The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Celebration Of Life

planning a celebration of life event

A celebration of life ceremony is where people come together after a loved one has passed away to remember them. It is an event where people reminisce and tell stories and share memories of the person. The celebration of life ceremony focuses on the person, their life, the connections they made along the way, the memories and experiences that people have with them, and much more. 

There are various routes to go while planning a celebration of life event. If the deceased was someone who cherished intimate gatherings and celebrations, you can keep the event simple and invite loved ones.

Bidding the last farewell to a loved one is always difficult and painful. Maybe that is the reason the celebration of life ceremonies is becoming popular. Instead of a sorrowful, teary-eyed farewell, friends and family are choosing to celebrate the life of the departed soul, a final celebration to honor the deceased.

What is Celebration Of Life?

Experiencing the death of a close friend or family member is never easy. When someone passes away, the one thing that we share with the deceased is memories. Memories of that individual stay with us long after they are no longer here. A celebration of life commemorates these memories and experiences shared with the dearly departed. 

This sort of ceremony not only honors the deceased but also allows people affected by the death to cope with their grief. The celebration of life ceremonies is not part of any traditional or religious ritual and is a more contemporary form of celebrating the deceased. The lack of restrictions surrounding the celebration of ceremonies allows many people to express themselves freely. 

How Is Celebration Of Life Different From Funeral?

Funerals are generally part of a religious ceremony and are very formal and structured. Depending on the religion, the bereaved family has to follow strict rituals. Since funerals take place soon after the passing of the person, people do not get time to mourn properly. All of this combined makes the funeral ceremony a very somber event. 

A celebration of life ceremony does not have any particular time constraint. Unlike the funeral, it focuses less on rituals but rather on remembering the person. The tone of the ceremony is more light-hearted, and the ambiance is more relaxed and comfortable. 

A celebration of life ceremony is much more casual and light-hearted. The family and the loved one set the event in a way where people feel comfortable talking about the deceased. 

Funeral services are quite different in that regard. The tone is serious and somber. Family and friends of the deceased are still either in pain over their passing or are in mourning. Funerals can also be religious depending on the individual, so an added element of rigidity is also present.

The ‘timing’ of the event also is a huge contrast. 

Celebration of life ceremonies have no fixed rule, time, or place. People can organize this event at any time, even long after the person has passed away. Funerals need to happen within a certain period. Depending on the culture and religion of the person, a funeral takes place soon after the death of the individual. 

‘Who’ can organize and partake in the event?

Friends, family, or even the community that the deceased belonged to can host and organize a celebration of life ceremony. A person throughout their lives becomes part of various communities. An event like this allows people to share stories and memories about the deceased and cherish the life that they shared with them. 

Funerals can be limited to friends, family, and loved ones. Everyone processes grief differently after losing a person they love. During a funeral, people are still mourning the loss. Funerals can also be very hectic, as they can include multiple procedures like rituals or even financial like paying the funeral home. 

The main goal of both celebration of life ceremony and a funeral is to honor the deceased. It is a way to bring friends and family together to heal the loss of a loved one.

Why Choose Celebration Of Life?

You might be wondering if a celebration of life ceremony is the appropriate choice for your loved one. This ceremony is a lighter way to bid your last goodbye. A celebration of life ceremony is not an either-or situation. You can have a traditional funeral service and this ceremony if you decide to. A celebration of life ceremony also depends on the personality of the departed soul.

If they were a type of person who was always joyous and was the life of the party, this type of celebration could be a way of paying homage to them. A celebration of life ceremony could also be a perfect way to bid farewell to those who had expressed they didn’t want a sorrowful day in their honor.

How To Plan A Celebration Of Life?

way to host a celebration of life ceremony

Keep the Event Intimate.

To keep an air of intimacy in this last farewell, here are some ideas:

Celebrate with a Tea party

A perfect send-off for your grandmother, aunt, or even mother would probably be something like a cozy tea party. It is an opportunity for loved ones to gather for tea or high tea to remember the deceased. You can include their favorite flowers, tea, and more while planning this event.

Celebrate with a Book reading

Books, friends, and family could have been the favorite things of the deceased. If the deceased was someone who used to be an avid reader or hosted a book club, it would be a great idea to host a book club gathering. Even if you were not a member of a book club, you can host a gathering while reading out some of the favorite poems or stories of the deceased.

Celebrate in a Garden

If the deceased had a green thumb or had a love for the garden, it would be a great idea to host an intimate gathering in the garden. You can share your favorite memories with others, sing songs, and more. You can also have a tree-planting ceremony to commemorate the death of your loved one.

Host a Picnic

Picnics could be a fun way to host a celebration of life ceremony. You can host this event at your local garden or picnic spot. Incorporate some games and activities that the deceased enjoyed. Plan some of their favorite picnic foods and drinks. You can recollect memories and share little stories from your experiences. 

Celebrate with the Community

If the deceased were a significant member of the community, it would a pleasant idea to celebrate their life with the community they serviced.

Celebrate outdoor with BBQ

This might be the perfect way to celebrate the life of your grandfather, uncle, or even father. If they were always outdoors or manning the grill, a bbq is a great way to commemorate their memory. You can ask your friends and family to bring a side dish along while following the deceased’s favorite recipe and process for the meat. You can also play a game of catch or any outdoor game while sharing stories about the deceased. 

Plan a Sports Tournament

If the life of the deceased revolved around sports, you can host a small tournament with the community to honor them. Host a game of tennis, golf, swimming, basketball, tournament, or a cricket, rugby, or football match in their honor. You can host this event at the community sports center. You could name the trophy that the winning person receives after the deceased. 

Plan a Remembrance Ceremony

A remembrance ceremony is more on the formal side of events. You can host this event in your local community hall or a banquet hall. You can plan an agenda for the day. It can include where people give speeches regarding the deceased, sing songs, light a candle, observe a moment of silence, and more.

Host a Potluck or Lunch.

For centuries, food is the one way that communities have come together after the death of a person. You can organize a luncheon at your local church and community centers. Multiple community centers help organize and clean during these events. 

If you want to avoid the hassle of cooking and cleaning and want to share your time with friends and family, a potluck is a perfect way to do so. Invited friends and family can bring over a dish and build a sense of community and togetherness

Celebrate with a Fancy Party.

If the deceased was someone who enjoyed planning parties or was the life of the party themselves, throwing a grand party could be like the last hurrah before bidding them goodbye. It doesn’t matter if the party is big or small as long as people are present. You can host this at a banquet hall, community hall, and more and celebrate with music and dance.

Plan a Trip

If the deceased had a favorite spot that they always visited or always wanted to visit, you can plan a trip to that destination. It can be a small group or an open invite. Plan a destination to meet and plan a small gathering depending on the location. 

What To Wear In A Celebration Of Life Ceremony?

Unlike traditional funerals, there is no strict rule that all attendees need to wear black. Celebration of life ceremony allows and appreciates wearing color. We still have to be aware of a few things we need to keep in mind.

Where will the event take place? A celebration of life ceremony does not have a fixed location. It can be at a funeral home, beach, park, or a particular venue; the options are endless. Dress appropriately for the location. 

What type of event is it? A celebration of life event can either be very informal, like a gathering, or a formal black-tie event that adheres to a particular dress code. If needed, it is best to consult the event organizers regarding the type of event. 

They might specify a particular color for the event. Although the celebration of life ceremonies does not require everyone to wear black, the event could have a particular theme where they might expect you to wear a certain color.

What type of activities will the event comprise? A celebration of life event could comprise various activities to honor the deceased. Activities like gardening and story-telling are common practices.

Non-Traditional Celebration Of Life Poem Ideas

Celebration Of Life Poem Ideas

A loved one passing away is a tough moment in everyone’s life. So much remains unsaid that we wished we had more time to express. Readings and poems are a great way to express unspoken thoughts. Here are some poems and readings that can allow you to convey what you feel. 

Poem: A Life Well Lived

Author: Unknown 

 A simple poem that everyone has heard at least once in their lives. This poem talks about what a life well lived truly means, the highs, the lows, the pains, and the sorrows. All of it combined makes a life well-lived.

Poem: Ode to a Nightingale

By: John Keats

Keats, a young poet who died at the tender age of twenty-five while suffering from tuberculosis, has pain, sorrow, and beauty stitched throughout his odes. Ode to a Nightingale is a poem that not only focuses on morality and timelessness but also explores the ideas of immortality. 

Poem: from Endymion

By: John Keats 

The oft-quoted line is from this poem itself. 

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness….”

The death of Thomas Chatterton inspired Keats to write this poem filled with beauty, sorrow, and pain.

Poem: Funeral Blues

By: W. H. Auden

One of the most famous funeral readings was written by an interwar era poet. A poem written amidst the world wars captures the sorrows of losing a loved one. We today might never understand the pain of Auden while writing this poem. 

Poem: Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

By: Mary Elizabeth Frye

This poem is a memorable reading as this work consoles the people that the deceased has left behind on this earth. This poem reprimands the grief-stricken people, forbidding them to not weep as she is present everywhere.

Poem: Death Is Nothing at All

By: Henry Scott-Holland

This poem is also another attempt to console all the people that the deceased has left behind. In his poem, Holland encourages people to go about life normally, to treat his absence with ease and familiarity, not pain and sorrow.

Poem: I am Standing Upon the Seashore

By: Henry Van Dyke

A beautiful poem by Henry Van Dyke, sometimes attributed to Victor Hugo. A moving funeral verse about death and the afterlife.


A celebration of life ceremony not only honors the dead but also allows the people affected by their departure to mourn and cope properly. It builds a sense of community, allowing people to come together and heal.

The setting of a celebration of life ceremony varies. The arrangement of the ceremony usually depends on what the deceased used to like. Family and friends set it in a space that is dear to the deceased. It is a day filled with music, activities, and food where people feel more light-hearted. The celebration of life ceremony is a way to say your last goodbye in an atmosphere where you feel closest in spirit to the deceased.