People see funerals as extremely sad events that separate them from their loved ones. While the negative emotions associated with a funeral are more than understandable, some people choose not to linger on them, and focus on positive ones instead. And how do they do that? By turning a funeral into a celebration of life. But what is a celebration of life service? Well, the idea is that instead of mourning the loss of a friend or family member, people choose to talk about their life and celebrate all its positive aspects. Today, we’re going to tell you more about this concept of celebration of life and what it actually entails.

Funeral as a Celebration of Life

A celebration of life event is what some people choose as an alternative to the typical memorial service that is held after someone is buried or cremated. However, it can also be held instead of the actual funeral, as a celebration of life funeral. As we’ve already mentioned, the main idea behind this concept is that people should be happy that the person who is no longer with them had a great life, and should remember it as such. Thus, you should encourage people to laugh and talk about the nice memories they have of that person.

As in the case of a traditional funeral and memorial service, a celebration of life service can include only family members and close friends, or also acquaintances, co-workers, and so on. It all depends on how you want the atmosphere to be, and how much money you can afford to spend. Sometimes, people clearly state their wishes before they die. So you should always take into account what the other person would have wanted the event to look like.

Instead of having the celebration of life service at the church or in a funeral home, most people choose to have it in a more uplifting and informal place. This can be a lovely garden, an event hall, or even the home of one of the family members. However, these choices shouldn’t limit you. The whole point of a celebration of life is to break with tradition and turn what is otherwise a sad event into an encouraging one. Maybe the person who died had a favorite place in town, in which case that would be a great idea for a place to hold the celebration of life service in. For instance, some people choose to hold it at the beach.

How to Plan a Celebration of Life Service?

As we’ve clearly stated above, a celebration of life service is about anything other than tradition. Consequently, there isn’t a set of rules that you should follow when organizing one. In fact, you should be as creative as possible. Try to incorporate anything that you think the deceased person would have liked. The presence of a religious officiant is completely optional, so don’t feel obligated to invite one. Other than that, there are some celebration of life ideas you could strive to incorporate.


One of the most important features of a celebration of life service tends to be the presence of uplifting music. You can choose to hire a live band or to play recorded songs. It’s also completely up to you if you want music to play all throughout the service or simply at some designated times. The music genre is again debatable, but many people try to choose something that is rather joyous. Of course, the most important aspect of this feature is for it to represent the deceased person.


Another great way to remember the person who is no longer with you is to bring all sorts of mementos related to their life. These can include photo albums, scrapbooks, personal items, and so on. Especially if they relate to a memory you have of that person, memory that you would like to share with the others as well, bringing a memento is definitely a good idea.

white piece of cloth surrounded by old pictures


Since this event is called a celebration of life, you could make it a real celebration by serving a meal, or simply some refreshments. However, this also depends on the location of the service. For instance, if you choose to go to the beach, bringing a meal there is going to be more difficult. Usually, some light refreshments are enough. If you really want the service to include a meal as well, you can invite the people who attended to a restaurant afterwards.

Video Slideshow

A video slideshow is another way in which you can remember the nice times you spent with the deceased person. While you can include scattered pictures of that person’s life, an even better option is to arrange them chronologically. Outline their life, highlighting the most memorable and happiest events. Especially if the people attending the service are family members and close friends, make some copies of the slideshow and offer one to each person as a keepsake.

Sharing Memories

One of the most popular activities during a celebration of life service is for people to share happy memories of the deceased. There are two ways in which you can do this. You can either invite people to take turns and share their favorite memory, or you can ask them to write that memory on a notecard. Then, you can read them yourself in front of everybody. The second option works better when people are more emotional or don’t feel comfortable being in the spotlight and sharing a personal memory.

Paper Lantern Release

People release paper lanterns on many occasions, from weddings, to baptisms and birthdays. Consequently, there’s no reason why you can’t do that on a celebration of life service as well. Provide each guest with a paper lantern, then light them and release them at the same time. This ritual marks the passing of your friend or family member and represents your celebration of their life.

People lighting paper lanterns and launching them

Summing Everything Up

No matter what you choose to include in a celebration of life service, this is an interesting and unique way of coping with the death of a loved one. The important thing to remember is to design it according to the deceased person’s wishes. Moreover, don’t hesitate to encourage people to have a good time reminiscing about the past.

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