When a loved one passes away, one of the first decisions that needs to be made is what kind of service you want to hold to honor your loved one.  Do you want the traditional funeral service or would you rather have a celebration of life?  The main difference between a funeral and a celebration of life (also called a memorial service) is that the body of the deceased is present at the funeral and is not present at a celebration of life service.

A celebration of life typically is more creative than the traditional funeral, without the need to follow the protocol normally expected at a funeral service.

What to Expect at a Celebration of Life

A celebration of life is just that, a celebration.  It is a joyful event, where family members and close friends gather together to celebrate the life of the deceased, rather than mourn the loss.

What are the Differences between a Celebration of Life and a Funeral

While funerals are more somber affairs, a celebration of life is often more of a casual gathering of family and friends focusing on the positive aspects of the deceased’s life.  There is often music and laughter as people reminisce and remember the positive impact the deceased had in their own life.

Where is a Celebration of Life Held

It can be held in the typical funeral venues, such as a church or funeral home, but is also often held elsewhere.  The locations vary widely, depending on how the family wants to honor the deceased.  It is often located in a spot that held meaning for the deceased.  It may held in a private home, in a garden, or in a rented facility.

When is a Celebration of Life Held

The celebration of life occurs after the deceased has been buried or cremated. Typically, it occurs a few days after the loved one has passed away, but can be held several weeks later in order to accommodate family and friends that live out of town or even out of country.

What to Wear to a Celebration of Life

The attire is typically more casual than that worn to a funeral service.  However, the attire will vary depending on the venue and the wishes of the family.

What is the Purpose of a Celebration of Life

The main purpose of the celebration is to celebrate the life of the deceased and the positive impact they had on the lives of others.  It is also designed to fill the emotional needs of the guests. In planning the event, it is important to take into account who will be attending the service and what their needs might be.  Older relatives may need more structure to bring them comfort.  If so, it is important to include that in the service. The needs are as varied as the individuals are.

What about Flowers

Yes, it is still appropriate to send flowers to the family who is having the celebration of life.  Perhaps try choosing flowers that were special to the deceased or that represent happy memories.

Some Ideas of What to do at a Celebration of Life

  • Ask different individuals to speak about their memories of the deceased.
  • Encourage laughter and humor, especially if the deceased was the type of individual who enjoyed the lighter side of life.
  • Ask different individuals to bring photos or other mementos.
  • Put together a memory box and ask individuals to contribute an item.
  • Run a video or slide show showing the deceased through the years.
  • Play music that meant something special to the deceased. Music can evoke strong emotions and memories.
  • Hold a candle-lighting service.
  • Buy small packages of flower or vegetable seeds to hand out to those attending the service. Ask them to plant the seeds in memory of the deceased.

Most Importantly

Do not forget to celebrate.  Encourage everyone to be positive and focus on the happy memories.