Celebration of Life Party Ideas (Themes, Decor, Menu & More)

Published August 6, 2019
Frame with Decorations and Champagne

Celebration of life party ideas are often more similar to birthday, anniversary, or retirement parties than funerals. This is your chance to gather friends and family to have fun in honor of their deceased love one. The idea is to celebrate the life of your friend or family member rather than mourning their death.

Celebration of Life Party Themes

A celebration of life is typically held in place of a funeral because the deceased specifically requested this type of event. Those who plan for their own death can choose a party theme that matches their personality or passions while friends and family can do the same after the death if it wasn't pre-planned.

Bucket List Party

A bucket list theme is ideal for people who died young. You can create a bucket list of things they never got the chance to do, like attend their prom, or things they were planning to do like see the latest movie. Guests can participate in these activities together over the course of a day or week. If your bucket list is big and complex, each individual or famiy can check the items of the list over the course of a month then come together for a party where they share the pictures and stories from these experiences. It's like you're all living the life your loved one would have lived.

Eternal Birthday Party

Celebrate the birth and life of your loved one with an eternal birthday party. Host a traditional birthday party on your loved one's birthday each year with the theme of eternity. Instead of gifts, guests can share memories or donate to causes the deceased was passionate about. Replace the word "birthday" in The Happy Birthday Song with "eternity" and do the same on the cake.

Celebrate You Scavenger Hunt Party

Take friends and family on a celebratory adventure that includes stops at all your loved one's favorite places. Create a scavenger hunt list that includes the names of restaurants, specific snacks, town landmarks, and even clothing items the deceased loved. Ask guests to venture out in pairs or small groups and take selfies with these specific items. Gather back at your venue for a party to award the scavenger hunt winners. For prizes you can give out small possessions from the deceased that were not willed to specific people.

Heaven or Hell Party

Consider the personality of the deceased and throw either a Heaven themed party or a Hell themed party. Ask guest to dress appropriately for the spiritual location and act as if you're all in Heaven or Hell celebrating with your loved one. Tailor your menu, playlist, and decorations to match the theme and include a cardboard cutout of your loved one for photo ops.

Celebration of Life Party Venues

A celebration of life party can take place at many venues depending on the age and personality of the deceased. Look for places that were meaningful to the deceased, are fun or light-hearted, and can accommodate large groups.

Activity Based Venue Ideas

sign at restaurant entrance

Your celebration of life can be centered on an activity the deceased loved. Book a place that has private group rental areas so you can all experience the activity then come together for a meal.

  • Amusement park
  • Trampoline park
  • Indoor skydiving
  • Arcade
  • Indoor water park
  • Karaoke bar (think about talent show ideas)

Traditional Venue Ideas

If you want to host a traditional party, opt for venues with big open spaces.

  • Banquet hall
  • Fire hall
  • Community center
  • High school gym
  • Beach
  • Bar/restaurant
  • Park

Unique Venue Ideas

Go big and celebrate your loved one somewhere that is uniquely them.

  • Wildlife park
  • Museum
  • Library
  • Observatory

Celebration of Life Party Decoration Ideas

The decorations at a celebration of life party can match your party theme and should include the deceased's photos, initials or name, and favorite colors.

Life-Sized Cutout of Your Loved One

Since you're celebrating the life of your loved one, it's only fair they get to be at the party too. Work with an online printer or local print shop to have a photo of your loved one turned into a life-sized cardboard cutout guests can pose with at the party.

Loved One Accessory Props

loved one accessory props dressing table jewelry sunglasses

Make or buy some photo props that include accessories your loved one was known for wearing. Things like glasses, a specific team baseball cap, or even replica necklaces can be hung from hooks all around the party. These props serve as memorable decorations and can be used for photos.

Pictures of You String Curtain

Tie your favorite photos of the deceased to long strands of string or ribbon. Hand the strings about two inches apart along the top of a doorway or against one wall to form a curtain.

Your Favorite Things Centerpiece

Make one large centerpiece by stacking and piling some of the deceased's most cherished possessions. You can also use small groupings of these items as separate centerpieces for all the tables.

Your Clothing Fabric Pennant Banner

Cut some of your loved one's favorite clothing items into small triangle shapes and sew them into fabric pennants. Attach each flag to a string or ribbon to create a banner of all your loved one's favorite clothes.

Celebration of Life Party Menu Ideas

favorite foods buffet chicken wings

As with the rest of your party elements, the food should focus on ingredients and drinks the deceased loved and things traditionally reserved for celebrations, like champagne. Party menu ideas depend largely on your venue, budget, and the size of the guest list.

Your Favorite Foods Buffet

Create a self-serve buffet of all your loved one's favorite foods, snacks, drinks, and desserts. It doesn't matter if the items fit the theme or go together. All that matters is that you celebrate your loved one by eating the things they were known for devouring. Try to get the exact brands, use the same kind of cups he used, and even get family members to make homemade favorites.

Personalized Fast Food

Many fast food restaurants now offer catering options or orders for large groups. If your loved one had a favorite fast food restaurant you can place a large order then customize it. Sandwiches and tacos often come wrapped in paper. You can customize these by purchasing personalized stickers that feature your loved one's face then securing the paper wrappings with the stickers. Customize drinks by writing your loved one's name on each cup like they do at Starbucks.

Buffet of Foods That Help You Live Longer

Throughout the world and different belief systems there are foods believed to help people live longer. Host a celebration of life buffet that includes only foods and drinks said to give your a longer life. Most of these foods are fruits, vegetables, and grains because they have scientific evidence showing their benefits. Sometimes these food superstitions, like eating long noodles as a symbol of long life, are less scientific.

Your Favorite Restaurant Sit-Down Meal

If your loved one had a favorite restaurant, host the party there or have them cater your party. Everyone can order the same dish or two, the ones the deceased was most likely to order. Start the meal off with a toast in his or her honor.

Celebration of Life Invitations and Programs

Stationary items like an invitation or program should set the tone for the party, feature a happy photo of the deceased, and serve as a keepsake item. Don't be afraid to use bold colors, a fun font, and silly pictures.

Celebration of Life Invitations

Celebrate life invitation

While funerals don't typically involve invitations, a celebration of life should so guests know exactly what kind of unique event they're about to attend. Choose an invitation that matches the theme of your party and includes a photo of the deceased. You can use a free party invitation template to make your own or buy invitations. Celebration of life wording examples like "Death is the next great adventure. Come celebrate the life of John Smith with us. (Followed by time/location.)" can help you explain to guests what the party is and why you're having it.

Celebration of Life Program

Depending on the type of party you throw, a celebration of life program can help guests know what to expect during the event. You can model the program after a printable funeral program and include things like a happy photo of the deceased, their favorite quote about life, and a border featuring something they love such as flowers or baseballs. If possible, personalize the program with something written in the deceased's handwriting like their signature.

Celebration of Life Party Entertainment Ideas

Unlike a somber funeral a celebration of life party should be upbeat and fun. Look for ways to keep guests entertained and happy so they aren't consumed by grief.

Celebrate Life With Music

Celebration of life playlists should include songs the deceased loved and songs that celebrate life in general. Pick the perfect celebration of life songs by finding out which songs your friend loved most and listening to songs from his favorite genres that talk about living and loving life. Make a sharable playlist or CD for each guest to keep as a memento and hire a DJ if you want to turn the energy way up. Everything from the best love songs of all time to dance party songs and even the saddest songs about death can have an upbeat tune. Contemporary songs that are great for a celebration of life include:

  • Old Town Road by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus talks about wanting to pack up and move on to the next chapter of life.
  • I Don't Care by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber starts with the line "I'm at a party I don't wanna be at."
  • Drake's Money in the Grave talks about taking all you've earned with you when you die.

Celebration of Life Party Activities

Keep your party guests occupied with a variety of activities that honor your loved one.

  • Name That Photo: Attach several fun photos of the deceased in a grid pattern and have guests try to guess where and when each was taken.
  • Life's Work Collaborative Timeline: Leave a long strip of paper across a table with pens where guests can write in the deceased's successes along the time line.
  • Imitation Competition: Host a talent show where guests take turns impersonating the deceased to see who can imitate him best.

One Last Hoorah

Celebration of life party ideas help you honor the deceased in an exciting and memorable way. This one last hoorah for friends and family members may be the only time everyone associated with the deceased gathers together. If someone in your life asks for this type of party after they die, do them the honor of having a blast.

Celebration of Life Party Ideas (Themes, Decor, Menu & More)