How to start planning a celebration of life
Six key details can help you turn a funeral into a life celebration
By Jessica Catignani
Kristin was the life of any party. She commanded attention with whatever she did, whether she was dancing at weddings or telling stories in a small group. She loved good food, music, and above all, her family and friends — with whom she wanted nothing more than to laugh and enjoy precious moments. So when she learned she would not win her battle with cancer at the age of 40, a traditional funeral service was not her wish. Instead, she wanted a big life celebration party that brought together the things and the people she loved most.
That’s why, a few weeks after Kristin’s passing, her family and friends filled a large barn for a funeral party and listened to Kristin’s favorite songs, ranging from pop to rap to folk rock, flowing from the speakers. Kids played games, and the adults mingled over plates of food, drank beer, and watched a slideshow of photos. Some tears were shed, but for the most part, everyone shared stories, laughed, and hugged, just like Kristin would have wanted.
A celebration of life like Kristin’s is becoming more common, whether personally preplanned or organized posthumously by loved ones. Funeral parties are becoming more popular than traditional funerals because they’re more personalized and less somber. Instead of featuring the deceased’s body, which usually isn’t present, a life celebration features the person’s personality and character.
How to plan a celebration of life for your loved one
If you think a celebration of life is more suitable for your loved one than a traditional funeral, you’ll need to consider six key details as your planning a funeral party.
1. Select a special location
While a traditional funeral is often held in a funeral home or church, a celebration of life is located in a place that was important to the deceased. For a sports fanatic, the best location may be a baseball field or golf course. A park, marina, or beach may have special meaning to an outdoors lover. A theater or art gallery would suit someone with a passion for the arts. If the deceased hosted many key moments at a restaurant or pub, he or she might also consider it an appropriate place for a final send-off.
2. Name a personalized theme
Themed funerals rank among current funeral planning trends, and it makes sense since they take celebrating a loved one’s interests to another level. Funeral party themes may encompass the person’s culture or heritage, a lifelong career, a hobby, a beloved entertainer, an annual vacation destination, or even a favorite holiday. You can keep it small and simply decorate the venue with personal items, or go all-out and ask attendees to dress the part. For example, they can wear Hawaiian shirts to a beach party or dress as the deceased’s favorite Star Wars characters.
3. Choose memorable readings and music
Some of the most meaningful moments of a life celebration revolve around readings, orations, and music that truly represent the deceased. Readings may include favorite Bible verses or beloved poems. Talented speakers or close friends can share stories. The person’s favorite songs can be performed by a live band or a recorded playlist.
4. Feature beloved activities
Some celebration of life activities may relate to the theme or the music, such as dancing to a live band. But others may honor the deceased’s interests or be used as a way to say goodbye. For example, you can release balloons, butterflies, or doves at the end of the life celebration or honor the deceased’s volunteer work by hosting a toy drive or accepting donations for a cause at the funeral party.
5. Serve favorite foods or refreshments
Let the deceased’s heritage or interests influence the menu. If he or she was a “foodie,” you may ask a beloved restaurant to cater the event. You could showcase a particular entrée, snack, or dessert he or she loved. If the person had a signature drink, make it available for a special touch.
6. Feature items in memoriam
You may choose to display a portrait or memory quilt to memorialize the deceased or set out a guest book, like a traditional funeral. But on the other hand, you could offer attendees funeral party favors that serve as keepsakes, such as a small photo of the deceased or a seed memorial card that can be filled with flower seeds to be planted as a beautiful reminder of your loved one. You can also turn the item in memoriam into an activity, such as planting a tree in the deceased’s honor.
How to preplan a celebration of life for yourself
If you want to bypass a traditional funeral for yourself, you can preplan a celebration of life. Preplanning and prepaying allows you to specify your exact wishes and takes the pressure off your loved ones when you pass. They won’t be questioning what you would’ve wanted and worrying how they’re going to pay your final expenses.
You have payment options to fund your life celebration. They include Preneed Funeral insurance and Final Expense insurance.
With Preneed insurance, you attend a preplanning appointment with a funeral home partner to select and price all the elements for your celebration of life. Your Preneed policy locks in the total amount, and it is paid to the funeral home to cover your life celebration expenses.
Final Expense insurance doesn’t include recording your life celebration wishes, but it alleviates the burden on your family of covering its costs — and an array of other expenses. You will need to write detailed instructions that tell your family how to use the funds for your celebration of life. If money is left over, your family can use it for unpaid bills, medical expenses, and even college tuition for children or grandchildren.
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Photo credit: iStock