How to plan a celebration of life

A funeral doesn’t have to be family and friends sitting in front of a dead body praying the rosary. Today, many people are turning away from traditional memorial services, choosing instead to create a memorable and personalized celebration of life. You may have some questions like:

Why should you have a service?

Services are really about love. You are taking the time and expressing and sharing the love you felt for that person. It is important to celebrate but not at the cost of acknowledging that something important has been lost. The best services mix memories, comfort and encouragement. You need to take this time to share your loss, laugh and talk, and share your thoughts and feelings with others.

Where should I celebrate the celebration of life?

Some funeral homes and cremation societies have rooms for you to use. If you are a member of a congregation, you might consider the church community room. Many people now choose a private location, such as a country club, university, or a relative’s garden. Where did you like to go on Saturday afternoons: the beach, the tennis club, the golf course, fishing by a stream, soccer games? If they were sailors, perhaps the port or yacht club would be a good place to meet.

Who can I ask to lead the service?

Celebrants are becoming more and more popular. A Certified Funeral Celebrant is a person who seeks to meet the needs of families during the time of their loss. A celebrant is trained to help individuals create and present a personalized funeral, memorial, or celebration of life service.

Many families today do not participate in an organized religion or church. They have no family minister and would prefer a celebration of life lived rather than a sermon. A Celebrant will honor the wishes of a family and host a religious or non-religious gathering. The family is free to participate as much as they wish. The service belongs to the family and is carried out as they wish.

How can I get family and friends to share their memories?

You only get one chance to collect everyone’s memories. Consider 3″ x 5″ lined cards that say, “I’ll always remember when we…” or “I wish I had the chance to tell you…”. These cards and pens are given to friends and family as they come into service. The celebrant or funeral director may be responsible for handing them out and picking them up at the end of the service. These cards can be put in a bag and taken out and shared at family gatherings for years to come. They become a reflection of the lives of the ancestors for generations to come.

You can print them yourself on your home computer and copy them onto poster board. You will also find them on our site listed below.

Guest books are not very practical as they require people to line up at the service. Short of sharing feelings and memories, what is the long-term use of a guestbook? If feelings and memories are shared, the wait can be very long and delay the service.

What can I put on a memory table?

Create a table and bring things that your loved one liked to do. For example, if they liked to paint, bring their artwork, their paints, brushes, and smocks. You could even bring your easels and put the artwork on your easels. If they were gardeners, you could bring your gardening tools and flower pots. If they liked soccer, you could bring some memorabilia with the logo of the team they supported that you or they might have. If they liked photography, put their favorite cameras on the table with some of their photos. You may want to write on a note card: “Sarah always found time to create the perfect photo and then share it with us. If you liked golf, please bring your clubs, tees, scorecards and golf balls with you.” a card that might say something like “Watch Jane’s hole-in-one on the 7th hole.”

Consider putting pocket charms on the table that reflect your loved one. Guests are encouraged to take one, they will put it in their pocket or bag and when they find it they will remember the departed.

You can also consider personalized cards with seeds that contain wildflowers. The cards can be placed on the memory table and friends and family can take them and keep the card as a memory and plant the seeds.

Should I have it taken care of?

It’s always nice to serve a meal. A sit-down dinner or lunch reception will be more productive than a punch sandwich and tea reception. Food selection will depend on the time of day, location, and your budget. Did your loved one have a favorite food or type of food? If you loved fried chicken, coleslaw, and apple pie, maybe you should consider it. Don’t forget dessert. Personally, I want Sees candy served to me.

Should I serve drinks?

You may want to be careful around alcohol, as emotions and alcohol are never a good mix. Death can bring family problems and if you add alcohol things can get out of control. I recommend punch, soft drinks, coffee and tea. If you choose a beach setting, would you like to serve smoothies? Did your loved one have a favorite drink? If so, would it be appropriate to serve it?

What else can I do at the celebration?

Consider launching a balloon. Family and friends can write a note on a tag that is attached to a string on the balloon. You can find balloons in many grocery stores or in the yellow pages.

Consider plantable seed cards. You can personalize with cards with the names of your loved ones and when the cards are planted, forget-me-not flowers grow in their memory.

You could have a procession and put the candles around the casket or urn. The candles can be given to family and friends as a souvenir at the end of the ceremony.

How can I help guests connect?

Consider having people fill out name tags. Chances are there will be a lot of people who won’t know everyone. Also, if the person you lost is older, chances are their friends are too. The elderly have site problems and memory problems. You’ll want to make sure the name is in large print so they can read the name. We also encourage people to write on the name tag how they met their loved one. This makes for a great conversation starter.

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *