What is a Celebration of Life?
So-called “celebration of life” ceremonies are about avoiding the sombre nature of traditional funerals, with the contemporary service including uplifting or modern music, laughter and storytelling.
The key idea of a celebration of life is to shift the focus from the death of a person to the happiness they provided others while alive, with the ceremony built around the personality and requests of the departed.
How is a celebration of life different from a funeral?
Just like weddings are moving away from traditional church settings, funerals have been evolving with the times.
A celebration of life doesn’t focus on mourning, rather its purpose is to joyfully remember the hobbies, triumphs and personality of the deceased.
It’s not uncommon for a celebration of life to feel more like a party than a commemoration - don’t expect the ceremony to follow the conventions of a religious funeral service or to have hushed tones and a subdued demeanor.
Wearing black is commonly discouraged, with attendees encouraged to dress in the deceased’s favourite color or in clothing representing their favourite sporting team.
Unlike a funeral, a celebration of life doesn't have to be organised immediately after the person has passed, with the flexible nature allowing the ceremony to be held on any date of importance to the deceased.
Where is it appropriate to hold a celebration of life ceremony?
A celebration of life ceremony is rarely held in a church setting, with the organizer able to get creative when setting the location.
Gatherings can be held like any other social event - set up in a home, the local community hall, a restaurant or pub - as long as your selected place is big enough to accommodate the invitees, the ceremony can be held practically anywhere.
As a celebration of life doesn't need to be in a religious location, the ceremony doesn't have to be conducted by a priest - it's common for a celebrant or a family member/friend to take on the role.
What are some famous examples of a celebration of life?
Gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson had his ashes blown into the sky by a giant cannon filled with fireworks.
The cannon was purchased by Johnny Depp who played the author in the film adaptation of his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Friends were instructed to remember Hunter S Thompson afterwards with the clink of ice in whiskey - the author was well-known for his decadent lifestyle.
Sex Pistol's Malcolm McLaren had his hearse drive around north London accompanied by a boisterous 200-strong party singing along to Sid Vicious's version of My Way.
Joan Rivers' funeral was similar in grandeur, with the event opened by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus performing a series of Broadway show tunes.
Celebration of life ideas
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to organising a celebration of life, with the only requirement being it match the deceased person’s passions and interests.
To help you get started with planning, Memories has pulled together a list of potential celebration of life ideas:
1. Plant a tree to remember your loved one
Create a living monument in the name of your lost loved one by planting a tree in their honour - a celebration that also provides a boost to the environment.
Pick their favourite plant so it acts as a constant reminder of the one you lost or pick a plant with a special meaning such as a lilly, which represents cleansing of the soul and rebirth.
Invite friends and family to attend a ceremony and bury the plant - seed packets could also be included as memorial handouts for the guests to grow their own version at a location of their choosing.
2. Create a Memories Page with friends and family
Hold an event at a chosen location and ask friends and family to bring any photos and videos they have of the deceased.Digitize any physical assets and then upload the content to a Memories Page, which provides a private and secure space to highlight the people, places and milestones that mattered most to your lost loved one.Once published, friends and family can continue to add memories or share the Memories Page with people who might not have been able to attend the ceremony.A Memories Page also offers comfort in knowing it will last forever to inspire future generations.
3. Upcycle your loved one's favourite clothing
Collect your lost loved one's favourite clothing and invite friends and family around for a creative celebration of life. Use the clothing to create a memory quilt or teddy bears dressed in their clothing - the final product could be given to immediate family member or the deceased's best friend.
4. Dedicate a star in your loved one’s name
If your loved one was a sci-fi fan, you could give them the ultimate gift of naming a star after them.There are several companies that offer packages to name a star, with the purchaser provided with a certificate and telescopic coordinates to find it in the sky.
A celebration of life event could see friends and family of the loved one gathered together at night to find the star in the sky, while sharing positive memories of the deceased.
5. A celebration of life donation
A great way to keep the memory of your lost loved one alive is by donating to an event or charity close to the deceased’s heart.Hold a celebration of life event and get everyone to donate some funds; use that money to make a donation or set up a scholarship in the person’s name.
6. Get inked
If you want a permanent reminder of the person who has passed, friends and family could get a matching tattoo of something meaningful to the deceased.