How to Plan a Celebration of Life Service

Funerals can offer a place for grief, acceptance, and healing to occur. However, they don’t have to be as sombre as you might think. While the death of the loved one isn’t to be taken lightly, some people prefer a more joyful end of life ceremony. These ceremonies are usually called a “celebration of life” service. At Hollywood Forever Cemetery and Funeral Home, we encourage expression in celebrating the uniqueness of the life lived. As such, we’d like to offer some guidance as to how to plan a celebration of life service.

How to Plan a Celebration of Life Service

Handle The Big Details First

If you’ve been asked to plan a celebration of life service, it can sometimes be easy to get caught up by details surrounding how best to remember the deceased. Don’t forget that the core details can be important to nail down first. Speak with the person’s family and loved ones to help decide on the date, time, and length of the service. You can also discuss plans for what is expected regarding food, drinks, and music. Ensure to communicate with the immediate circle of the deceased to effectively plan a service they would like. This can be especially important around people with religious affiliations. Celebration of life services don’t always have to happen within a certain amount of time of the deceased’s passing, but there can be religious exceptions. It can be helpful to err on the safe side and ask about surrounding any religious traditions in advance. In this regard, planning transparently can help prevent any unforeseen difficulties that may otherwise arise.

Invite Guests

Be sure to establish whether this celebration of life service will be a large or more intimate affair. While celebration of life services are usually larger and less formal than a more regular funeral, it’s important to not assume what the grieving family will want. To begin creating a list of invitations, start with immediate family. Again, be sure to check in with the deceased’s loved ones in case they would prefer certain people not be invited. Next, move on to the close friend circles of the deceased. Remember to consider past friends, not just present. You may reach out to childhood friends, college buddies, and work colleagues. Some people may be travelling from out of town for the ceremony, so it can be useful to have suggestions for accommodations on hand. Some attendees may opt to stay with family or friends nearby, whereas others may need a hotel recommendation. If you’re planning the celebration of life service with enough advanced notice, you might also try to negotiate a block of hotel rooms for a reduced rate.

Plan the Service

Now it’s time to get to work on the details. The celebrant is the person who leads the ceremony, so if the service will be religious, make sure you reach out to the correct person. You will also need to decide if there will be any readings, whether from the deceased’s favorite poem, excerpt from a book, or a religious tome. If you decide to have someone deliver a eulogy, make sure they know what the family is expecting in terms of length and tone. It is often best for a eulogy to be brief, positive, and personal. You can read more about how to write a eulogy here. Music is also an important part of the service. Will you have recordings, or a live band? What about video elements, such as a collage of pictures set to music? If you would like, you can also arrange for a photographer or videographer to capture the celebration to memorialize the event for attendees to remember or for those unable to attend.

Make It Personal

When we celebrate the life of someone we loved, we want to feel like they would have enjoyed the ceremony as much as we did. That’s why personal touches can be important. You might play their favorite music. You might make their favorite food or have the celebration catered by their favorite restaurant, or even invite attendees to bring a potluck dish in their honor. Don’t be afraid to embellish the event with decorations and the invitations with things they loved, whether sports, movies, art or otherwise. Be sure to give yourself time to get everything you need for the celebration including any childhood photos and photographs of special moments such as graduations, weddings, and anniversaries. If desired, plan to have a cash or open bar to serve your loved one’s favorite beverage. Perhaps instead of asking for flowers, you can redirect people to donate to the deceased’s favorite charity. You might even help set up a foundation in their name. 

Try To Find Joy In The Process

Looking at this list of things to do may seem overwhelming. Planning a celebration of life service can be a lot of work, but it’s important to remember that the ceremony isn’t just for the family of the deceased. It’s also for you. A celebration of life service can allow those involved to accept the loss of life and meet our grief with compassion and respect, but with joy in our hearts to accompany any sorrow. By helping to plan the service, you are honoring the life of your loved one in ways that can benefit those in attendance and those around you. Thank you for caring so much.

Our experienced and compassionate staff can help with planning a celebration of life service, and assist you, your friends and family celebrate the memory of a life lived. If you have any questions about our cemetery, funeral home or cremation services, please contact us.


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Read more: How to Officiate a Funeral Service

Read more: Overcoming Grief: 4 Strategies for Coping With Loss

Read more: Why Funerals Are Important For Healing


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