A celebration of life is a bit like a party with a purpose—and that purpose is to remember a loved one in a personal, festive or fun way. The location can be a funeral home with a reception space, a place of worship, a family member’s house or a place that was special to the loved one being celebrated. Sometimes a casket is present, but often a celebration of life takes place weeks or months after burial or cremation. A celebration of life and memorial service are very similar so while we consider them one and the same, you are welcome to choose the service type that best suits your preferences.
When a loved one passes away, or when pre-planning your own funeral arrangements, you may determine that a less traditional celebration of life or memorial service is the right fit for you. A celebration of life is essentially any event that you hold to remember someone who has passed away in a more festive way rather than a traditional funeral that can be more somber. That said, all types of services can be either somber or celebratory. It is not the name you choose, but the people attending and the spirit of the person who has passed that dictates the mood of the event.
When you choose the term celebration of life though, it will give people the impression that the event will be less formal and the mood likely more uplifting than sad. A celebration of life is intended to lift everyone’s spirits by focusing on positive memories. It can often be more creative and customized to the personality and interests of the person who has passed and those who are there to celebrate their life.
A celebration of life or memorial service is different because a funeral has more to do with an orderly and often spiritually-defined event, where a service is more concerned with telling the story of the deceased. When planning a celebration of life or memorial service, here are some things you should consider including:
- Who will help you to plan the celebration of life or memorial service?
This can be a funeral director, event planner or you may choose to work with family and friends.
- Where will you hold it?
Many funeral homes have large, flexible reception spaces that can be used for any type of celebration you plan. Alternately, a home or place that was significant to the person being celebrated is a good option too.
- Will you have a theme and/or decorations?
A theme typically informs the decor, and that theme can be something as simple as a favourite colour or a hobby. A remembrance table filled with photos and mementos may set the tone. From there, your imagination is the only limit.
- What type of food will you serve?
The tone of the event and the venue you choose will likely determine what you serve for food. There really is nothing set that is customary, but you can get quite creative and unique by selecting some of your loved one’s favourite food and drinks.
- Will you have any music?
Music can certainly help create an uplifting and inspiring atmosphere. Plus, playing a loved one’s favourite songs can help stir memories and foster connection among guests. Whether you choose to create your own playlist or hire musicians (or a DJ), the right music can be integral in creating the mood of the celebration of life or memorial service.
- Will there be readings, prayers and eulogies?
A celebration of life or memorial can include these elements, but it’s more likely that what you’ll want to see and hear are guests telling funny stories about happy times, or touching memories of the loved one who was lost. In these looser settings without a typical “run of show,” it’s good to assign someone to be the emcee for the event. This ensures that everyone is given an opportunity to share their story, without any one person dominating the conversation.
- What is the dress code?
Since celebration of life and memorial services can range in their formality, be sure to let the guests know what to expect so they can prepare their attire appropriately. If you are having a more formal celebration, it may make sense for guests to come in traditional funeral clothing. But for casual gatherings, you may want to let guests know they can dress down. Also, if the celebration is themed around a loved one’s favourite thing, you may consider asking guests to dress in a certain way (wear a sports jersey or specific colour) to add to the vibe of the gathering.
The reason most people choose a celebration of life is to allow for a less formal way of gathering after a passing. Many people prefer to see death as an opportunity to celebrate the life that was lived rather than focusing the social gathering on sadness and mourning. When planning a celebration of life, the most important thing to keep in mind is what will truly honour the life you are celebrating and what is comfortable for those who will celebrate with you.
Working with a funeral director to arrange a celebration of life or memorial service can help to reduce the burden of making decisions and putting the event together. Call us today to discuss your plans with one of our caring, experienced team members.