person’s life: friends from childhood, school, different jobs, and different locations. Don’t forget to include your support network as well.
If people will be traveling in for the service, consider the accommodations they’ll need. Will they be able to stay with you or other family? Are local hotels or accommodations by owners available? This may impact the timing you choose.
Things to consider when choosing a location are:
- Will any portion be held at a religious location?
- How large of a venue is needed, based on the number of people expected.
- Does it have adequate parking?
- Is it handicap accessible?
- Can it accommodate all parts of the event—service, socializing, etc.
- When is it available?
5. Celebrant or Host
Who will lead the service/event? If the individual was religious or spiritual, the officiant or celebrant likely has a standard service that can be personalized. If a host will be leading the event, you can still choose meaningful customized elements, such as readings and music.
6. Readings / Readers
Also, it can be touching to have people share personal anecdotes or memories about the individual.
7. Eulogist / Speakers
If you choose to have a eulogy, choose who will write and deliver it. Rarely are eulogists experienced, so you may share these guidelines for preparing and delivering a eulogy:
- Be Brief. Be sure to check with the clergy or service director about timing. If none is provided five to ten minutes is a good guideline.
- Be Focused. You can’t distill a lifetime into five to ten minutes, so don’t try. Start with a brief history of the deceased’s life, including significant relationships and professional history; interests; and achievements.
- Be Personal. Focus on one or two notable qualities, passions, or characteristics of the person, and share a personal story or favorite memory related to it. A saying, quote, song, or religious text that was significant to the individual is a good way to close.
- Be Positive. Now is the time to affirm the positive aspects of the individual’s life.
- Write it Down. A written eulogy is another way for family and friends to hold the memory of a loved one. While practice is recommended, committing the eulogy to memory is not required. During this highly emotionally time, it may be nice to have a written copy to reference in the event thoughts become scattered.
For additional details on how to write a eulogy, see the Hazeltine blog post, Writing a Eulogy for a Celebration of Life of Memorial Service.
Select songs, hymns, and other pieces of music that were enjoyed by the deceased, or that hold special significance. Determine who will provide the music? Professional musicians, DJs, family/friends, or a playlist on an audio system are all options. You may choose a combination of live music for parts of the program, followed by a playlist of significant songs as background music as guests socialize.
9. Food & Beverage
Options for food and beverage include DIY (with help from friends and family), hiring a caterer, or full-service food and beverage provided by the venue you select.
You may choose to provide foods that were particularly liked by the deceased. Another option is a particular ethnic cuisine. Depending on the time of day, you may choose to provide light snacks, like appetizers and desserts, or a full meal. Be advised that many guests may have dietary restrictions, so inquire with your caterer/venue about options.
Many events, especially a celebration of life, choose to include a bar, which adds to the celebratory feel of the service.
10. Photographer / Videographer
You may choose to capture the event with photos or video, to keep the memories for years to come. This job can be undertaken by a family member or friend, or you can hire a professional.
In some cases, some families choose to webcast the event, which allows people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend to participate in the service.
11. Flowers & Memorials
Traditionally, people send sympathy flowers to express their condolences. However, it is commonplace for families to request memorial donation instead of flowers. In the obituary, social media and event invitations, you can indicate whether flowers or memorials are preferred, or whether both are acceptable.
The typical way to indicate memorials are preferred over flowers is “in lieu of flowers…” but there are other ways to suggest survivors show their support. For example, “those wishing to make a memorial donation, may contribute to [specific charity name] or the charity of their choosing.”
12. Personalizing the Event
Personalizing the event can range from simple to elaborate, and can be done by a few people or by everyone attending.
Some traditional ways to remember a loved one are with a memory board of photos, a display of photo albums, a video or slide show, or through displaying personal memorabilia.
To involve guests, you may ask that people bring a few words about the departed to share or post for others to see. It could be a favorite memory, a sentence or two on how they knew each other; or ask them to send a photo or song to be included in the slideshow or playlist.
How can I help my guests connect?
One of our customers named Linda Lee provided everyone with name tags when they walked in. Her mother was 85 years old and most of her friends were about the same age and many were suffering from memory loss. She didn’t want her mother’s friends to be embarrassed for not remembering names of people they hadn’t seen in years. Her mother’s favorite color was pink so she got plain white labels from the office supply store and put a pink border on them using the computer. The pink bordered tags were then given to a couple close friends who sat at the front on the reception area at a table writing out name tags. The tags not only said the person’s name but the relationship to her mother. For example, Esther Hodges (High School Friend, Class of 1938). It’s rare that everyone knows each other at a service. If everyone has a name tag that says not only the person’s name but the relation to the deceased it makes the service much more personal. The name tags also gives guests conversations starters.
Free Funeral Poems and Memorial Verses You Can Read at A Memorial Service.
Are you seeking funeral poems to read at a funeral or memorial service, or sympathy poems for a card or letter?
Funeral Poems; Memorial Poems, sayings, quotes, and verses; Celebration of Life Poems; Remembrance Poems
The Comfort and Sweetness of Peace
After the clouds, the sunshine,
after the winter, the spring,
after the shower, the rainbow,
for life is a changeable thing.
After the night, the morning,
bidding all darkness cease,
after life’s cares and sorrows,
the comfort and sweetness of peace.
Helen Steiner Rice
Ron Tranmer© (please give credit to the author when using this poem)
We little knew that morning
God was to call your name.
In life we loved you dearly,
in death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you,
You did not go alone.
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.
You left us beautiful memories,
Your love is still our guide,
And though we cannot see you,
You are always at our side.
Our family chain is broken,
and nothing seems the same,
But as God calls us one by one,
The chain will link again.
A butterfly captures our hearts
from the moment they appear.
They are vibrant and graceful
as their presence lifts our spirits.
Gone much too soon,
they will never be forgotten.
As you danced in the light with joy,
love lifted you. As you brushed against
this world so gently, you lifted us.
Messenger of God,
When I see you in the sky,
I cannot help but nod.
You bring me respite,
From grief and dispair,
Everytime I see you,
Sailing through the air.
You renew my faith,
In all God’s wondrous plan,
And I know it’s all in faith,
Not in what I understand.
A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam
And for a brief moment its glory
and beauty belong to our world
But then it flies again
And though we wish it could have stayed…
We feel lucky to have seen it.
Love is like a butterfly; it goes where it pleases
and pleases wherever it goes.
As you release this butterfly in honor of me,
know that I’m with you and will always be.
Hold a hand, say a prayer, close your eyes and see me there.
Although you may feel a bit torn apart,
please know that I’ll be forever in your heart.
Now fly away butterfly as high as you can go,
I’m right there with you more than you know.
Don’t weep at my grave,
for I am not there,
I’ve a date with a
butterfly to dance in the air.
I’ll be singing in the
sunshine, wild and free
playing tag with the wind
while I am waiting for thee.
Our joys will be greater
Our love will be deeper
Our lives will be fuller
Because we shared your moment
Where I have gone I am not so small.
My soul is as wide as the world is tall.
I have gone to answer the call, the call
Of the One who takes care of us all.
Wherever you look, you will find me there-
In the heart of a rose,
In the heart of a prayer.
On butterflies’ wings, on wings of my own,
To you, I’m gone,
But I’m never alone-
I am home
He Only Takes the Best
God saw that he was getting tired,
A cure was not to be.
So He put His arms around him
and whispered, “Come with Me.”
With tearful eyes, we watched him suffer,
And saw him fade away.
Although we loved him dearly,
We could not make him stay.
A golden heart stopped beating,
Hard working hands to rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us
He only takes “the best”.
‘Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but live in thankfulness that he was’
Perhaps they are not
stars in the sky,
but rather openings
where our loved ones
to let us know they
If tears could build a stairway,
and memories a lane, I’d walk
right up to heaven and bring you
A gift for such a little while,
your loss just seems so wrong,
you should not have left before us,
it’s with loved ones you belong.
MISS ME – BUT LET ME GO
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little–but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss me–but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone. It’s all a part of the Master’s plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss Me – But Let me Go!
We’ll always remember
that special smile,
that caring heart,
that warm embrace,
you always gave us.
You being there
for Mom and us
through good and bad times,
no matter what.
We’ll always remember
you Dad because
they’ll never be another one
to replace you in our hearts,
and the love we will always
have for you.
Goodbye To My Dad
Goodbye Dad, I had to say
A few months ago on a cold winter day
I’ll remember the good times and try not to be sad
But saying goodbye still hurts so bad
I miss you more then I can express
My love for you will never grow less
I keep trying to imagine how I will go on
I realize tomorrow is another dawn
I know you’re in heaven above
Looking down on us with all your love
Only to whisper in our ear
Remember that I’ll never stopped loving you dear
I’ll always remember the good times we had
Remember the man, my wonderful Dad
I’ll remember you each and every day
And if I need to talk to you, I’ll just sit down and pray
One day we’ll be together again
To talk about all the places we been
Until the time I’ll always treasure
Having you for a Dad was such a great pleasure
By Debra Marie Stratton-VanBuskirk