How to Plan a Celebration of Life Service

By: Joseph Greenidge
Monday, May 13, 2019

A memorial service is an opportunity to cherish the story and celebrate the life of someone who has passed on.

Whether you’re pre-planning your own memorial service, or are in the midst of coordinating one for a loved one, planning a tribute can be an emotional and difficult process. A good life, however, is a collection of happy moments, and a memorial service provides a way for family and friends to celebrate and honor those who are no longer with us.

Here’s how you can plan a personalized and fitting tribute for yourself or a loved one:

Consider who will be invited. Will you keep the memorial small, and invite only close family and friends? Or will you open it to an extended group? This is a crucial first decision, as it will guide the rest of your decision-making. It will impact where you can or cannot host the service, for example. Begin by sitting down with others and creating a list of those you wish to invite; this will help guide you as planning gets underway.

Decide on the venue. Some choose to host the memorial at a traditional funeral home, while others opt to select a venue that meant something to the deceased. A golf club, for example, is a great way to memorialize the life of someone who spent plenty of time out on the greens, while a beachside service might be a way to celebrate the life of someone who thrived being near the water.

Determine who will speak. Consider first that delivering eulogies in memory of a loved one is a difficult thing to do. Select people that are not only emotionally able to deliver a eulogy or speech but someone that’s physically able to, as well. Try to keep speeches to a minimum; most people opt to have two or three people share stories of the deceased. Choose speakers that will not only share cherished memories of the deceased but also convey a message of hope to those in attendance; thoughtful and touching speeches can help those who are experiencing the first stages of the grieving process.  

Consider food and beverage. Choosing what to serve at a memorial service can be done in one of two ways: keep it in theme with the venue, or choose dishes that meant something to the deceased. If you’re unsure what to serve, keep it simple. Opt for food that’s easy to prepare and eat. Under no circumstances should guests expect an extravagant menu. It’s important to remember that the funeral reception is simply an opportunity for those who are grieving to come together and offer comfort to one another.

Choose readings and music. Some opt for traditional hymns and readings, while others select more contemporary pieces that reflect the life and experiences of their loved one. If you are hosting a religious celebration of life and there are certain pieces you’d like read or performed, make sure your selections are appropriate beforehand. Many people ask musically talented family and friends to perform at a celebration of life service; be sure to discuss the music that will be played ahead of time and ensure the performer will not be emotionally unable to perform during the service.

Decide on decor. The decor you choose for a memorial service is a wonderful way to pay tribute to the deceased. Consider a memory table, which holds photographs and memorabilia of the deceased.  Include items that tell the unique story of the person that has passed. If the deceased was an avid reader, for example, you may wish to place out a few of his or her favourite books. Consider placing explanation cards beside each item you choose so guests aren’t left wondering about their significance.

Final thoughts. In the end, if you’re planning a memorial service for a loved one, remember that it should be a personal thing. Consider not only what the deceased would appreciate, but what would bring the most comfort to you and fellow mourners.


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