What is a Celebration of Life service?

In recent times, many Australians have turned to Celebration of Life services as a meaningful, yet less sombre way of saying goodbye to loved ones. Read on to learn about these types of services and how they differ to traditional funerals and memorial services.

Rachel Hechtman Rachel Hechtman
ARTICLE3 MIN READ
What is a Celebration of Life service?

The difference between a Celebration of Life service and a Memorial

A Celebration of Life service is a less formal, planned event that provides family and friends with the opportunity to farewell a loved one. In contrast to traditional memorial services which often contain religious themes or undertones, these services are generally non religious. Typically they are also geared towards celebrating a loved ones’ life rather than mourning their loss. Another significant difference between a regular funeral or memorial service and a Celebration of Life service is that these services do not need to occur immediately after the passing of a loved one. It's not uncommon for these events to be scheduled weeks, months or even a year after someone’s death.

A farewell as unique as your loved one

Celebration of life services are unique and customised events which embody the spirit of someone who has passed away. Whether they are small and intimate or large and grand, this type of service provides the perfect opportunity to honour someone who has passed away. Although the death of a loved one is often a heartbreaking time, a Celebration of Life service shifts the focus and provides an ideal opportunity to reflect and relive fond memories shared with the deceased, rather than focus on a ceremony of mourning.

What to wear to a Celebration of Life Service

Whilst mourners traditionally dress in all black when attending a funeral, this is not the case for a Celebration of Life service. In fact, it’s commonplace for the deceased’s family to encourage attendees to wear bright colours or the deceased’s favourite colour. In some instances, the hosts even encourage attendees to dress in the deceased’s beloved sport’s team colours.

As the coffin or casket is not present during a Celebration of Life service, families will often schedule the service after the ashes have been returned, so the urn may be present. This in turn allows the family to include an ashes scattering ceremony as part of the event.

How to plan a Celebration of Life service

When it comes to the planning of a Celebration of Life service, it's no different to planning any other event such as a birthday, baby shower or engagement. You will need to organise the basics such as a date, venue and guest list. Then you will need to consider the overall theme and the feeling you wish to create.

Some questions to ask yourself include, how do you think your loved one would have wanted to be remembered? And, what were their passions? How could they be reflected in the service?

Considering these points will help you decide the finer details such as catering, music, dress code and decorations. When it comes to deciding on a location, consider a location that holds special significance. Examples include restaurants, RSL, sporting clubs, pubs, beaches, parks and botanic gardens.

Choose a Master of Ceremonies

Although a funeral director is not required at a Celebration of Life service, some families prefer to enlist their services. They can assist with the running of the event and take on the role of a Master of Ceremonies. Alternatively, a friend or family member might like to take on this role. In either case, you should take some time to speak with them and develop a plan for the event.

You might like to involve your guests

As well as having a MC, you can invite speakers and tributes. Perhaps some of the guests would like to say a few words, read the eulogy, a prayer or a poem. Maybe someone musical would like to perform a piece of music. If it’s appropriate, you could even consider an ‘open mic’ for any guests to share a fond memory of the deceased.

Another way to involve more of the guests in the memory-sharing is to request they write down fond moments of the deceased in a memory book or memory box. The MC could then read some of these memories out aloud.

Inviting guests

Invitations can be sent out in a number of ways. You may select the more traditional route of advertising the Celebration of Life service in the newspaper, but other options include creating a Facebook event or sending electronic invitations by text or email. Remember to include any important details such as what to bring or wear to the service.

Wrap Up

Celebration of Life services are fast becoming a popular way to farewell loved ones when they pass. The main reasons for this is that they can be personalised for the individual and that they focus on celebrating and honouring the life of the deceased in a positive way, rather than sadly mourning their loss.

If you feel that you’d prefer a Celebration of Life service, the best thing to do is talk about it with your nearest and dearest. You should also make your wishes known in your legal Will.

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