For some people, a funeral conjures up a picture of mourners dressed head to toe in black, while sombre organ music plays. But that’s not for everyone. In recent years, more and more people are seeking to break from tradition and opt for a colourful celebration of life.
What is a celebration of life?
Although many people still prefer the sombre dignity of a traditional funeral, a celebration of life is an alternative way of saying goodbye to a loved one that reflects the joy someone brought to the lives of others places the emphasis on celebrating happy memories. It’s a way of reflecting who they were in life and how they will live on, in people’s hearts and minds.
For some who are close to the end of their lives, it’s a comfort to talk with loved ones about a ‘happy’ funeral’ and celebration of their life that will include wonderful memories and smiles, as well as tears.
If the person who has died was not of a religious faith with its own funeral traditions, a celebration of life may be an appropriate way to reflect their very own life philosophies or unique kind of spirituality.
A happy funeral is the chance to give many people a chance to be involved and express how important someone was to them.
A good funeral director can help you arrange all the elements to make your loved one’s life celebration unique.
What do you do at a celebration of life?
So long as it’s legal, it’s up to you. If you’re the person organising a celebration of life funeral, you’ll need to think about the elements that would have mattered most to them. It’s also considerate to be mindful of the wishes of other members of the family – a funeral is not just a farewell, but an important first step in the grieving process.
Would your loved one have wanted people to sing, or dance, hit the surf or have a barbecue? Be sure to include details ahead of time, so that other people know what to expect, wear or bring.
If you are a mourner or guest, then try your best to go with the flow.
1. Locations for a celebration of life
When you’re organising a celebration of life, you can take advantage of a location provided by your funeral home, or include other venues as part of the day. It could be that, after you’ve arranged for the burial or cremation itself, you’d prefer the celebration of life ceremony itself to be in a place of special significance.
Alternative funerals can take place after someone has been cremated and include the committal or dispersal of their ashes. If your loved one was a passionate gardener for instance, a park or botanic garden might be fitting for their celebration of life party, where you could arrange for mourners to release butterflies.
You can also host a celebration of life at your own home or in the local community hall or even pub. Just like any social gathering, as long as there is enough space to host the people you’ve invited, a celebration of life can be held almost anywhere.
2. Conducting a celebration of life
A celebration of life may be a more informal kind of funeral, but you’ll need someone officiate at the service. For this, you’ll need a celebrant to lead the proceedings and introduce the other people taking part in the funeral ceremony. For non-religious celebrations of life, there are many civil celebrants who can help you create an order of service that reflects your loved one’s life and interests. Others specialise in humanist philosophies, while a pastor or religious minister may able to advise on the steps you can take to include elements of faith within a celebration of life. A member of the family could even officiate.
3.Spreading the word about a celebration of life
It’s helpful to include details of the celebration of life funeral in your loved one’s obituary. While it’s unusual to send out invitations to traditional funerals, you can invite people to a celebration of life. Some people post the event details on social media.
Include details about any dress code or particular color you’d like for people to wear, any special requests and the kind of atmosphere you are hoping to create, to remember this special person by.
4. Setting the order of service
The order of service depends entirely on the elements you’d like to include at the celebration of life. Like a traditional funeral, you may want to include music and singing, poems and speeches about the person who has died. An alternative funeral could be an opportunity to play their favorite music, or for people to dance. A life celebration might be centered around a cavalcade of motorbikes doing a ‘last blast’ in their honor, the release of doves, or even a Viking-style ceremony.
5. Who will speak at the life celebration?
Just like any funeral, it’s a good idea to include several speakers at the celebration of life. A more informal funeral venue could mean there are fewer time limits, giving more people the opportunity to share things they’d like to say. It’s good to include a eulogy which expresses their best qualities, highlights of their life story and how much they will be missed. Favorite poems, songs and even quotes can add a personal touch to an alternative funeral service. Some people choose to have an ‘open mic’ for any guests to stand up and share a memory of the person who has died.
Celebration of life ideas
Plant a memorial tree: A tree-planting ceremony is an enduring way to memorialize a loved one by and also benefits the environment. A memorial tree provides a physical location for family and friends to visit a loved one in years to come.
Have a barbecue: If your loved one was an easy-going character who enjoyed a social gathering with good food and drink, a barbeque may be an ideal tribute to commemorate their life. It’s a fitting way to gather friends and family to remember happy memories.
Dedicate a star: Companies in Australia, such as International Star Registry, offer packages that include a certificate with a dedication date, telescopic coordinates, and your loved one’s name. Gather family and friends together to celebrate your loved one’s life in an after-dark party where you look out for their star twinkling in the night sky.
Dove release: A dove release can be a peaceful and healing tribute to say a final farewell to a loved one and your funeral director can help you arrange for this. Some people choose release butterflies as a beautiful farewell.
Pick a theme: A viking-style funeral could be a spectacular send off, while Star Wars has influenced the life celebrations of a number of fans.A celebration of life could also be based around singing and music, or a hobby or interest that they loved in life.
Memory cards: Ask your celebration of life guests to write their favorite memory of the person who died on a note card. These cards can then be kept in a memory box for future generations of the family to read.
Be inspired to personalize your loved one’s funeral with these creative funeral ideas. There are also many special ways that you can continue to honour a loved one on the anniversary of their death.