Grieving is a natural part of death. While funerals and memorials are sad occasions, those who want to focus on the life that was may feel more comfortable holding celebrations of life. Typically held with less structure, less sadness, and more joy, it’s easy to understand why loved ones sometimes find celebrations of life a preferable way of saying goodbye.
This article hopes to give you a better understanding of what a celebration of life is, what it means, what it entails, and how it’s different from more traditional and somber send-offs. By providing you with this background, you can choose the best way to honor your loved one.
What Is a Celebration of Life Event?
A celebration of life is an informal, more modern way of saying goodbye. It gives a new spin on the grieving process by focusing on celebrating a life well-lived. In a way, it allows us to dwell on how blessed we were to know our loved ones instead of focusing on the gaping hole they’ve left behind.
From stories and anecdotes to the deceased’s favorite music, wine, and pictures — a celebration of life asks us to engage in joyful remembrance. It can be used to inspire hope and bring comfort when we need it the most.
Traditional Practices vs Celebration of Life Events: Which Should You Choose?
If you belong to a traditional, religious community, you may find funerals too emotionally taxing and limiting. How can you memorialize a life that touched you so deeply with a generic send-off? Celebrations of life make the experience more meaningful, personal, and heartfelt.
Let's look at how celebration of life events are different from more traditional occasions like funerals.
- Flexible Venues
Are funeral homes too somber for the enthusiastic and lively person you lost? Feel free to explore your options with a celebration of life. Such events can be held almost anywhere from parks, restaurants, luxurious destinations, and more.
Honoring the memory of a loved one by consciously exploring places and activities they loved is a great way to come to grips with the grieving process.
- More Budgeting Options
Do you have a limited budget? Celebrations of life are more flexible. You don’t need to rent a funeral home, a casket, or get flowers. This type of event focuses more on who the person was, what they loved, their interests, and is generally more personally relevant.
You don’t need to spend a lot on a celebration of life.
- There Are No Time Constraints
Unlike traditional memorials that have to happen right after the cremation or burial, a celebration of life can be hosted days, weeks, and even months or years after. It honors the family’s grieving process and takes away the pressure of organizing a full event right after experiencing a significant loss.
How To Plan a Celebration of Life Event
Want to plan a celebration of life? Here’s a step-by-step guide that may help.
- Draft the guest list. Ideally, you should only invite friends and family members of the deceased to keep it personal. Once you have a rough idea of the number of people attending, you can choose a location.
- Find a venue that holds meaning for the deceased. It doesn't have to be extravagant. Something as basic as their favorite restaurant or bar will do. Remember to keep your budget in mind while finalizing a venue to avoid overspending.
- Decide on a theme and hire vendors. These factors will depend on the size of your event and are optional. You can skip them if they don’t resonate with your idea of a celebration of life.
- Finalize the food and drinks. Depending on the location and the number of attendees, you can even cook the deceased’s favorite meal yourself.
- Send the invites. Remember, be specific about the dress code and other details to avoid miscommunication.
- While planning the event, you can already ask people to share their favorite memories of the deceased. You can also ask them to bring pictures they may have of your loved one, or put together a playlist of the deceased’s favorite songs to help set the tone.
That’s all there is to it. You’re done. You may shed some tears in between the laughter and reminiscing during the event, but that’s only natural. While celebrations of life can be fun-filled events that commemorate lives well-lived, they still carry some undertones of sorrow. Acknowledge the loss but don’t dwell on it.
Memorable Celebrations of Life Event Ideas
Are you looking for ways to make your celebration of life more unique and memorable? Here are some ideas to inspire you:
- Send Lanterns or Balloons in the Sky
One of the best ways to commemorate someone’s life without shelling out big bucks is by casting paper lanterns or balloons in the sky. You can make it more personal by asking attendees to write messages, thoughts, and memories on the paper lanterns before releasing them.
- Crowdsource A Celebration of Life Storybook
Want to make your celebration count while keeping it lowkey? Host a dinner party and have attendees bring pictures they have of the deceased. You can insert these pictures in a scrapbook and pass the scrapbook around so they can write down a memory associated with some of the photos. This experience is not only cathartic but will also give the family a treasured keepsake.
- Establish a Day to Honor Their Memory
A celebration of life doesn’t have to be a one-and-done affair. You can make it a yearly event to celebrate the life of the deceased. It could be on their birthday, their death anniversary, or a day that was especially important to them.
One of the best things about celebrations of life is they allow you to honor the person you lost in more meaningful ways. Since they’re extremely personal and relevant to the person who passed, they allow you to be flexible about the timing, the budget, the venue, and the activities you want to incorporate.
Because they’re so attuned to the one who passed away, it’s rare to find celebrations of life that are exactly the same. Just remember that while it’s okay to get teary-eyed during one, the focus should be on the life that was lived, not the death.