How To Plan A Life CelebrationHow To Plan A Life Celebration

A funeral doesn't have to be family and friends sitting in front of a dead body saying the rosary. Today many people are shying away from traditional memorial services and choosing instead to create a memorable, personalized life celebration. You may have some questions such as:

Why Should I Have a Service at All?

Services are really about love. You are taking the time and expressing and sharing the love that you felt for that person. It's important to celebrate but not at the expense of acknowledging that something important has been lost. The best services mix memories, comfort and encouragement. You need to take this time to share your loss, to laugh and talk and share your thoughts and feelings with each other.

Where Should I Hold the Life Celebration?

Some funeral homes and cremation societies have rooms for you to use. If you are members of a congregation, you may consider the church's community room. Many people are now choosing a private site such as a country club, university, or a relative's garden. Where did you loved one like to go on a Saturday afternoons: the beach, the tennis club, the golf course, fishing by a stream, football games? If they were a sailor perhaps the harbor or yacht club would be a good place to gather.

Whom Can I Get to Lead the Service?

Celebrants are becoming more and more popular. A Certified Funeral Celebrant is a person who seeks to meet the needs of families during their time of loss. A Celebrant is trained to help individuals create and present a personalized funeral, memorial or celebration of life service. To find a celebrant go to

Many families today do not participate in an organized religion or church. They have no family minister and would prefer a celebration of the life lived rather than a sermon. A Celebrant will honor a family's wishes and will present either a religious or non-religious gathering. The family is free to participate as much or little as they wish. The service belongs to the family and is conducted as they wish.

How Can I have Family and Friends Share Their Memories?

You only have one chance to collect everyone's memories. Consider lined 3? x 5? cards that say, ?I'll always remember when we?? or ?I wish I had the chance to tell you?.? These cards and pens are handed to friends and family as they walk into the service. The celebrant or funeral director can be responsible for handing them out and collecting them at the end of the service. These cards can be put in a pouch and taken out and shared at family gatherings for years to come. They become a reflection of ancestors' lives for generations to come.

You can print these yourself on your home computer and copy them onto card stock. They are also available for purchase at

Guest books are not very practical as they require people to wait in line at the service. Unless feelings and memories are shared, what is the long term use of a guest book? If feelings and memories are shared, the wait could become very long and delay the service.

What Can I Put on a Memory Table?

Create a table and bring in things that your loved one liked to do. For example, if they liked to paint, bring in their artwork, their paints and brushes and smock. You could even bring in their easels and put the artwork on their easels. If they were gardeners you could bring in their gardening tools and pots of flowers. If they liked football you could bring any logo memorabilia of the team that they supported that you or they may have. If they liked photography, set their favorite cameras on the table with some of their photographs. You may want to write on a note card, ?Sarah always found time to craft the perfect photo and then share them with usIf they liked golf bring in the clubs, tees, scorecards and golf balls with a card that may something like ?Look at Jane's hole in one on hole 7.?.

Consider putting pocket charms on the table that reflect your loved one. Guests are encouraged to take one, they will put them on their pocket or purse and when they run across it they will remember the departed.

You may also want to consider personalized seeded cards that contain wildflowers. The cards can be placed on the memory table and friends and family can take them and keep the card as a keepsake and plant the seeds.

Should I Have it Catered?

It is always nice to serve a meal. A dinner reception or seated luncheon will be more of a production than a punch and tea sandwich reception. The food selection will depend on the time of day, the location and your budget. Did your loved one have a favorite meal or favorite type of food? If he loved fried chicken, cole-slaw, and apple pie maybe you should consider that. Don't forget the dessert. I personally want Sees candy served at my service.

Should I Serve Drinks?

You may want to go easy on alcohol as emotions and alcohol are never a good combination. Death can bring out family problems and if alcohol is added things may get out of control. I recommend punch, soft drinks, coffee and tea. If you choose a beach setting, might you want to serve smoothies? Did your loved one have a favorite beverage? If so, would it be appropriate to serve it?

What Else Can I do at the Celebration?

Consider a balloon release. Family and friends could write a note on a tag that is attached to a string on the balloon. You can find balloons at many grocery stores or in the Yellow Pages.

Also, dove releases and butterfly releases are becoming more popular. To learn about butterfly releases, go to

For dove release information and for a directory of dove providers around the country go to

You may also have families and friends light a candle. You could have a procession and put the candles around the casket or urn. Candles can then be given to families and friends as keepsakes at the end of the ceremony. You can find poems, sayings and lyrics here

If you're looking for interesting memorial products to personalize a life celebration visit

by Mary Hickey
References and Bibliography

Mary Hickey is an urn designer and thought leader in the funeral industry. She is co-founder of Renaissance Urn Company, based in San Francisco. For more information on how to plan a life celebration visit Hickey can be reached at

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