Giving a loved one who has passed away, a celebratory send-off, is not a morbid idea. It allows family and friends to honor the deceased in a more personal and non-traditional way. Instead of mourning the person’s death, guests can celebrate their life in a joyful manner by talking, laughing, and sharing loving memories of the deceased at a gathering that can be a heartwarming experience for all who attend.

Celebration of life gatherings can be intimate with just attendees who were very close to the deceased, or they can be expanded to include co-workers and extended family. The size of the event will depend on a budget, the deceased person’s personality and how they lived their life.

The celebration of life can be held anywhere–a home, church basement, community center, beach, park, restaurant, bowling alley, or rented hall. The event can also be held at any given time; it is not mandatory that it be held immediately after the deceased has been buried.

You can have a religious officiant present to offer prayer at some point or you can just host it yourself. There are no rigid rules to follow.

Celebration of Life Ideas

If the deceased left specific instructions on how they wanted their death handled then you should absolutely abide by their wishes. If you, however, are planning a celebration of life event for a deceased loved one then you might want to consider incorporating a few of these ideas:

Speakers:  You can, again, have an officiant speak at the gathering, or arrange for a few loved ones to share funny stories, interesting moments in time, fun work-related memories; folks can also read  poems, favorite proverbs, or even sing a few of the loved one’s favorite songs or hymns

Music:  If the deceased loved jazz, R&B, pop, or they had a favorite recording artist/s, play the music in the background at the gathering

Food & beverages:  At your celebration of life you can serve light refreshments, a complete buffet or a sit-down catered fare; if the deceased loved McDonald’s, beer, wine, or soul food, for example, your spread could reflect what they enjoyed eating

Decorations:  Choose decorations that have meaning.  If the deceased person had a favorite color like purple, have touches of it throughout the event space like on napkins, tablecloths, flowers, balloons, etc.

Mementos: You can set up a table that displays pictures in a collage on a poster board or in an album, personal items or keepsakes, a video slideshow of happy times, clothing items (they adored like a favorite hat, scarf or robe), display their favorite books, CD’s, military medals and/or commendations, letters; the sky is the limit as far as what you want to display

Balloon or floating lantern release: A beautiful way to celebrate a deceased one’s life is to also release balloons or lanterns into the sky; you can give out one per guest

Memory box: You can have each guest write a memory down about the deceased on a notecard that will be placed in a box, then kept as a keepsake for generations to come

Act in a skit:  Children can create and perform in a short skit that will honor their deceased loved one

Remember to keep the gathering upbeat!

Don’t let bereavement be a solitary journey.  Share your loss with others through a celebration of life which can provide unforeseen comfort and where you can have immeasurable support.