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10 Special Celebration of Life Ideas for Your Loved One

When you have lost a loved one, honoring them with a memorial service is a monumental task. While many choose to stick to a traditional funeral, a celebration of life is also an option for those who want to focus on the joy their late loved one brought to the world. This practice of having a party in honor of the death of a loved one is very common in Hispanic cultures, the most widely recognized tradition being Dia de los Muertos. However, people of all backgrounds and religious denominations can host a celebration of life event. With that said, here are some celebration of life ideas that can help you create an event that is personalized, meaningful, and truly representative of everything that special person meant to you.

1. Incorporate your loved one’s favorite things

Honor what they loved most by serving their favorite food and drinks, hosting their favorite activities, and playing their favorite movies or TV shows. This could also mean designing the event around a theme or a color scheme they loved. Think of books, movies, shows, musicians, celebrities, animals, sports, they liked and go from there.

Choose floral arrangements, tableware, food and beverages, and decorations that fit the theme, and consider asking guests to show up in relevant costumes. It is tough to narrow down one aspect of a person’s personality to celebrate, so picking a few central themes that meant a lot to them can be helpful when you are trying to come up with celebration of life ideas.

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2. Design a personalized playlist

In the words of Hans Christian Andersen, “When words fail, music speaks.” During this emotional time, it may be best to let music express what you want to celebrate about the loved one you lost. Create a playlist with all of their favorite songs, and pass Spotify around at the event and ask all of the guests to add a song that reminds them of the person being honored. To start off your list, add “Evergreen” by YEBBA. It is a beautiful song for a celebration of life.

3. Ask guests to give speeches

While funerals feature eulogies that are usually somber and serious in tone, it is acceptable for guests to give more lighthearted speeches at celebration of life events. Invite friends and family to share anecdotes that are both heartwarming and humorous. Laughter is encouraged as this day is for celebration, not mourning. Give guests creative freedom so that they can express themselves in the best way possible. Open the floor for poems and songs as well, or maybe even artwork that can be shared.

4. Create a memory jar

Place a pretty jar, pens, and stationery on a table, then ask guests to write down their favorite memories of the deceased and drop them into the jar. Towards the end of the event, you can have guests stand up and share the memories in the jar.

5. Give back to their favorite cause

Invite guests to contribute to a cause that was meaningful to your loved one as a way to memorialize them. If they were an animal lover, collect money for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) or supplies for the local humane society. If you lost your loved one to an illness, help fund research for a cure by donating to reputable organizations. This allows the late loved one to make an impact even after they have passed on. There are many worthwhile nonprofits out there.

6. Pay it forward

Another option for giving back is to have guests pledge to commit an act of kindness in your loved one’s honor. This might be something like paying for a stranger’s coffee once a week for a year or volunteering at a food pantry every month. Suggest activities that the honoree enjoyed or did often. Think “What would my late loved one do?” You can have guests write the pledge on a poster on a wall with their name for everyone to see. This is one of the most altruistic celebration of life ideas.

7. Hire a musician or band

Music is most powerful when played live, so in addition to creating a playlist, consider hiring a musician or band. It could be a cover band for your loved one’s favorite group, or one that plays music from their favorite genre. Gigsalad is a great resource for finding talent, as is The Bash. Just be sure you have the space and outlets the musicians need to perform, and be aware of the noise ordinances around your venue.

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8. Create a tribute movie or slideshow

Gather your favorite video clips or photos and create a tribute movie or slideshow set to music to honor your loved one. Use iMovie or Adobe Final Cut for this. Enlist the help of your most computer-savvy friends and relatives to ensure that the final product is polished and professional-looking. Play it continuously throughout the celebration of life event. A movie or slideshow will immortalize them and can be shared with family and friends for years to come.

9. Personalize the celebration with a special venue

Places can be deeply symbolic. One particular place might have meant a lot to the person who has passed on. Select a venue based on places your loved one felt most at home. (This could be a garden if they had a green thumb, a bar if that was their favorite hangout, a bookstore if they always had their nose in a book, or a theatre or art gallery if they were into the arts). With Peerspace, the sky’s the limit when it comes to choosing a venue.

10. Plan a symbolic activity

This celebration of life idea is a hallmark of the event. Most celebration of life events include a symbolic activity, like the release of butterflies, balloons, or paper lanterns or the planting of seeds. The activity you choose will depend on the person you are celebrating. 

Hosting an event that encompasses the personality of a loved one you lost (and does it justice) is no easy task, but these celebration of life ideas can help get your creative juices flowing. Creating a personalized event will help preserve their memory as they live on in your heart.

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