“Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even in its end.” – Joann Harris

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I think most people want to be celebrated at the end of life instead of mourned. It makes sense. By the end, we’ve hopefully survived challenges, overcome obstacles, loved fiercely, made a difference, and contributed in our own way to making the world a better place. Walking this earth is neither an easy task nor for the meek of heart, so let’s celebrate the fact that we endured challenges, obstacles, achievements, and triumphs.

What Is a Celebration of Life

A celebration of life finds joy in sorrow; it is in this duality that we find peace. The location for a celebration of life is significant to the individual who passed. It could be a beach, a park, a pub, or in someone’s home. The focus of a celebration of life is to celebrate a beautiful soul.

Maya Angelou reminds us that, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

We celebrate their human experience, including our love for each other. We celebrate the ways in which our loved one impacted our lives. We celebrate their personalities, their quirks, their faults, and their strengths. We celebrate their humanity and, with a little faith, we are left with a strong suspicion that they are on to their next great adventure–and we celebrate this too.

Celebrations of life are made meaningful when they embody and serve as a window into the life of the deceased. There are countless ideas for this type of celebration because each individual is unique. Some people work with a funeral director to plan a special celebration, and others may choose to hire professional celebrants to help them with the planning.

Funeral Celebrant

A professional celebrant or a funeral director can be similar to a wedding planner. They work with families to design both secular and non-secular celebrations that are customized to the family’s wishes. Because a celebration of life generally occurs after the physical remains of the body have been tended to, families have more time to plan the event.

 Planning a Life Celebration - Friends and family cheersPlanning a Life Celebration Service

You can start the planning process by creating a guest list, setting a budget and choosing a location and date.

Next, decide which parts of the celebration to personalize in order to highlight the deceased.


Include your loved one’s favorite songs.

Explore a list of traditional funeral songs that can help you celebrate your loved ones who have passed.

Readings and Speeches

Read your loved one’s favorite poem or excerpt from a treasured book. Choose friends and family members to tell heartwarming, funny, or interesting stories about your loved one.

Food and Drinks

Serve your loved one’s favorite beverage as the signature drink. Include their go-to appetizer or preferred dish in the meal.

Personalized Decorations and Videos

  • Think about decorating in your loved one’s top color combination.
  • Give participants favors that commemorate the deceased. For example, seeds or bulbs if they were a gardener.
  • Create a video with pictures and music to incorporate into the ceremony.
  • Determine if you would like to include a group activity, such as planting a tree or a memorial garden.

Suggested Reads: How To Honor Your Loved Ones Who Have Passed Away and Memorial Ideas For Springtime


Celebration of Life Quote - "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... It's about learning how to dance in the rain."

Celebration of Life Ideas

Below are 20 inspiring celebration of life ideas for 2020.

1. Lift Off an Eco-friendly Sky Lantern

Bring family and friends together to release an eco-friendly sky lantern. This is a beautiful way to commemorate a loved one while lighting up the night sky. Celebrants can write personalized messages or wishes for their loved one on the lantern before releasing it.

2. Create a Quote Board

Ask family and friends to share a quote that represents your loved one. The quote can be from their favorite book or poem. It could also be a phrase that they used frequently or a quote that reminds you of them. Tag a whiteboard, chalkboard, fabric or wood board with the quote. You can even create a memorial wall for the quotes in the basement or other areas of your house by using chalkboard paint.

3. Put Their Name Amongst the Stars

Buy a star in your loved one’s name. Choose the constellation, receive a sky chart and certificate, and view the star online through the Worldwide Telescope with family and friends.

4. Decorate a Memorial Tree

Choose your loved one’s favorite tree in the backyard to memorialize. Decorate it with mason jars that are filled halfway with water and float flowers or candles in them. Attach wire to the top of the mason jars to make a handle and hang from the tree. Add a memorial plaque at the base of the tree.

5. Start a Book Club

Start a book club with family and friends in your loved one’s honor. Read their favorite genres, authors, or inspirational books.

Suggested Read: 6 Books That Offer Perspective When You Are Grieving and Three Amazing Things You Can Do For Your Loved Ones

6. Binge-Watch Their Favorite Netflix Series

Invite people over to binge on your loved one’s favorite movies or Netflix series.

More like This: 5 Best Family-Friendly Movies About Death

7. Participate in Their Favorite Charity

Sign up for a walk or run in the name of your loved one’s favorite charity.

8. Host a Gift-Wrapping Party

Buy and donate gifts in your loved one’s name on his or her birthday or during the holidays. These special days can be especially difficult; however, when we do charitable works in communion with others, it can make our grief easier to bear.

9. Commission a Naming of a Rose

Commission the naming of a rose after your loved one. Bring together friends and family to view the roses available for naming. Once you vote on a winner and purchase the name, the rose is registered with the International Cultivar Registration Authority. Friends and family can also purchase cuttings to plant.

10. Host a Tattoo Party

These days, tattoos are a popular way to memorialize a loved one. For those who are interested, have a tattoo party where each participant designs a tattoo that reminds them of their loved one. Then, visit the tattoo parlor together.

11. Throw a Pot-Luck Celebration of Life

Ask friends and family to choose recipes that their loved one enjoyed to make and share. As a token of appreciation, present friends and family with a book of recipes that includes photos of the deceased from gatherings with friends and family over the years.

Suggested Read: Family Recipes – Continuing A Legacy

12. Take a Painting or Pottery Class

Dedicate the painting to your loved one, or plant their favorite flower in the piece of pottery with a group of friends and family.

Suggested Read: After Loss, Turning To Poetry For Grief And Healing

13. Create a Video Tribute

Ask friends and family to share their favorite stories and memories of the deceased. A company called SpeechBooth will provide you with a video-recording kit and professionally edit the footage.

14. Plan a Holiday Party

Make ornaments decorated with your loved one’s name or photograph. Next, ask your guests to write their favorite memories in a card and place them in your loved one’s stocking. Open the cards on Christmas day, and share the memories with your guests.

Suggested Read: How to Survive The Holidays After Losing A Loved One

15. Plan a Destination Celebration of Life Party

Travel to a place that was on your loved one’s bucket list. If you can, scatter some ashes or create a small memorial at a beautiful spot.

More like This: What Are Destination Funerals And Why Are They Becoming Popular?

16. Play Their Favorite Sport

Organize a baseball game, golf outing, bowling party, or soccer game in honor of your loved one’s favorite sport.

17. Turn Their Ashes Into Fireworks

Turn your loved one’s ashes into fireworks, and set them off on his or her birthday.

More like This: Cremation Ashes: 11 Of The Best Ideas To Memorialize Your Loved One

18. Release Boats Into a River

Kids can create and decorate boats in honor of the deceased. Before releasing the boats into a river, family and friends can share stories about their loved one or say a prayer.

19. Create Kites

Children can write messages on ribbon, paper, or fabric and attach them to the tail of a kite. Plan a memorial picnic with friends and family at the deceased’s favorite park and enjoy watching the children fly the kite.

20. Revisit Their Favorite Places

Invite friends and family on a road trip. Visit places that were significant to your loved one. Take new pictures in the same spots where your loved one was previously photographed.

Discussing End-of-Life Celebrations

Discussing End-Of-Life Celebrations

Although no one likes to contemplate his or her own death, it is important to discuss each others’ wishes for a celebration of life. And, it can make for a very interesting and fun conversation. In 2019, most people have a unique perspective on how they would like their lives memorialized. From pub crawls to luaus on the beach to dance parties or a day of scrapbooking, planning a celebration of life can be a satisfying way to find joy in times of grief. Most people are more receptive to talking about a celebration of life by nature of the phrase itself. It makes us sad to think of our loved ones grieving our death versus celebrating it. After my death, I’d like to think that I put smiles on their faces because they are sharing funny stories, enjoying my favorite meal, or soaking in the beauty of my favorite beach. These conversations are both important and necessary. We may, indeed, discover that our loved one prefers a traditional funeral or both a funeral and celebration of life. However, we will never know unless we ask.

Suggested Read: How Do You Want To Be Celebrated?

It is freeing to know that we no longer need to be confined to a traditional religious service, especially if a loved one was not religious. In the end, a touching way to honor our loved ones is by celebrating who they were as individuals by personalizing the celebration. With a little imagination and open-mindedness, we can create a one-of-a-kind celebration that, if our loved one were still here, would not only put a smile on their face, but probably produce a few chuckles.


“I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles
when life is done.

I’d like to leave an echo
whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times
and bright and sunny days.

I’d like the tears of those who grieve
to dry before the sun;
Of happy memories that I leave
when life is done.”

– Helen Lowrie Marshall