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Funeral vs. Celebration Of Life: What's the Difference?

When someone we truly care about passes away, we want the perfect way to commemorate their life. We also want a way to get together and say goodbye. While traditional funerals have been a popular way to pay tribute, there are more and more people who want a celebration of life instead. This blog post will outline what a celebration of life is, how it’s different to a funeral, and how to plan one.

LIFE written on a balloon

What is a celebration of life?

A celebration of life is another way to say goodbye to a loved one and celebrate the life that they lived. It’s an occasion to look back at the happy memories and reflect on the joy that the person brought to everyone’s lives.

What do you do at a celebration of life?

This is completely up to you! As long as you’re not breaking any laws, you can choose how you want to celebrate the person’s life..

If you’re organising the celebration, you may want to think about what the person you’re celebrating valued most. You also want to consider the wishes of the family and loved ones.

Is a celebration of life the same as a funeral?

Both a funeral and a celebration of life involve a gathering of people who share a common loss. They both do the following:

  • Celebrate the life of the deceased.
  • Allow people to support the grieving family and loved ones for their loss.
  • Honour the memory of the deceased.

The most distinguishable difference, however, is that a funeral is more of a formal tradition and a celebration of life is more informal way to commemorate a loved one.

A traditional funeral usually includes the visitation, funeral service and committal service, a celebration of life is a more casual event that can be done in any way.

Another distinguishable difference is that at most funerals, the body of the deceased is present. In a celebration of life, there’s no need to gather around the body, which can lead to more creative licence.

Celebration of life ideas

If you decide to opt for a celebration of life, here are a few ideas that you can do:

  1. Have a barbeque
  2. Share a series of photos of memories
  3. Plant a memorial tree
  4. Do an activity the deceased person enjoyed
  5. Dedicate a star
  6. Throw a themed celebration of life
  7. Dove release
  8. Memory cards
  9. Memory boards
  10. Volunteer

Feel free to ask other family members and loved ones of the deceased for ideas, since they’re the ones who knew them best. You can ask around and find out what the person was known for, their interests, and what they most valued. Perhaps they had a favourite colour everyone should dress in, or songs they would want played. Maybe you want to serve their favourite foods or gather in the park where they took their daily walks.

How to plan a celebration of life

Here are the steps to planning a celebration of life:

1 – Decide how you want to conduct the service

This is the time where you reflect back on the deceased’s life and think of a celebration that best represents them.

First, you can see if they outlined how they want their memorial service conducted in their Will, or you can ask their loved ones and family what they think is best.

You can also refer to some of the celebration of life ideas above.

2 – Decide when you want to have the service

The general difference between a funeral and a celebration of life is that the body is not physically present at a celebration of life.

Because of this, you can have the celebration of life any time you’d like, whether it’s a few weeks or a few months after the death. This gives you flexibility to decide a date and time that is best for the deceased’s loved ones to gather.

3 – Choose a location

While still could still organise a celebration of life in a funeral home, there are many other venues you can choose from as well.

You could host it at a place that is of special significance to your deceased loved one like a beach, a park, or even a favourite restaurant or pub.

Just like any other celebration and party, as long as there’s enough space to fit the guest list, you can have the celebration of life anywhere.

4 – Decide who will conduct the celebration of life

Even though a celebration of life is more informal than a funeral, you still need a celebrant or someone to officiate the service and lead the proceedings. Whether you hire someone or rely on a loved one, choose someone who can create an order of service that best reflects the deceased’s life.

5 – Set the order of the service

Just like a funeral, you may also want to create a program for the service. You can include as many elements as you like, and there’s no right or wrong way to do this.

Since this is a celebration of life, you’re more flexible to do anything and add anything you want.

6 – Decide who will speak

As with to a funeral, you can include many speakers at a celebration of life. Unlike a funeral, you don’t have to have time limits for the speakers, allowing them to say all they want to say.

You can also decide to have an ‘open mic’ where people can just go up and speak if they want to and share a memory.

What can you say in a celebration of life?

Sometimes it’s hard to find words when you’re trying to say goodbye. Whether you’re organising the service or is just offering condolences, here are a few starting points you can use:

  • [Name] is loved more than you’ll ever know.
  • I am so grateful to be here today, [Name] would have loved this celebration.
  • My favourite memory with [Name] is …
  • [Name] brought so much joy to everyone who knew them.
  • [Name] inspired so many people.

You can also think about using these other ideas as well:

  • Share stories and memories
  • Detail the person’s most beloved qualities
  • Talk about their legacy
  • Add quotes or poems
  • Thank everyone for coming

Head to the Safewill blog for more articles to help your end-of-life planning. You can also contact one of our friendly team members at Safewill Cremations to help celebrate your goodbyes in a personalised and affordable way.

Last updated 24th February 2022
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Lauren Barrientos
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