Celebration of life flowers

How To Plan A Celebration Of Life Ceremony

By: Tom Harries

Jan 12, 2022 | Memorial Services

5 min read

Celebration of life ceremonies are an increasingly common alternative to traditional funeral services. Many people have found them to be the best way of remembering and honoring a loved one’s life. 

They come with a host of benefits as well as a flexibility that funerals and funeral homes are sometimes unable to offer. Choosing a celebration of life ceremony over a funeral service can result in substantial cost savings, a more personalized and authentic event, and a more convenient planning process.

This article explains what celebration of life ceremonies are, why they are such a great option for many people, and how to go about planning one.

What Is A Celebration Of Life Ceremony?

A celebration of life is an event or service to mark the life of a person who has recently passed away. Generally these events are held at a date after the disposition process (e.g. burial, cremation or an alternative process) has taken place.

Celebration of life ceremony - flowers

The fundamental element in a celebration of life is that the disposition and the service are separated from each other. In this way the traditional funeral is unbundled.

How Is A Celebration Of Life Different From A Funeral?

A funeral service is different because it happens in the presence of the body before burial or cremation. Funeral services are fundamentally connected to the disposition. They are connected by timing, location and planning.

Separating the disposition and service events means those preparing for a celebration of life can arrange everything on their own timeframe. With a funeral, family and friends need to organize everything with the funeral home within a couple of weeks of death. In most cases therefore, a celebration of life will be a more convenient and less stressful option for the family.

This extra planning time and flexibility also means that celebrations of life services are often more authentic events, with greater personalization. Not only is there more time for planning, but celebration of life plans will also generally take place at a time of lower stress and burden.

Celebrations of life are less constrained by the traditions of funeral services in other ways as well. For example, while a funeral service will usually take place in a funeral home or religious setting, celebrations of life can and do take place in many different types of location. 

What Is The Main Purpose Of A Celebration Of Life Service?

A celebration of life service is an opportunity for family and friends to share memories and mark the life of their loved one. The purpose is celebration and remembrance.

There are a number of reasons why people choose a celebration of life over a more traditional funeral service.

Celebration of life ceremony - candles

One common reason is to allow for an alternative funeral type. These are often quicker, more convenient and also more conceptually appealing for many people. Holding a service at a later date allows a person to opt for processes such as direct cremation, immediate burial and soil transformation (also known as natural organic reduction or human composting) .

Another common reason is to plan an event that more truly reflects the life of the person being celebrated. With more time and more options available, it is possible to ensure that the location, the people and the content are exactly as desired. Additional time can help the natural grieving process and means decisions do not need to be made quickly.

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Essential Steps For Celebration Of Life Planning

While celebration of life arrangements can take any form that a family wants, there are certain elements worth considering in advance.

Choose A Theme

The level of possible personalization is one of the big appeals of a celebration of life for many people. Plans are less constrained by tradition, meaning there can be any theme an individual or their loved ones choose. 

Most people think of a theme that would suit the personality, interests and life of their loved one. The tone of these events tends to be more celebratory and less austere than a traditional funeral service. Celebration of life ideas can differ greatly from the look of a traditional funeral. 

Choose A Venue

Among the key factors in picking a venue are the geographical location, sentimental significance, cost and size. Popular options range from a family home to more traditional event venues such as town halls and hotels.

Who Should Speak At The Celebration Of Life?

Anyone can speak at a celebration of life service. Typically family members and close friends will be among the speakers. 

One option to give structure to the event is to have a celebrant. This is a non-religious position and the celebrant can help with planning and guide the event on the day.

How To Preplan A Celebration Of Life

Many elements of a celebration of life can be thought about or decided upon in advance of the time of passing. In some situations, it may be possible or appropriate to have gone as far as booking or arranging certain elements.

How Early Should I Plan A Celebration Of Life?

If you are thinking about your own end-of-life plans, you can record your wishes for a celebration of life however generally or specifically you wish. This could be something done many years in advance of possible need.

Plan a celebration of life

If you are planning a celebration of life for someone who has already passed, then it is worth bearing in mind how far in advance you might need to book things like a venue. 

That being said, one of the key benefits of a celebration of life plan is that it does not need to follow a timeline or any form of convention. This means that the planning process can be done with little pressure of time or expectation. 

Celebration Of Life Ceremony Costs

Costs can vary significantly, however this is something that is generally within the planner’s control. In general, celebrations of life are lower cost than funeral services. Funeral services involve the cost of organization by the funeral home and the renting of a space, and the lower flexibility means there are fewer opportunities to save money.

If held at a family home, celebrations of life can cost next to nothing. Likewise, a celebration of life could be very expensive if so desired by those planning.


Celebrations of life are growing in popularity. The convenience, potential for cost saving, and greater opportunity for personalization make them an attractive option for many today.

At Earth, we specialize in soil transformation, an environmentally-friendly alternative to burial and cremation. Many of our families opt for celebration of life services over more traditional funeral services.

Read more helpful articles on our resources page and learn about our services by looking around our website.

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