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Funeral trends are changing, with 92.1% of Australians wanting more celebrating and less mourning when a loved one dies, according to the Australian Seniors Cost of Death report.

When it comes to funerals, Australians want less religion and more personalisation. As a result, ceremonies today are shifting from being formal events of mourning to more relaxed and reflective celebrations of life.

This article explains what a celebration of life is and how it differs from a funeral. We also include some suggestions of how to plan a life celebration event.

You might hold a celebration of life at your loved one’s local pub or RSL.

What is a celebration of life?

A celebration of life is a special event that aims to pay tribute to the meaningful relationships and cherished memories we have with the person who has passed away. Although it is undoubtedly a difficult time when we lose someone dear to us, a celebration of life focuses on remembering the happy moments and the positive influence that person had on their loved ones. It creates a space for us to reflect and express gratitude.

It is a less formal and more celebratory event than a traditional funeral, which is often conducted in a church or chapel with religious elements. Think of it as an upbeat memorial service. It is common for the deceased’s family to encourage attendees to wear bright colours or the deceased person’s favourite colour or sports team colours, rather than dressing head to toe in black. Additionally, a celebration of life is usually held without the presence of a coffin.

At Bare, we work together with families to help them organise a personalised celebration of life for their loved one's farewell. Give us a call on 1800 071 176 to find out how we can help.

When do you hold a celebration of life?

A celebration of life is generally held weeks or months after the person has passed away. Some families choose to have a celebration of life on the anniversary of their loved one’s death.

As the coffin or casket is not present during a celebration of life, families will often hold the service after the ashes have been returned, so the urn may be present. This also allows for an ashes scattering ceremony to be included as part of the event.

Rather than planning a funeral in the immediate days after the person has died, the deceased person’s family can plan a more personalised event at their own pace.

How to plan a celebration of life.

Planning a celebration of life is much like organising any other event or life celebration, such as a birthday party or even a wedding. Much like any other event, you’ll need to choose a date, venue and guest list, and consider catering, music, personalisation, and someone to make the important announcements on the day. We explain these in more detail below.

Much like these gatherings are usually done without hiring an official event planner, it is not required to have a funeral director to host a celebration of life. But if you’d like some help planning the service, Bare’s funeral team can help. We can even put you in touch with a celebrant to lead the memorial service. Give us a call on 1800 071 176 to find out how we can help.

1. Where to hold a celebration of life?

A celebration of life isn’t usually a formal event, so it doesn’t need to be held at a funeral home or chapel. The send-off should celebrate the things the deceased person loved in life, so factor in their passions when choosing where to hold a celebration of life.

Consider a location that held a special significance:

  • Was your loved one a member of a club or a regular local at a pub or RSL?
  • Did they have a favourite restaurant, beach or fishing spot?
  • Were they a green thumb? A park or botanic garden might be a lovely spot, in that case.
  • Were they keen on kicking the footy or having a bat of cricket at a local reserve?
  • Or were they fond of hosting parties or backyard barbecues at home?
  • These passions might help you to decide on a location.

If you are planning to have a committal or ashes scattering ceremony, you might also want to consider using the same location for the celebration of life. If this is the case, make sure to take into account the interment when choosing the venue.

With a Bare Funeral Service, our team has access to hundreds of venues across Australia, and can help find one that's perfect for your celebration of life.

2. Consider a funeral celebrant.

A celebrant can help to officiate the service and introduce others taking part in the ceremony, like speakers. They can help create your loved one’s life story or eulogy and can often help plan the event with the family if requested.

Alternatively, a family member or close friend could officiate if preferred. Consider someone who would be confident enough to perform the honour and won’t become too emotional.

3. Invite speakers and tributes.

You might like to include those closest to the deceased to say a few words, read the eulogy or a poem or prayer, or perform a piece of music. As mentioned above, consider someone who would be confident enough for the honoured task.

If it’s appropriate, you may even consider an ‘open mic’ for any guests to share a fond memory of the deceased.

A way to involve more of the guests in the memory-sharing is to ask them to write down fond moments of the deceased person in a memory book or memory box. The celebrant or officiant can later read these aloud.

4. Personalise the celebration of life.

There are no rules when it comes to a celebration of life. So when it comes to personalising the service - the world is your oyster!

As mentioned earlier, consider encouraging guests to wear the loved one’s favourite colour instead of dressing in black – what they generally would wear to a funeral

A loved one’s favourite song, musician, or movie score can help to set the mood for a memorable life celebration. Taking a look through their record collection can be a good start. Why not make a playlist of your loved one’s favourite music for everyone to enjoy? If you need some more inspiration, read our article on the best songs for funerals and memorials. We’ve also created the below Spotify Funeral Songs playlist.

When it comes to personalising the celebration of life, keep in mind the deceased person’s passions. Movie or music memorabilia may be a nice touch if they were a super fan. Or if the deceased was an avid collector, you might display some of their prized items on a memorial table next to their photo and urn (if one is being displayed). Or perhaps they had won some significant awards or medals worthy of displaying.

5. Decide on catering and refreshments.

Did your loved one have a favourite food, sweet, drink, or national cuisine? You might like to include catering options that reflect their favourite food or something from their culture. Keep in mind that certain venues may have their own food packages or catering service.

You might like to include catering options that reflect their favourite food or something from their culture.
You might like to include catering options that reflect their favourite food or something from their culture.

6. Set the order of service.

A celebration of life ceremony provides flexibility in its format. Families have the freedom to design the event according to their preferences, whether they prefer a lively gathering or a more organised structure. The order of service for a celebration of life is customised based on the selected elements and the desired atmosphere.

Will there be speakers, a eulogy, music, singing – or even dancing? Will there be some form of ritual or an ashes scattering ceremony? The order can take on any form you see fit.

7. Invite guests.

It’s becoming less common for funeral and memorial notices to be advertised in the newspaper. A simple (and free) Facebook event can provide all the details you need to say about the celebration of life. You might even send out electronic invitations to guests via email or messenger, as it’s a celebration rather than a formal funeral.

Any details about a theme or special requests should be included in the invitation, so guests will know what to expect, wear or bring. If you are encouraging donations to a specific charity in lieu of flowers, include these details in the invitation or event notice.

We understand the complexities of organising a funeral or memorial service. Contact our support team at 1800 071 176, and we'll guide you through planning a meaningful celebration of life that resonates with you and your family.

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