Your Guide to Planning a Celebration of Life Service

funeral and mourning concept - red rose and cremation urn with burning candles on table in church

Planning a celebration of life service can be a complicated experience. While we want to find the best way to celebrate our lost loved one, we’re also often still grieving as we try to do so. Moreover, most people have little to no experience planning such events.

To help make what can be a difficult time easier, we’ve put together a short guide on planning celebration of life services.

A Celebration of Life Service isn’t a Funeral

Some people think of celebration of life services as funerals, but they aren’t the same. In fact, celebration of life services can be planned months or even years after an individual’s death. It all depends on what will help the person’s loved ones and family feel a sense of closure and better cope with any feelings they have about the loss.

This also shouldn’t be framed as a question of “celebration of life service vs. funeral” or any such thing. The two events have some similarities but often serve different purposes.

Funerals tend to be structured and deeply spiritual in nature. Celebration of life services are more informal, with a strong focus (as the name suggests) on celebrating the life and accomplishments of the person we’ve lost.

These events aren’t exclusive either, with many families choosing to hold both types of services for those who’ve died.

Forming a Plan

Before starting on planning a celebration of life service, it is usually a good idea to have the admittedly often difficult task of dealing with remains already dealt with. Burial or cremation costs should be paid and the funeral, if there is to be one, should be planned out.

This serves two purposes, in that it can help a family get past some of the hardest aspects, emotionally, of death and can help whoever is planning the celebration of life service know where things stand financially.

From there, you can start trying to plan an event that will most help those who are alive celebrate the life of the one who is gone.

Step 1: Decide on the Nature of the Celebration

To know how to organize a celebration of life service, you must first decide what kind of service you’re planning. These events are less formal and bound by tradition compared to funerals. Ideally, one will try to figure out what will help those who cared for the deceased the most.

We all react to death differently, with those closest to the deceased usually feeling the pain of the loss most strongly. A good rule of thumb will be to try and plan an event that helps celebrate the life of the one lost in such a way as to help those most in pain find some peace with what has happened.

Step 2: Get the Small Details Sorted

Once you know what type of event will work best, begin sorting out the small details, like the event’s date and intended location. Coordinate with the family to find a day and location that is convenient for those who want to intend. The farther out the date is, the easier it will tend to be for people to plan for the event.

Location may or may not be a difficult consideration, depending on the type of service planned. Remember to consider how many people will be coming and any special needs they may have, such as handicapped parking.

Step 3: Figure Out the Specifics

Once you have an idea as to what kind of ceremony the celebration will be, a date, and location, it is time to figure out the specifics. Some questions to ask include:

  • What kind of food will be served? Will those with allergies or dietary restrictions have options?
  • What music will be played?
  • Will any religious ceremonies be taking place?
  • Is there an event itinerary you need to stick to?
  • What will you be doing to help guests remember the person lost and any positive impact they had on the world?

Remember, a large part of this event is to celebrate the life of someone gone. Try to gather photos, videos, and written material relevant to the person you’re celebrating to be displayed at the event. If you’re not sure where to find this material, it’s okay to ask those close to the person to borrow anything that might be relevant.

Step 4: Decide if Anyone Will Be Speaking

Some celebration of life ceremonies have a period of time where a speaker or group of speakers deliver a eulogy or otherwise talk about the person being celebrated. While this isn’t required, it’s a good idea to plan for speakers ahead of time if you intend for the event to have any.

Don’t surprise people with having to speak about the one lost. This can be stressful, as not everyone is ready to talk about the loss, at least to a crowd. Asking people ahead of time will help you gauge who is interested, and also help them prepare what they will say.

Step 5: Plan for a Natural End Point

A large part of handling death is trying to restructure our worldview. We grow so used to someone being around that we have trouble understanding a world that will never again have them. Celebration of life ceremonies can help us with that transition.

While people may filter in and out of the event, it is a good idea to have a natural feeling endpoint to the celebration. That way, there isn’t an awkward period where anyone goes from talking about a loved one with friends and family to telling them it is time to go. Make sure people have plenty of warning, and consider ending on a song or other favorite thing of the person lost to help give the event its own sense of closure.

Loss isn’t Easy, but Celebration of Life Services Can Help

A celebration of life service can help give a sense of closure to a loss. It is an acknowledgment someone is gone, but also that their time on Earth had a beauty worth remembering.

If you found this article helpful, we welcome you to explore our site for more content on a variety of other topics. In our Lifestyle section, you can find articles on dealing with sadness, loss, and more.


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