Planning a Celebration of Life Ceremony

Published on December 10, 2012 by

This is a guest post by Maggie Rose Muldoon of Creative Celebrant.

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A celebration of life ceremony (CoL) is an alternative to a traditional funeral or memorial service, focusing on joy and gratitude for the life of the deceased (learn more here ).

Planning a celebration of life ceremony for a loved one

It’s a good idea to have a small “committee” make the plans, rather than one person taking on the entire project. You can consult with immediate family, but it isn’t always efficient or necessary to have them all directly involved.

Remember that the celebration can take place any time, especially if the remains are being cremated. Even if there is a burial, that can take place earlier with a small group of people, with the CoL ceremony happening later.

The most important thing is to be creative, and try to put together something that the deceased would enjoy.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Type of ceremony: Will it have a religious context? Will it be casual or formal? Will it be a small intimate gathering or a large group?
  • Accommodations: If there will there be out of town guests, where they will stay?
  • Location: Will you hold the ceremony in a church, church hall, community centre, park, banquet hall or somewhere else?
  • Music: Will there be music, and if so, what kind?
  • Food: Will you provide a catered meal, potluck, barbeque or snacks?
  • Audio-visual: Will you show a video or slideshow? Will you display photos?
  • Invitations: How will you design the invitations? Will you send them by postal mail or email?
  • Speaking: Will there be an eulogy? Do you need an emcee? Will it be a scripted ceremony, or can people speak spontaneously, open mix style?
  • Cremation: Will the cremated remains be present, or will the remains be scattered or buried?
  • Donations: Does your loved one have a favorite charity? Do you want to memorialize them in the form of a tree, bench or other commemorative object?
  • Flowers: Will you display flowers at the ceremony?

These thoughts will get you started. Remember you can make a CoL very simple or quite involved. Certainly keep the wishes of the deceased in mind, but also remember that ceremonies at the time of a person’s death are also for those who were a part of that person’s life, and want to remember that person in a special way.

Planning your own celebration of life ceremony

When making pre-arrangements for your own death with your funeral establishment, include your desires regarding your own celebration of life. It will be greatly appreciated by your friends and family. Some people also include these details in their will. Talk about your wishes with family members and ask them to help with your plans. It can actually be a fun experience.

Maggie Rose Muldoon is a retired minister who now works as a professional celebrant in Vancouver, BC. She works with clients to create personal, meaningful ceremonies for marriage, celebration of life, baby naming, coming of age, house blessings, vow renewals and more. You can learn more at

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