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When someone dies it’s more common today that they will want a celebration of life after, or even instead of, a traditional memorial service. People don’t want to be mourned; they want their loved ones to celebrate their life instead.

Funerals and memorial services are a very personal thing and depends on a number of factors. These would typically include the deceased’s wishes and those of the immediate family. But there are no hard and fast rules.

Some religions have certain traditions, but where there are none, the sky is the limit.

And the nature of funeral planning is changing too. More people are opting for direct cremation., where the deceased is cremated without a service. Among other things it helps reduce costs for the family. The funeral director takes the hearse directly to the crematorium and there is no funeral ceremony.

A direct cremation offers the perfect opportunity for a celebration of life as the scattering of the ashes can be an integral part of such a celebration.

That means a celebration of life can be held a day or a year after. Whenever the family feels it’s the right time.


What is a Celebration of Life?

A celebration of life can be anything – from a gathering at a house or favourite spot of the deceased to a trip of a lifetime abroad.

However, a celebration of a loved one’s passing isn’t usually held at a church or funeral home. It’s about making things personal.

And while celebrating a loved one’s life in this way isn’t as formal as a funeral service or officiated memorial, it’s worthwhile considering some form of structure to the proceedings, to ensure everything gets celebrated in the way the family wants.  It’s worth remembering that a traditional funeral service is part of the grieving process for some.

But there’s no reason why you can’t have both.


Some Celebration of Life Ideas

Planning a celebration of life doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s essentially about getting family and friends together to celebrate the memory of a loved one. It can be the location that’s the key part or what’s planned. But if you share the event with everyone important you will create a lasting and happy memorial.

You might choose to begin the celebrations as a more structured gathering, then arrange food and drink at a relatives’ house after.

Here are some more ideas for ways to celebrate:


  • Create a memory book – ask friends and family attending the celebration to contribute a picture and put them together into an album for viewing on the day. Many photo processing services offer photo books, which are perfect for creating a lasting memory and doesn’t require physical photos.
  • You can do it with mementos too. Ask everyone to contribute a memento and create a memento box.
  • Have people choose their favourite anecdotes and memories to read out on the day or have them write them down ready to be shared by a family member on the day. You could also send the collected stories in an email or scrapbook after the event.
  • Plant your loved one’s favourite flower as part of the ceremony. Or distribute seeds at the memorial and scatter the seeds in memory of your loved one. You may need permission to scatter seeds or plant a memorial tree or flower if the land is private property. There are no laws governing the scattering of ashes, however polluting the environment is taken seriously by the environment agency. Make sure whatever you do is environmentally friendly.
  • Light a candle or have everyone light a candle or send up a sky lantern. Again, be aware of the environmental implications – farm animals have been known to ingest sky lanterns once they land, resulting in serious injury to the animal
  • Create a patchwork quilt from squares of the deceased’s clothing.
  • Put together a video reel of the deceased.
  • Create a playlist inspired by your loved one’s favourite music.
  • Read you loved one’s favourite poem or an excerpt from their favourite film/book.


What to Wear at a Celebration of Life Service

At a traditional funeral service you would likely wear formal attire. It’s a common custom in Western funerals.

But if you are invited to a celebration of life it’s more likely to be a lot less formal than a funeral service in a church or crematorium.

There may even be a theme, something that was close to the heart of the deceased. If you have any concerns about what to wear, then you should ask the family.

With most things concerning what to do at a funeral, or similar memorial special days, what is right is determined by the wishes of the immediate family. As long as what you wear is respectful or fitting for the occasion and the family’s wishes you should feel completely comfortable.

It’s your presence that’s important and can offer support to a grieving family.


Final Thoughts

A celebration of life is perhaps considered a time for storytelling the life of someone who has passed away. A traditional funeral service is more solemn, more ordered and often more spiritual.

And a huge factor of your plans is choosing a funeral director who listens and can understand what you want for your loved one’s funeral. The funeral will be a fitting send off for your loved one, at a price you are happy with.

We’re a family run firm that started in 1867. As a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors S. Stibbards and Sons Ltd upholds the highest standards, working with work with integrity and respect for your wishes.

If you want to discuss any aspect of your funeral, we’d love to hear from you. There’s no pressure and we can offer with expert and impartial advice. Let us help put your mind at rest.

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Supporting You Along The Way

If you wish to have a discussion with one of our funeral arrangers, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We can talk through yours and your loved one’s needs and discuss how we can best celebrate their life.