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What Is a Celebration of Life Service? May 11, 2022

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You may have heard the phrase “celebration of life” and wondered what it means. Is a celebration of life service the same as a funeral? Do you have to have a wake at a celebration of life service? Is a celebration of life service held before or after someone dies? Who makes the rules for celebration of life services? 

Let’s break this down a bit and explore all the ways a celebration of life service might be the right choice for you or your loved ones.

What Is a Celebration of Life Service?

The phrase “celebration of life” can be used for different events. We’re going to talk about the two general meanings here.

A celebration of life service can be held in lieu of a traditional funeral after a loved one passes away. There are many similarities to a funeral: people gather to mourn and to commemorate the life of their loved one, music or readings can be offered, and some of those in attendance might speak about the deceased.

But a celebration of life memorial service differs from a funeral in that it can be held anywhere, not just a house of worship. Some people gather in a park or a family member’s home; others might choose a restaurant or event space. Still others might travel together someplace that had particular importance to their loved one’s life.

Option for a celebration of life memorial service, rather than a funeral, expands the options available to celebrate and mourn the person who has passed. Because there is no one “correct” structure for a celebration of life service like there is for a church funeral, there can be countless readings or none. Whatever music speaks to those planning the service can be played, even if it seems an unorthodox choice for a service.

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Another advantage is that a celebration of life service can take place at any time, while a funeral typically has to be held within a certain number of days after a loved one passes. This is especially true if the decision is made to be cremated or to be buried in a separate, earlier service. The additional time that a family might have to plan a celebration of life memorial can give them the time and space necessary to plan an event they feel is worthy of their loved one.

The second way some people use the phrase “celebration of life” service refers to a gathering of friends and loved ones to honor and celebrate someone before they pass. This is especially true if a person is battling an illness or disease, or if they’re ready for hospice care.

Celebration of life services that are held before a person passes allows family and friends to speak directly to their beloved in a way they can’t after that person has passed. And the person facing their end of life can hear all the wonderful, loving memories and sentiments that others want to share.

A celebration of life service that occurs before a loved one passes can be both a celebration of their life and a time to offer support to that person’s loved ones. By gathering together to support one another as someone faces the end of their life, relationships can be strengthened and those who will be left to mourn can see first-hand just how loved and cherished their loved one is. Knowing that, and remembering the words said at the celebration of life service, can bring survivors comfort once their loved one has passed on.

What To Say At a Celebration of Life Service?

Like traditional funerals, celebration of life services are meant to celebrate and commemorate the life of the person who has passed. While funerals are often dictated by religious or cultural beliefs, and therefore have requisite scripture or other readings, a celebration of life service can include anything the dying family member or those who love that person want.

For instance, at a celebration of life service that occurs before your loved one has passed, each person might share their favorite memory with your loved one. Or each person might recount the story of how they met, or what they mean to one another.

Discussing this type of service early, before it needs to be planned, can help open up ideas of what your loved one would like to have shared at the event. Alternatively, the person facing the end of life might want to talk. They might want to share an overview or snapshot of their life, tell their favorite stories, or address each person in attendance personally.

At a celebration of life service that happens after your loved one has passed, you can still share favorite memories. You might share with those in attendance what you’ll miss most about your loved one, or recount a time they made you laugh.

The point of a celebration of life service is found right there in the phrase: it’s a celebration! When choosing what to say, remember to pick words that help celebrate the life and legacy of the person who has passed.

How To Personalize a Celebration of Life Service

Because a celebration of life service isn’t beholden to strict rules like some religious ceremonies are, you have countless ways to personalize it.

Think about place: you could hold the event at a favorite restaurant, coffeeshop, park, or home. You could also include more than one place. If your loved one loved music and going to concerts, for example, you could attend a concert together and then share a meal.

Think about the experience: did your loved one love costume parties? Ask attendees to come in costume or create a theme they can dress to. Was your loved one an avid gardener or environmentalist? Invite everyone to volunteer at a community garden or to plant a tree together. The options are endless and can be specifically tailored to the unique life your loved one lived.

Think about food: Traditionally, when people gather, there is shared food. While not a requirement, it might be nice to incorporate a meal or some kind of refreshment into your chosen celebration of life service. Doing so will help those in attendance slow down, connect, and have conversations.

The service you choose should, ultimately, reflect your life and your beliefs. We’d be honored to work with you to create a service that will beautifully celebrate and commemorate your loved one’s life. Please call us if we can be of service.