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A Comprehensive Checklist For Planning A Celebration Of Life

Every single day, we are faced with decisions. Some are small and don’t always affect others. Some have tremendous effects on the ones we love. The later in life, the more important these decisions seem to become. In this post, I want to discuss one in particular: your end of life celebration.

 When we think of the end of a life, it can seem daunting and maybe even a bit morbid. Nobody wants to plan their own memorial service. The thought of all your loved ones, cloaked in black and mourning can be a hard image to swallow. If you are seeking a less traditional, but equally beautiful and memorable service, might I suggest a Celebration of Life?

 But what exactly is a celebration of life? How is this different than a traditional funeral or memorial? And is this the best choice for you and your loved ones? The number of people choosing this less traditional avenue is growing rapidly and for many reasons. We want our family and friends to have the chance to say their final goodbyes in a safe, welcoming, and dare I say, joyous environment. Instead of having a day full of the inevitable sadness that accompanies the passing of a loved one, why not choose to throw a party honoring the glorious life you lived?

 I want to walk you through the process of planning this celebration, because wouldn’t it feel good knowing that the ones you love won’t have to take this on. Before you have the ability to plan anything, you must have a clear idea of your budget. Below I have included a checklist of what you need to do in preparation for your celebration.


 Choosing the right venue could be the perfect complement to your celebration of life ceremony. You can opt to hold your service at a funeral home, or possibly a church. In some cases, people have been known to rent out a banquet hall. No matter your wishes, ask yourself the following questions in order to select the perfect venue:

  • What location best represents you?
  • Do you have any favorite places or locations that are special to you?
  • How much do these venues cost and are they aligned with your budget?
  • Is the venue you want going to be available?

Decoration and Memories

 When your guests enter the door, you want the environment to symbolize you. Traditionally, people like to have posters made of meaningful photographs. You should consider including posters/photographs of yourself, your family, your friends, and even things that are special to you, such as a favorite sports team or hobby. Many people also include a detailed family tree, which if possible, is a beautiful and memorable touch that your family has the honor of keeping after the ceremony.

 a picture of flowersFlowers

 Flowers are an important part of any celebration. When it comes to celebrations of life, many choose to have flower arrangements that are more personal. A unique idea is to have your favorite flowers arranged to spell out your name. When choosing your flower arrangements, you will need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are YOUR personal, favorite flowers?
  • What flowers have a special meaning to you? Think weddings, personal gardens, etc.
  • What color flowers do you wish to include?
  • Does anyone in your family or circle of friends have any severe allergies to certain flowers?

Mementos and Keepsakes

 Gifting your loved ones with a memorable keepsake is a beautiful touch to add to any end of life celebration. This can be as simple as a candle, or a poem, possibly even your favorite candy. Anything personal is a wonderful addition. Whatever you choose, mementos can be a wonderful way to celebrate the life of someone you love while leaving behind a physical representation to honor your memory. When choosing your memento, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What message do you want your memento to represent?
  • How should these keepsakes be given out in a meaningful way?

Food and Beverages

 It is no secret that food brings people together. It offers a warm and comforting environment for loved ones to gather and share memories. A delicious meal catered with love will add a special touch to your celebration. Even simple touches, such as themed napkins, could be the personal touch your family remembers forever. When choosing your caterer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many attendees do you believe will be there?
  • Do you want to offer a full meal or just snacks?
  • Do you food served during, or after the celebration?
  • Will you need to provide tables, flatware, or possibly a waitstaff?

Audio and Visual Components

 The age we live in is so consumed with technology, it can sometimes be easy to forget how useful and wonderful it can be. Using appropriate technology during your celebration can add a special flourish of personality. Slideshows, videos, and playlists of your favorite songs can usher in wonderful memories and add to the comforting atmosphere you are working so hard to prepare. Ask yourself the following questions if you wish to add these unique touches:

  • Do you want a slideshow of pictures from throughout your life?
  • Are there any particular photographs you want to incorporate?
  • Are there any photographs your loved ones want to include?
  • What are your favorite songs? Are they appropriate?

The Ceremony

 This is part of the celebration that requires you to answer some even more important questions before you make your plan.

  • Who do you wish will officiate?
  • What members of your friends and family do you believe will want to speak?
  • Do you wish to have a eulogy read?
  • Is there a poem, or bible verse, you wish to be read during your ceremony?
  • Does anyone you love wish to sing?


 Psychology is a miraculous thing. Did you know that act of physically releasing something can help people mentally and emotionally cope? There are several traditional options when it comes to a release during an end of life celebration. Here are a few ideas:

  • Balloon release – have your guests write a goodbye note, tie it to their balloon and release
  • Lantern release – similar to balloon release, but with floating lanterns release at dusk
  • Dove release – another iconic symbol of “letting go”
  • Butterfly release – a traditional symbol of releasing a loved one

a picture of candle makingCandle Making

 A beautifully unique way to offer your loved ones a life-long memento: have a candle making station. This is as simple as having a craft table set up with candle making supplies. It helps to have someone experienced there to help others who do not know how to make a candle. Guests can pick their candle colors, scents, and assist in creating their own candle. When made in glass canisters, you can create stickers or photographs to place inside. These candles would then be taken home as a memory of the celebration.

 If you are considering planning your celebration of life ceremony or giving one, I hope these suggestions help you plan your perfect day. This will be your last party and it should be about you. This is more important than your sweet sixteen, or your wedding day, or your children’s birthday parties, and should be treated as a such. Your family wants to say goodbye and this is your chance to give them a ceremony they will look back on with fondness and love.