While a funeral service is the preferred means of sending off a departed loved one, there are other roads you can take to pay tribute to them. One such means is through a celebration of life.

A celebration of life memorial service offers family and friends the chance to honour and commemorate the life of a loved one in a unique and unprecedented way. In contrast to a more sombre event during and after a funeral, a celebration of life can be a more upbeat and joyful affair.

What to Expect from a Celebration of Life

As the name implies, you attend a celebration of life to celebrate the life that was lived rather than mourn a loss. Depending on what the hosts have planned, it can feel more like a party. This type of memorial service follows no strict rules and can be more accepting of certain behaviours that may be deemed inappropriate at a traditional funeral.

Expect a more casual get-together where you reminisce about the positive aspects of the life of your loved one.

What You Can Do at a Celebration of Life

There are various things a celebration of life does differently from a funeral. For one, it can be held at any given time after a funeral, whether a few days or even a few years after.

No matter when you choose to hold it, there are a few things you need to get done to hold a meaningful and memorable celebration of life, from food to activities. Here are a few ideas:

  • Keep things upbeat. Play some of your loved one’s favourite music and offer some ways to keep your guests moving (e.g. offer a dance floor or play some party games). Private events like these are another way for all of you to grieve, albeit by focusing on the positive moments of your loved one’s life. 
celebration of life
Tell stories, sing songs, share memories
  • Host an open mic session. Funerals normally include a eulogy to help commemorate the dead and say a few words. Take it to the next level by organizing an open mic so everyone has a chance to share a few words. By holding an open mic session, you give your guests the opportunity to speak about the departed. Invite everyone to say a few words, read a poem, share short anecdotes, or maybe even sing songs. In sharing the memories of your loved one, you and your guests get to create new ones. 
  • Create a memory table. A memory table is a cornerstone of personalized funeral service. Load up your memory table with all your love one’s favourite things to help your guests remember them. This approach can be especially fun if there are stories behind the paraphernalia, allowing you to share the stories with everyone else. You can also set up different stations to represent different milestones in the life of your loved one to add a more personal element to the tables. 
celebration of life
Photos are life’s precious moments frozen in time
  • Display meaningful photos. You can take the idea of the memory table to another level with the creative use of photos. Photos are meant to showcase significant events in your departed loved one’s life; displaying them can be a fun way to remember and share those moments. You can find a number of ways to display the photos and make the display more appealing (e.g. making a wreath out of the photos or tying them to low-hanging balloons). 
  • Create a tribute video. This way, you have a digital keepsake you can keep on your devices so you always have a way of remembering your loved one. You can try to put your own spin on things as well. For example, you can make several short videos with each following different themes; it’s a good chance to show your loved one in a different light and find more novel ways to remember them in the future. 
  • Make a quote board. Quotes are the kind of things that can stay with you forever. One way to make the celebration of life service more memorable is by making a quote board featuring a quote your loved one lived by or thought profound. You can also make more than one to help add a splash of personality to the event and make it truly unique. 
celebration of life
Brighten the place up with your loved one’s favourite
  • Pick meaningful sympathy flowers. Flowers are an effective way to personalize a funeral, but here you can find new ways to make them work for the celebration. You can pick out your loved one’s favourite sympathy flowers and add a twist to the floral arrangements. One way to do this is by picking the flower of their birth month or flowers with the same colour as their grandchildren’s birthstones. Get creative with your floral choices to make the service all the more memorable. 
celebration of life
Set your words in stone
  • Set up a memorial stone station. One way to make the ceremony a more unique one is to make use of something permanent to serve as a reminder of the departed. Set up a station with small stones and permanent markers. Give the guests a chance to write their names and a short message on their own stone to honour your loved one. You can put these stones in your garden or place them somewhere that was meaningful to the departed. 
  • Build a memory capsule. Memory capsules can be a great way to remember your loved one while also giving all the guests a chance to contribute. Put some memorabilia (e.g. photos, trinkets, or cards) of your loved one together so you can put them in an airtight capsule to store with the deceased. Some families like to include a space next to the casket or someplace meaningful where they can place the memory capsule. You can get the guests to bring their own knick knacks so a little piece of them keeps your loved one company for all time. 
celebration of life
Enjoy your loved one’s favourite meals
  • Serve the deceased’s favourite foods. Funeral homes usually offer coffee and water as standard drinks, but you can put a unique spin on your celebration of life catering by serving your loved one’s favourite dishes. What better way to remember the dead than by putting all their favourite foods on the catering menu? For a more free-flowing event, you can also request your guests to bring a specific food item to help them get in the spirit of things. There are plenty of celebration of life food ideas you can use, so use your imagination to put your own spin on the celebration. 

Celebrating the life of the departed offers you, family, and friends to process your feelings, make it easier to say goodbye, and eventually open the doorway towards healing. Breaking bread with others and sharing your memories can also help you all get some closure. Give it a shot when you’re looking for a more positive way to approach a loved one’s passing.

Elle Cuisine offers first-rate food choices and catering for celebration of life events, wakes, and funeral reception parties in Toronto and the GTA. We offer highly customizable menus and a no-stress catered experience to help you commemorate the life of your loved one. There’s no need to worry about whether the funeral home offers a catering menu or what type of food to take to a funeral or celebration of life event, we’ve got you covered. We provide services through all the stages of organizing this event, from planning and menu development to staffing and cleanup. Call us at (647) 484-3073 to get in touch with our event planners and make your celebration of life truly memorable.