Planning a Celebration of Life: Checklist for Easy Organizing

Published January 20, 2021
woman hugging elderly man at celebration of life gathering

The death of a loved one is a traumatic circumstance, filled with stresses and sadness. Funerals often add to the difficulties by engulfing the family and friends in an atmosphere of grief and mourning. The celebration of life experience is an alternative to the traditional funeral service. Unique to the individual, celebrating the life of the loved one allows the family to remember them in a way that provides comfort and closure. Here are the important steps in planning a celebration of life checklist to better organize the event.

Planning a Celebration of Life Checklist

A celebration of life service allows family and friends a chance to honor a loved one who has died in a way that is as unique as the life of the deceased. Instead of mourning a death, guests celebrate the life of an individual and the joy they brought to others. The service breathes life and energy into what is usually a very somber and stilted occasion. The event is usually held instead of a memorial service after a burial. These services often replace the entire traditional funeral.

Printable Celebration of Life Checklist and Planner

The printable template below can help you plan a celebration of life. It's entirely editable so you can fill it out to meet your needs. If you need help downloading, use the Guide for Adobe Printables.

Celebration of Life Checklist

Who Should be Invited to the Celebration?

Most funeral services are open to the public, but celebrations of life often have a smaller, focused group of people for which the life of the deceased was most meaningful. The number of guest invited dictate several other decisions. Make a list of the people you think would want to attend such a celebration.

When Should the Celebration Be Held?

Because the celebration of life is not dictated by the burial of a body, the experience can be planned at a time which would be convenient for the majority of people. Take into account the schedules of out-of-town family and friends. The time of the celebration of life can be chosen because of a significant date in the life of the loved one, perhaps marking a birthday, wedding or the anniversary of the death.

Where Should the Celebration Take Place?

The location may be determined by the number of individuals who are invited to the celebration. The location is not typically at a church or funeral home, but it can be. Some families have at least one home that would be appropriate because of size or location relative to those who would be attending. A private or public venue can also be used.

Who Will Orchestrate the Celebration?

During a celebration of life, it is appropriate to have one individual who acts as a master of ceremony orchestrating the event. If religion was an important part of the loved one's life, the pastor or minister at the church may be willing to serve in this capacity. Funeral directors or celebrants would be comfortable in such a role. Some families are fortunate to have an accomplished speaker or teacher who would be able to host the event.

What Should the Celebration Involve?

There are no set guidelines that must be followed or aspects that must be included in the celebration. The event should reflect what the family is most comfortable presenting and experiencing. A typical service lasts from an hour to ninety minutes, though more open-ended services are becoming popular.

Are There People Who Will Want to Speak?

Many close family members or friends who would be hesitant to speak at a more traditional funeral desire to speak at a celebration of life event. The more informal nature makes the experience less threatening and intimidating to people. Some may come forward and express their desire to participate, but other folks would be more than willing if asked. Select people who had a close enough relationship with the deceased to share meaningful stories.

What Part of the Loved One's Life Do You Want to Include?

The celebration of life does not need to provide a detailed biography of the loved one's life. Pick key events or themes that capture the heart of who the loved one represented to the family and friends who have been invited. Stories and anecdotes can be shared that reveal what the loved one meant to so many people.

What Readings or Music Do You Want to Include?

Music is a special part of the life of so many people. A celebration of life provides an excellent opportunity to highlight music that was meaningful and helped shape your loved one. If music was not appreciated, chose another art form that would allow expression, like paintings or movies. It may be more suitable to have excerpts from literature or special religious or spiritual passages read.

What Food Do You Want to Serve?

If music plays an important role in many lives, food celebrates a real facet of human life. The food or beverage you choose may be tied to the theme of the event. They may be based on the loved one's favorite dishes. The choices may also connect with other activities that are planned. Sharing food brings people closer together. Allow this experience to bring the guests together and let even the food be a memory of your loved one.

What Group Activities Would Be Meaningful?

This is the part of the celebration where your creativity can shine. What kind of activity together can allow those present to experience a piece of the joy of the life your loved one shared?

What Are the Finishing Touches?

Are there things that need to be done to decorate the location in a way that reminds people of the loved one? Many families create a video that highlights the loved one's life. The tribute presentation is used to provide a center stage of the celebration. Others choose photographs, scrapbooks and other memorabilia and build a display on a table. Decorations can center on key themes seen in the loved one's life like a sporting team they loved, hobbies they enjoyed, or aspects of their career.

Creating an Experience That Leads to Healing

Planning a celebration of life involves a variety of things which focus on celebrating together the life of a cherished loved one. The time, thought, and creativity that you invest in the event will produce a moment in time that will be a lasting memory that summarizes the life of a unique individual.

Planning a Celebration of Life: Checklist for Easy Organizing