There’s been a dramatic shift away from traditional funerals in the last few years. Now, 3 in 5 Australians say they want the tone of their funeral to be relaxed and celebratory. But unlike a traditional funeral, planning a celebration of life is a bit like planning a party.
With details like a venue, music, food and a guest list - you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss anything, so here’s a step-by-step guide on how to plan a celebration of life.
What is a celebration of life?
A celebration of life is an alternative way for friends and family to pay their respects to the deceased. Unlike traditional funerals, which are usually quite sad, a celebration of life provides a joyful experience for loved ones of the deceased to say goodbye and reflect. They are uniquely personal to the deceased and should feel like a celebration.
When do you host a celebration of life?
The flexibility of a celebration of life allows families to take time to plan something unique and personal instead of having to prepare something within days of the passing. Typically, the family will host a celebration of life after the burial or cremation, which could be weeks or months after the deceased has passed away. If there was a cremation, the family might incorporate the celebration of life with the ash scattering ceremony.
Celebration of life planning checklist
1. Choose a location
A celebration of life should feel like an informal event. Therefore, you don’t need to choose a church or funeral home as the location. When choosing a location, consider any places that the deceased loved. For example, if they loved a specific beach, you might host the celebration there. Likewise, if you plan to scatter the ashes during the ceremony, this might dictate where you host the event.
2. Decide if you need a celebrant
Like a funeral, you may find it helpful to use a funeral celebrant or ask a friend to officiate and lead the service. A celebrant can help plan the event, keep things on track, and introduce speakers so all guests can be present during the ceremony. However, if you choose a friend or family member, make sure they are comfortable and confident with the task.
3. Invite friends and family
Unlike a funeral, celebrations of life don’t usually get advertised in the newspaper. Therefore, you might consider sending out electronic invitations over email or setting up an event on Facebook and inviting guests to join. Invitations will also allow you to share specific details about what to wear, what to bring and if there’s a theme.
4. Choose people to say a few words
During the celebration of life, you might also like close friends and family to say a few words. Common readings might include a eulogy, poems, speeches, prayers or live music performances. You could also give the rest of the guests an open invitation to come up and say a few words after finishing the speeches.
Learn more about how to decide who will speak at a celebration of life.
5. Group activities
The beautiful thing about planning a celebration of life is that it can be completely personalised for the deceased. Whether it’s encouraging guests to wear a specific colour or bringing an item that reminds them of the deceased, there are no limits. An easy way to involve everyone attending is by organising a group activity that honours the deceased. Examples of group activities include sending off a balloon or lantern, scattering the ashes or planting a tree.
6. Food and drinks
You might like to include the deceased’s favourite food and drink at the celebration of life. You could also host a potluck BBQ or picnic and have everyone bring an item of food they shared with the deceased. Depending on their culture, their family might prepare specific foods for the occasion.
7. Music, photos and videos
A celebration of life is a time to reflect and celebrate the memories of your loved one. To do this, you might put together a photo montage or videos. You could also play some of their favourite songs throughout the ceremony and during the scattering of the ashes.
If you’re planning a celebration of life for a loved one, don’t feel limited by traditional funerals. The idea of this ceremony is to celebrate and honour the deceased in a unique and personalised way. So there are no limits to what you can include on this very special day.
If you think you may want a celebration of life instead of a traditional funeral, include your wishes in your online Will with Willed.