What Is a Celebration of Life Ceremony or Service?

Published July 30, 2020
Family gathering celebrating life

A celebration of life ceremony is not an ordinary memorial service but a personalized celebration of a loved one's life. There are several ways you can hold a celebration of life service to honor and celebrate the joy their life gave to family and friends.

What Is the Difference Between a Celebration of Life and a Memorial Service?

A memorial service usually takes place soon after a person passes away. The memorial service is often held in conjunction with a funeral. Unlike the funeral, the deceased's body isn't present during the memorial service. However, a memorial service is often chosen for a cremation ceremony and is usually religious.

Celebration of Life Service

A celebration of life service focuses on the relationships the deceased had with others. The celebration of life allows family and friends to honor these connections with the deceased loved one. This celebratory gathering doesn't typically have the religious undertones prominent in a memorial service.

Timeline for Celebration of Life Ceremony

There is no timeline for holding a celebration of life service. It can be held in conjunction with a funeral or memorial service or as a sole ceremony. You may hold a celebration of life any time after the person has passed away.

Friends gathered around fire on beach

A celebration of life can be held weeks, months, year or even several years after the funeral or memorial service. You can have a celebration of life every year if you desire. Some family members and/or friends might not be able to attend the funeral or memorial service. In such instances, a celebration of life ceremony offers them a way to connect with other family and friends in remembrance of the loved one.

Celebration of Life Etiquette

The etiquette for a celebration of life service is determined by those hosting the ceremony. There are no rule books for how to host a celebration of life service since it is a personalized event. The traditions and lifestyle of the deceased should dictate how you plan to celebrate their life.

Venues for Personalizing Your Celebration of Life Ceremony

The celebration of life service rejoices in the life of the deceased and highlights how each person remembers and honors their personal relationship with the departed loved one. If your loved one was a casual person who enjoyed weekends at the lake, then a celebration on a lake or in a lakefront venue may be an ideal choice. If the deceased was an artist, hosting a celebration of life ceremony in an art studio, art gallery or art museum is an excellent venue.

Celebration of Life: What to Wear

You can see the importance of personalizing your celebration of life ceremony to fit the individual you wish to honor. The dress code is purely dependent upon the venue and type of ceremony. An invitation to the celebration of life ceremony should state the type of dress, but if it doesn't and you're unsure, it's proper to inquire with whoever is hosting the service.

What Happens at a Celebration of Life?

There are no hard and fast rules about how you format your celebration of life ceremony. Some people treat it as a party while others set it up similar to a wake or a more formal ceremony. The type of person being honored, the family's lifestyle and traditions, and other considerations will govern the various activities and overall format.

Gathering of people with torches

What Do You Do at a Celebration of Life?

There are many choices of format for a celebration of life. You may find a guide for a celebration of life ceremony helpful for planning one. However, you may simply hold a gathering with no real structure. You may decide an impromptu toasting to the deceased is an ideal format where each person makes a comment, statement or shares a memory about the departed. You may find helpful tips for holding a celebration of life useful.

How Long Does a Celebration of Life Last?

How long the celebration of life will last depends on several things. For example, if the celebration is held at a rented venue, it will most likely have a set timeframe. A drop-in celebration will have start and end times. A celebration held in a public setting or a person's home will also have a set timeframe.

Factors That Determine Length of Time for Celebration

The length of these celebrations may be as short as an hour or two, while others may be more of a party that starts in the afternoon and continues into the night. There simply isn't a set protocol for the timeframe and is up to those hosting this type of celebration of life.

Celebration of Life Keepsakes

Many hosts offer a keepsake for those attending the celebration of life ceremony or event. The keepsakes are selected since they have a special meaning representative of the deceased and is one that family and friends will appreciate.

Appeal of the Celebration of Life Ceremony

A celebration of life ceremony is appealing to many modern families. It offers a more personal way to say goodbye to a loved one and gives family and friends the opportunity to honor their individual relationships with the deceased.

What Is a Celebration of Life Ceremony or Service?