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How To Plan A 'Celebration of Life' Ceremony

The loss of a loved one is tragic and heartbreaking. However, a funeral service allows friends and family to come together to honour, mourn and bid farewell to their loved ones.

However, a funeral service also gives people the opportunity to reshare special memories they have about the deceased and to celebrate the life that they lived. This is why, today, people are increasingly choosing to host 'Celebration of Life' ceremonies instead of or after traditional funerals.

But what exactly is a ‘Celebration of Life’ event, and how does one plan it? Well, that’s where we come in. We’re here to help answer all your questions and guide you during the process of planning a funeral ceremony that celebrates the life of your loved one.

What is a ‘Celebration of life’ ceremony?

A ‘Celebration of Life’ ceremony is unique in that it often focuses on precisely that, celebrating and rejoicing in the life of the deceased individual.

Typically, these ceremonies are held after a traditional funeral service; however, there’s no set rule for this. Many families are now choosing only to host a 'Celebration of Life' event with friends and family and opt for a direct cremation beforehand.

Due to their informal nature, these ceremonies are not subject to any formal arrangements. Therefore, you can choose to commemorate the life of your loved ones in a way that would best honour them.

Funeral service vs 'Celebration of Life' ceremony: What’s the difference?

The main difference between these two events comes in the atmosphere or purpose as well as the location. Traditional funerals tend to be sombre affairs where the focus is on grieving the loss of a loved one. They’re also typically held in a church or crematorium.

On the other hand, a 'Celebration of Life' ceremony is often more joyful and informal, and the body is usually not present. Due to the casual nature, these events can be held any day of the week and at a location that best suits you.

Planning a ‘Celebration of Life’ ceremony

While there is no right or wrong way to go about hosting this event, having a general idea of how to go about planning it will make the process that much easier for you. So, to ensure this ‘Celebration of Life’ event goes smoothly, do consider following some of these steps.

  1. What type of service should you choose?

First and foremost, you’ll need to decide whether you want to do a 'Celebration of Life', a traditional funeral or both. Whether you choose to host this event after a funeral or all on its own, it should ideally reflect the uniqueness of the person whose life you’re celebrating.

Apart from this, you’ll have to decide on the atmosphere you want to create. For example, you could have a small, intimate event with close family and friends or a grander, more festive celebration with all the people who knew and cared for your loved one. As we’ve said before, it should ideally reflect the essence of the person you’re celebrating - playing their favourite music or having people read short speeches are great ways to do this.

  1. Where will you have the event?

Again, there are no rules to this. People who choose to have a 'Celebration of Life' after a funeral service tend to host the event at a separate, more relaxed location.

Consider hosting it at a place that can accommodate all the people who will be joining to celebrate the life of your loved one, as well as places where your loved one enjoyed spending their time. These events have been hosted in many different locations such as family homes, local pubs and even community centres.

Many hotels and country clubs, like Nailcote Hall, now offer beautiful venues where you can celebrate the life of your loved one. In addition, these venues can provide you with various private function rooms ranging in size and offer catering services, which will help make the day easier for you.

  1. When will you have the ceremony?

There is often a minimal period of time between the death of a loved one and a funeral (2-3 weeks). During this time, there are many arrangements to make - not to mention the fact that you need to ensure that those who live a considerable distance can attend.

However, with a 'Celebration of Life' event, you won’t be as constrained by time. Many people choose to have a direct cremation, which means you can wait to celebrate the life of your deceased loved one.

Ideally, you should choose the date and time as soon as possible and notify everyone so that they can make arrangements to come and say goodbye.

  1. Who will lead the ceremony?

Having someone lead the ceremony may seem like a more formal thing to do. However, if you want to add a little structure or incorporate elements such as religious hymns, having someone lead will ensure that the service goes smoothly.

Be sure to ask someone who is comfortable with speaking in front of people and who is capable of leading such an event. Alternatively, you could have a civil or humanist celebrant lead the ceremony.

  1. Who will say a few words?

As with funerals, many people still do eulogies at these events. However, in this case, these speeches tend to be more informal and allow the speaker ample time to speak. Alternatively, you could have ‘open mic’ speeches where any guests can share a few words about the deceased.

Planning a funeral service or celebration ceremony can be a sombre and difficult process. However, we hope that this planning guide will help make the process as smooth as possible for you.


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