Celebration of life checklist

Published: 26/4/2022

When you know you want a unique and touching tribute for a loved one, but don't know where to begin, or how to start planning such an event, then our celebration of life checklist is here to help.

What is a celebration of life?

A celebration of life is usually held in a place that holds significant meaning to the deceased or family rather than at a church or crematorium. They can be held after a funeral or instead of one and unlike a traditional funeral, there are no real time frames that must be met.

A celebration of life tends to focus more on happy times shared together rather than mourning - a party with a purpose if you will. To help you achieve a unique celebration for your loved one, we hope our checklist below helps you in your planning. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to organise an event like this, instead be guided by your heart and do whatever feels right for you and your family.

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Celebration of life checklist

Who will lead the event?

Although a celebration of life tends to be more of a casual service, it still helps to choose someone to lead the event. This could be a close friend or family member or someone from your local church if your loved one was religious. Funeral celebrants are also qualified to oversee any planning you might like help with.

Attendees

Who you want to invite will pave the way in where and when, even how your event will unfold. Start by writing down the names of all those you want to attend. This might only take a few minutes if it's a small family affair, however if your event is on the larger side, having this list handy means you can add names as they come to mind.

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Although most funeral services are open to the public, celebrations of life attendees might have to be limited due to venue limitations - a private residence for example. It's also good practice to ask guests to share some convenient dates before settling on any final arrangements.

Location

To remember your loved one in a special, even fun way, your location choice can therefore be very important in reflecting that. Some location ideas include a park or garden, family residence, a special place the loved one enjoyed spending time - even a sunset yacht cruise. Reception spaces at a funeral home, retirement village or family member's apartment complex are a few other options. Consider the number of attendees, parking and any audio/visual or food and beverage needs when making your final decision.

Timing

This is where your location and attendees come into play as some guests might face travel restrictions and you might have to work with venue availability. Again, a good reminder to touch base with attendees who have to travel before locking anything in.

Speakers

Family and friends will want to say a few words at some point or another. Consider whether you want to have an open floor policy or keep it more structured with a schedule. You may need to select speakers who shared the closest relationship with the deceased as they will most likely have meaningful stories to contribute. Having different speakers can also reflect different aspects of the deceased's life so keep this in mind when organising speakers. Video calls and pre-recorded material might also be nice if you have guests who can't attend but wish to share words.

Activities

Exciting celebration of life commemorations might include activities your loved one enjoyed in life like golf, bowls, cards, board games - even just enjoying a beer at the pub. This gives everyone a relaxed space to share memories, laugh, and even cry together.

Food and Beverages

Food has a wonderful way of bringing people together and can create opportunities for guests to share memories with each other. Families might opt for a selection of small canapes while others might prefer a sit down meal. Whether everyone contributes or you hire a catering company, make it extra special and serve up food that your loved one enjoyed in life.

Music

One of the more important and emotive elements at a celebration of life is the music. The right song has the power to express and personalise feelings and a particular song might remind you of a special moment you shared with the deceased. You might like to ask your guests if they would like to share a song request and ask why it was so special to them.

Audio / Visual

This brings us to the technical side of things. Consider what audio/visual equipment is needed on the day. Do you have photos, slideshows or videos you want to display? If so, set your space up around power sources or touch base with the venue if applicable to discuss your audio/visual needs.

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate a loved one's life. Incorporating things that you and your loved ones find valuable will ensure a memorable and meaningful goodbye.

Finally, try to relax and have fun - yes have fun. Isn't that what they would have wanted after all?

By Kirsten Jakubenko

If you need further advice on celebration of life or funerals or are looking for support dealing with grief, you can find more articles in our support and advice section here.

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