family celebration

What Is a Celebration of Life and How to Plan One?

  • Studies have shown that excessive grieving is harmful to mental and physical health.
  • A celebration of life is less formal and structured than a classical funeral procession.
  • The celebration of life service usually consists of welcoming speeches, toasts, eulogies, and celebratory activities.
  • Scientists have shown that reflecting and sharing positive memories can support easier coping with loss and trauma.

Everyone remembers and would like to share the moments with their loved ones that once inspired joy and happiness. That’s what celebration of life is precisely about: you don’t grieve about the deceased but remember their achievements, relationships, and inspiring deeds!

Contrary to a funeral, you can organize a celebration of life in multiple manners – from hosting a barbecue party to planting a tree. It makes us free from restraining ourselves from remembering and celebrating the deceased’s life rather than lamenting.

Read this article to learn the whole process of a proper celebration of life for your loved ones.

What Is a Celebration of Life?

We can define the celebration of life in many different ways. Some people say that it’s a celebration of the achievements and good deeds of the deceased, while others say that it’s a re-living of fond memories and moments.

Generally, a celebration of life is the opposite of a funeral in the manner of honoring the deceased. The main reason is that the grieving process is altered with a more joyful and festive atmosphere of a warmer end-of-life ceremony. Simply put, people are gathered not to grieve about the deceased but to celebrate their qualities and honor their character.

Nonetheless, loved ones can organize a celebration of life in different manners. The celebration of life ceremony can differ depending on the person’s character, convictions, and ideals. The ceremony can also vary because of religious preferences or social relations.

That’s the reason why people sometimes organize karaoke, fishing trips, or barbecue parties because their loved ones would love that. Other people organize the celebration of life in a far eastern manner: by gathering at night at a specific spot where they release air lanterns into the night sky. That’s why a celebration of life event is creative, honorable, and fun – just like the deceased person would love!

Celebration of Life Service: How Is It Different from a Funeral?

funeral service

Compared to the classic funeral event, the celebration of life service is much less structured and obliging. Moreover, a celebration of life service is more similar to a classical memorial service than a funeral. It is usually held after the burial or cremation of a person’s body. The memorial service is also held after the person’s remains have been buried or cremated, but the ceremony is less formal.

That’s why the celebration of life service has many similarities with the funeral service. They’re both gatherings of people mourning for their loved ones and ceremonies with all their procedures. On top of that, both the funeral and the celebration of life have similar goals:

  • Helping the mourning families overcome the grieving process
  • Publicly acknowledge that a beloved person has deceased
  • To honor and cherish the memory of the deceased

However, the celebration of life service differs from the funeral service because it’s not structured in the typical three-step funeral procedure: the visitation, the funeral service, and the committal service.

On the contrary, you don’t structure a celebration of life service but blend formal and informal methods of honoring the deceased into a single event. There’s no need for churches, officiants, or automobile processions.

How Important Celebration of Life Is?

Many studies have shown how repressing intense and meaningful feelings like grief can be harmful. Nonetheless, other scientific studies show the contrary – an excessive grieving process can harm us. Furthermore, overreacting to the death of our loved ones can focus our minds and thoughts on a single event, place, and time.

From this point of view, the celebration of life service is very important to align our minds with reality and avoid overreacting and going through a painful and prolonged grieving process. The service is also important because it helps us be mindful through the grieving process and prevent ourselves from hurting others.

The celebration of life is also good from the perspective of morale and ethics. When we celebrate and remember the good deeds, acts, and sacrifices of our loved ones, we stimulate ourselves to follow their role model in the future and keep up with them. Contrary to the funeral, where the accent of the ceremony falls on the loss of life, the celebration of life should stir positive emotions.

You can organize many “celebration of life ideas” to strengthen relations within the family or your social circle. Also, regular celebration of life events can help you develop a positive grief-coping mechanism.

What Does a Celebration of Life Service Look Like?

man grilling food with his family on the back

The celebration of life service doesn’t have a particular procedure for how it’s held. People usually organize the services in a casual and easygoing atmosphere, where they recall and share fond moments.

However, the celebration of life services is a blend of the formal and informal methods used in funeral and memorial services. For example, you may get an invitation to somebody’s celebration of life, meaning that you’re obliged to come well-dressed and in a more formal manner. Some of these celebration services can also include giving official speeches and reflecting on particular qualities of personal characteristics.

On the other hand, a celebration of life can be much less structured and look like a friendly and relaxed gathering. You can utilize numerous celebration of life ideas, such as exchanging photos, playing music, singing, visiting special locations, etc.

Nevertheless, the celebration of life service also has its procedure. Generally, the service will include a type of greeting and welcome speech for all the participants. Reading activities, eulogies, and other celebratory activities would usually follow.

Following is the general celebration of life service template that you can use in almost any setting:

  • Welcome speech and seating
  • Toasts and readings
  • Eulogies
  • Celebrating activities
  • Closing the ceremony
  • Giving thanks

How To Plan for a Celebration of Life?

You can choose from myriads of celebration of life ideas – from barbecue parties to ball dancing. Even though there’s less planning than a funeral, a celebration of life service must bring together many people and animate all of them.

Here’s our little step-by-step guide on how to effectively plan and organize a celebration of life service:

  • The location comes first – Particular places and times will always be intertwined with specific memories you cherish. Particular areas and places can connect us to the past and make us reminisce even deeper.
  • Choose a theme or a template – This is very important in ensuring the coherence and engagement of all participants. Be bold and creative!
  • Plan for the welcoming speech.
  • Other speeches and celebratory activities – Plan a particular time interval for speeches, eulogies, and celebratory activities. Honor loved ones by dancing or playing their favorite music, sports, and other activities.
  • Plan for the conclusion time and speech.

What Activities Are Appropriate for a Celebration of Life?

Many people ask themselves: “what is a celebration of life?” The answer is in the appropriate celebration of life activities. You can include everything modest and meaningful in a celebration of life service: from sharing memories and videos to playing music and singing.

A celebration of life gives much more creative space to the people who’d like to honor their loved ones. For instance, there’s no space to experiment with activities at a funeral. There’s a three-stage procedure – a visitation, a funeral, and a committal service. That’s why the celebration of life service allows many more activities, like group prayers, reading letters, or releasing balloons.

Sharing of Memories

The most appropriate activity for a memorial service and a celebration of life is sharing memories of the deceased. Experts urge us to share memories, especially positive memories, for easier coping with the stress and anxiety related to the passing of our loved ones. The logic is that positive memories are much more meaningful and arousing.

Stimulating our minds to remember the positive traits of the person’s character won’t just help us cope with the grief but train our minds to recall positive memories in the future. Sharing memories is a communal mechanism that brings people together and helps them overcome losses.

Creating a Memory Table

Creating a memory table is another activity you can organize to engage all the participants and make them remember your loved ones in a positive light. It’s one of the best celebrations of life ideas for the creative honoring of loved ones.

There’re many ways you can create a memory table. For instance, you can contact others to share their items or photographs of places and events dear to the deceased. You can even add plane or bus tickets!

Moreover, to make the ceremony more engaging, you can require the participant to share their thoughts and ideas for expanding the memory table.

Releasing Balloons or Doves

Releasing balloons is another simple yet symbolic idea for the celebration of the life of loved ones. Releasing balloons can symbolize many things – from greetings to the deceased to the soul’s transition to other realms and dimensions. Many people sometimes use sky lanterns to honor the person.

In Buddhist and Chinese traditions, sky lanterns symbolize the soul’s transition to another realm. Thus the balloons and lanterns help us visualize the souls of our loved ones and provide us with comfort while ascending to the sky. You can combine different colors, lanterns, and balloons for maximum comfort and ease.

Releasing doves into the sky is another of the numerous celebration of life ceremonies. People consider doves as symbols of peace and freedom. Moreover, the release of doves sometimes symbolizes the “letting go” of loved ones who are no longer with us.

Either of them is a perfect way to celebrate one’s life, symbolizing that we are letting them go peacefully and festively. White is typically the color of choice when it comes to balloons and doves, as white is the color of peace and love. In some cultures, incorporating the color white symbolizes their hope that their loved ones are reborn again.

Memorial Video

Making and showing a memorial video of the person or their favorite foods, people, and places is another unique celebration of life idea. Across the internet, there are thousands of memorial video templates which you can use to create the most appealing and meaningful content.

You can make the memorial video as a portrait, a slideshow, or a performance – the choice is up to you. However, you must keep in mind that the video mustn’t exaggerate or diminish the qualities of the person in question. A decent and adequate memorial video is simple, engaging, emotional, and concise.

Planting Trees

family planting trees

Sometimes our loved ones love plants, trees, and flowers. However, they don’t have to be gardeners or huge nature lovers to plant a tree in their memory. The planting of a tree symbolizes the growing memory of loved ones.

Additionally, people plant trees for their loved ones because it brings them joy and happiness while watching them grow. The mourning families sometimes even put the cremated remains into the soil before they plant the sapling. Moreover, you can choose a particular location most related to the person gone and our cherished memories of them.

Final Words

We hope we’ve answered your question: “what is a celebration of life?” Contrary to a funeral, a celebration of life service is more similar to a memorial service and is less structured and formal. The purpose of the celebration of life is to recall and share the memories of loved ones, their deeds, and their inspiring character.

Contrary to a funeral, this ceremony celebrates love rather than mourning death. You can release doves and balloons, plant trees, or host a barbecue party as part of the celebration of life. All in all, a celebration of life is also a creative and engaging celebration.

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