Many people today prefer to hold a memorial service or celebration of life rather than a more traditional funeral.  It provides the opportunity to focus on the positive and the happiness the deceased brought into everyone’s life.

If you are planning a memorial service or celebration of life here are a few tips that you might find useful.

Make Lists

Sit down and make a list of those relatives and friends you want to invite to the ceremony. Also, make a list of those things that were important to the deceased, such as a favourite song or poem that can possibly be incorporated into the service.

Choose a Theme

You may want to choose a theme for the celebration to guide the planning process and help decide what you want to include.  The theme often relates to how you want to remember the deceased, whether it be for their love for family, volunteering spirit, or dedication to sports. 

Choose the Location

You may decide to hold the service in a traditional location such as a church, funeral home, or community hall.  The number of people you expect to attend will dictate the size of venue required. Some families think more outside of the box and look into unique venues suited to the personality of the deceased. For example, if the deceased was an avid gardener, then holding the service in a garden might be the most appropriate.

Choose a Date

While a celebration of life typically takes place soon after the passing of your loved one, it can be held many weeks later as well.  This provides the opportunity to choose a date that will allow out of town family and friends to make it to the service.  If you want to hold the ceremony outside, then you may want to wait for warmer weather.

Write an Obituary

An obituary is a notice of death and typically includes a brief biography. The obituary can be placed in a local newspaper or online.  Alternatively, copies of the obituary can be emailed to friends and family members.

Contact Out-of-Town Family and Friends

Be sure to contact any out-of-town family and friends that you want to take part in the service, giving them plenty of time to make any necessary travel arrangements.

Choose Someone to Lead the Service

You may decide on a more traditional choice such as a clergy member, but you might also choose a family member for the role.

Plan the Order of the Service

The order of the service can be as unique as the individual whose life you are celebrating.  Some ideas you might want to consider are:

  • Music
  • Opening remarks
  • Biographical information
  • Readings
  • Personal reflections
  • Special music selection
  • Closing words

Create a Written Program or Memorial Cards

You may decide to put together a written program or memorial cards to hand out to those attending the service.  Information typically includes photographs, names of speakers, biographical information of the deceased, order of service, as well as information regarding the reception. Many individuals hang on to these as keepsakes.

Choose the Speakers

Decide on how many speakers you want at the service and what each one should cover. Then carefully make your choices. You may decide to have only one speaker or multiple speakers.  The options are endless, and only depend on what you feel is a fitting tribute for your loved one.

Collect Photographs and Other Memorabilia

A table holding pictures and other memorabilia is often set up at a celebration of life.  It provides a starting point for memories and conversations regarding the impact the deceased had on the lives of close family and friends.

Plan the Reception

A celebration of life is often followed by a reception, in which food plays as important role.  A reception gives family and friends an opportunity to gather together and talk and reminisce and catch up on what is happening in each other’s lives.  This can be especially appreciated when many family members and friends travel a long distance to attend the service.