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Celebration of Life Ideas for a More Personal Send-Off

An increasing number of people are choosing to celebrate a person’s life rather than mourn their passing. It’s considered to be a more uplifting way to say goodbye, compared to a traditional funeral. 


When someone close to you dies, it’s important to honour their memory and come to terms with their death. Traditionally, it would mean arranging a funeral or memorial service. However, there are many different ways you can honour your loved one and their legacy.


More and more families are now looking for a farewell that better reflects their loved one’s life and that is in keeping with their family’s beliefs and relationships. 


A celebration of life is an opportunity for relatives and friends to pay tribute to their loved ones and at the same time say goodbye in a unique and personal way. We’ve provided some tips on how to plan a celebration of life and some ideas to help you gain a starting point to plan the perfect service.


Celebration of life tributes


A celebration of life is a more upbeat alternative to a traditional and often sombre funeral. Rather than the focus being the sadness of saying goodbye, a celebration of life tribute or service honours a person’s personality and how they lived their life. It focuses on happy memories that show how grateful you are for the time you spent with the person who has passed away.


There’s much more room for creativity in a celebration of life compared to a traditional funeral. They are commonly held separately to the burial or cremation of the deceased’s physical remains. This means you have plenty of time to plan the event. 


A celebration of life tends to be less formal or religious than a funeral or memorial service. However, if you think your loved one would prefer something more spiritual, there’s no reason why you can’t arrange such an event. 


A celebration of life is often held somewhere casual like a park or somewhere that was special to the deceased. It might be indoors, outdoors, somewhere private or public. What people wear is far more relaxed, and people are encouraged to speak and share stories, but there is generally no strict format.


What do you do at a celebration of life?


There are no set rules or any etiquette to follow. If you’re organising a celebration of life service or event, what you need to think about is what would have mattered most to the deceased. It’s also a good idea to be mindful of the wishes of other members of the family. 


It’s always a good idea to sit down together to explore some celebration of life ideas. Having a framework or running order can be very helpful. There may be family members who would want to lead the ceremony. On the other hand, contacting a celebrant might make it easier for you.


Celebrations of life can be pretty much anything you want them to be, free from any worries about social expectations.


Celebration of life events after COVID-19


The recent pandemic restrictions have encouraged people to consider new ways to honour their loved ones. COVID-19 has raised concerns over transmission, and physical distancing requirements which can make bereavement even more challenging. 


There has been an increase in funeral homes offering live streaming options to compensate for restrictions on social gatherings. Family and friends connect online rather than in person, and the interest in digital memorials has risen.


Planning a celebration of life checklist


The most memorable celebration of life event will be one that captures the unique life and personality of the deceased. We’ve compiled a checklist to help guide you through the process of planning a celebration of life ceremony


  • Timing: A celebration of life can be held any time after death. You can make arrangements immediately, but it’s also acceptable to wait weeks or even months. 

  • Type of ceremony: Decide on the kind of ceremony you want to hold, whether it’s religious, informal, formal, small, or large.  

  • People to invite: Make a list of everyone you’d like to invite. Immediate family is an excellent place to start. Then consider more distant relatives, friends, and your support network. Remember the communities that your loved one was part of too.

  • Location: When choosing a location, things to consider include how large the venue needs to be, whether there is adequate parking, disability access when it’s available, and whether it can accommodate all parts of the event. 

  • Officiant, celebrant, or host: Who will lead the celebration of life? If the deceased was religious or spiritual, the celebrant or officiant might have a standard service that you can personalise. If a celebrant is going to lead the event, you’ll still be able to choose meaningful elements.  

  • Readings/readers: Did your loved one have any religious prayers, poems, quotes, personal writings, or song lyrics that were significant to them? Who would be the best person to present them? There’s also a place for personal anecdotes or memories about the individual. 

  • Eulogists/speakers: If you decide to have a celebration of life eulogy, think about who will write and deliver it. Five to ten minutes is a good guideline for its length. Try to keep it focused, personal, and positive.  

  • Music: Can you think of any songs or hymns for the celebration of life ceremony, or other pieces of music that your loved one enjoyed, or something that holds special significance? There are many options when it comes to delivery, from a playlist on an audio system, professional musician, DJ, or family/friends.

  • Food and drink: For the refreshments you could hire a caterer, offer full-service food and beverages, or make it yourself with the help of family and friends. Think about whether your loved one preferred a particular style of cuisine. 

  • Photographer/videographer: You might choose to capture the event with a celebration of life video or photos so you can keep the memories for years to come. If there are people who can’t attend, you could webcast the event or send them some celebration of life photos. 

  • Flowers and memorials: Sympathy flowers are a traditional way for people to express their condolences. However, recently it’s become more common for families to request donations rather than flowers. 

  • Personalising the event: You should personalise the event as much as possible, and there are no limitations as to what you can do. We’ll be giving you some ideas a little further down the page. 

  • Celebration of life invitations: The final step in the process is to send out the invitations for the celebration of life. It comes at the end because the style of event will affect the design and content of your invitation. Ask guests to RSVP because this will ensure you’ve got enough food, drinks, and keepsakes for everyone. 


Ideas for an outdoor celebration of life


  • Lantern, dove, balloon, or paper boat releases are a beautiful gesture, so choose something that suits your loved one’s personality - remember to consider the environmental impact of your choices.You could scatter their ashes at a favourite beauty spot or their ‘happy place' 

  • Planting a tree is an everlasting celebration of life memorial and you could choose a tree that symbolises their character or simply opt for their favourite 

  • Create a memory garden together or give out flower seed packets so people can plant them in memory of your loved one 

  • Hold a BBQ on the beach 

  • Have a picnic at their favourite picnic spot

  • Go hiking in a location that meant something to them

Indoor celebration of life ideas


  • Hold a family dinner and include their favourite dish(es)

  • Organise a bake-off gathering

  • Hold an afternoon tea party at your home

  • Set up a family gathering and include activities children can join

  • If your loved one had a favourite movie you could plan a movie night and watch it together

  • Create a memory board and ask people to bring along photos, poems, notes and memories to add to it

  • Sharing memories and stories of a person’s life is a meaningful way to remember them

  • Have stones, quilt squares or Jenga blocks available for people to sign and write a message, then use them to create a memorial

  • Ask people to bring an item or write down a memory to place in a memory box

Celebration of life ideas in public


  • Did your loved one have a favourite artist, band, opera, musical, or style of music? Buy tickets and go to a concert

  • Go to a football game of their favourite team

  • Organise a charity event in your loved one’s honour, such as a charity marathon, clothes donation, bingo, or karaoke session 

  • Organise a memorial donation to a favourite charity or organisation 

  • Organise a memorial tournament around a game they loved - from cricket to Monopoly! Send your loved one’s ashes up in a rocket and light up the sky with fireworks

Celebrating the life of a loved one privately


  • Create or upcycle a piece of furniture as a special place to remember them
  • Fill a time capsule with notes, photos, and memorabilia and bury it along with their ashes 

  • Have memorial jewellery made, or wear a memorial necklace that holds a small portion of your loved one’s ashes

  • Have a pillow, cushion or teddy made from their favourite clothing 

  • Personalise a memorial bench for your back garden area 

  • Write them a letter

  • Make a photo album or photo book

  • Create a keepsake box

  • Have a spare chair for them always

  • Choose a picture that reminds you of special time together - this could be a painting of a favourite place, a lovely portrait taken from a photograph

After the celebration of life


A celebration of life is a one-time event, but remembrance will continue. The anniversary of a loved one’s death or their birthday can be a time for simple contemplation, family gatherings, memorials, fellowship, and remembrance.   


There are many ways you can choose to celebrate their life for many years after they have gone.


  • Visit their final resting place

  • Write a letter, poem, or blog

  • Play their favourite song(s)

  • Hold a special remembrance ceremony

  • Take time out and get away from it all

  • Look through old photos

  • Light a candle and reflect on your happy memories


Many families like the idea of building an online memorial page, so they can share memories with friends and relatives from far and near. See the Pure Memories memorial page for more details.

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