Funerals are usually occasions where we mourn the loss of loved ones. But that might not hold true for everyone. Some people prefer a celebration of life ceremony over a funeral. As the name suggests, it celebrates the life your loved one lived rather than mourning their death.
Choosing the celebration of life songs to include in a playlist differs greatly from making one for a funeral. Unlike the sorrowful or melancholic choices that would be apt for funerals, a celebration of life ceremony is about celebrating the kind of person your loved one was.
But with the vast variety of songs that exist, coming up with a mere 10 or 20 songs can seem like a daunting task. Which songs to include? Which ones would be apt? Well luckily for you, we’ve made a list of the top 16 songs to play at a celebration of life ceremony.
1) Forever Young (Rod Stewart)
Stewart has said that Forever Young was one of his favorite songs due to the fact that it was a song about his children. For most parents, their children are a big part of their lives and are always on the back of their minds.
2) If I Die Young (The Band Perry)
The death of younger ones is always painful due to their often unexpected nature. This song is about being grateful for living their best albeit for a short while. This makes it one of the best celebration of life songs for a funeral or memorial service.
3) My Way (Frank Sinatra)
Being your own person is the central theme of the song, and that could exactly be the send-off that your loved one deserved and needs. A popular song for older generations, this song’s relevance makes it a perfect song to play at a funeral for an older loved one.
4) Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
One of the most popular songs of all time, Stairway To Heaven starts off slow and keeps the pace until the guitar solo. From there on, it’s classic rock and roll. Due to its mystical lyrics and shifting tones, it has become a popular choice for upbeat funeral songs.
5) The Show Must Go On (Queen)
Written by the frontman Freddie Mercury nearing his death (meaning it was following his diagnosis of AIDS), the song is a testament to his determination to move forward in life. And that is exactly what he sings of through the song. Whatever happens, the show will go on.
6) Best Day Of My Life (American Authors)
A song that reminisces about the good days, this jovial song celebrates life as the singer sings about the best day of his life. This is amongst the more upbeat choice for songs to play at a funeral or celebration of life ceremony due to its upbeat nature.
7) Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum)
A classic celebration-of-life song. As the title suggests, the song is about how everyone will eventually become spirits in the sky following their deaths.
8) Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
The perfect send-off for the rock enthusiast in your family, this song also provides a sense of twisted humor in that it implies that your loved one lived a life that sent them straight on the highway to hell
9) Another One Bites the Dust (Queen)
Anyone would recognize the song as soon as the iconic bassline by John Deacon kicks in. Guaranteed to warrant a few laughs, Another One Bites the Dust is yet another timeless classic to play at a celebration of life ceremony.
10) Right Here Right Now (American Authors)
This song is for folks who were people of action. You never know what to expect from them, and it won’t be a surprise if they didn’t either! This song celebrates those who lived an unpredictable yet fun life.
11) You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It) (Al Jonson)
A playful song about young love, this song transports you to a time when things were simpler.
12) Who Wants to Live Forever (Queen)
As the mercurial frontman (pun intended) of Queen was suffering from AIDS, this song was written by lead guitarist Brian May. It discusses the innate human fear of death, while also asking the question of who would actually want to live forever.
13) Bruises (Lewis Capaldi)
The loss of a loved one is always hard to get over, and it’s easy to try and rush the grieving process. But what’s important is to take your time and process your feelings.
14) Someone You Loved (Lewis Capaldi)
When you lose the person who was the most important to you, it can feel like the world came crashing down. This song is about accepting the fact that the person is no longer in your life, and moving on.
15) Wake Me Up (Avicii)
Being young is exciting, but it is also the most confusing time of our lives. This song is about waking up when you’re wiser and older.
16) Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Guns N Roses)
Originally written by Bob Dylan, it’s this version with Axl Rose’s screeching voice and Slash’s slick solos that makes the list. The song is about being denied entry into heaven following your death because of how you lived.
Funerals can be somber affairs, and it should be noted that creating a playlist and playing it is done in accordance with the deceased’s wishes from when they were alive. For a more comprehensive guide on creating a general playlist, check out the Top 30 Funeral Songs of All Time.