For some people, when they think of a funeral they think of sombre church organ music and mourners dressed all in black. But in recent years, more and more people are seeking to break the mould of the traditional funeral by opting for a celebration of life.
What is a celebration of life?
Although many people still prefer the sombre dignity of a traditional funeral, a celebration of life is an alternative way of saying goodbye to a loved one that places the emphasis on celebrating happy memories.
Families might choose a celebration of life for a loved one who was particularly positive and easy-going, or if they specifically expressed a desire for an uplifting final farewell.
There are endless ways to make a celebration of life not only a positive experience, but a personalised way to say goodbye. Here are just a few ideas if you’re planning a joyful celebration of your loved one’s time on earth.
Swap black for bright colours
Perhaps one of the most common features of a celebration of life is the decision to swap traditional mourning colours for something a little brighter.
There are lots of ways you can incorporate colour into the service. You might choose floral tributes in your loved one’s favourite colours, ask mourners to dress brightly, or even opt for a brightly-coloured hearse. Whether you keep to a colour scheme, or go for an all-in rainbow approach, colourful funerals are becoming more and more popular.
Play music and dance
Funerals, particularly the wakes after the funeral, aren’t always the sombre, quiet affairs they once were. The rise of music and dancing at funerals has given people a joyous way to pay tribute to a loved one.
The UK is now seeing specialist funeral DJs offering their services for celebrations of life, and mourners are taking to the dancefloor as a fitting way of remembering those who loved to sing and dance.
Share photos and memories
Another popular feature of funerals in recent years is the idea of sharing photos and memories as a special tribute. This brings the focus onto all the happy times and gives people a way to share their most precious stories.
There are many ways you could do this, from a simple guestbook where mourners could record their favourite memories, or more creative ideas like a photo collage or memory board.
Balloon releases are certainly a non-traditional way of marking your loved one’s final farewell, but the practice has grown in popularity, particularly for young children. The sight of colourful balloons rising into the sky is both moving and uplifting.
If you’re worried about the potential environmental impact of a balloon release, be sure to choose biodegradable balloons and don’t attach strings – these could be hazardous to wildlife.
Serve your loved one’s favourite food and drink
What’s a celebration without good food and drink? If your loved one loved a good party, it could be a fitting tribute to serve up their favourite things to eat and drink.
Kim Clark of funeral catering company Tea and Sympathy recalled how one family chose to serve up pink wafers – their loved one’s favourite biscuit – as a small but touching tribute to the person they were saying goodbye to.
Put on a fireworks display
Lighting up the night sky with a dazzling fireworks display could be the perfect way to give your loved one the send-off they deserve.
Some people even take it one step further, filling fireworks with cremation ashes for the most spectacular scattering ceremony imaginable.
Hand out gifts
Mourners will be attending a celebration of life ceremony to give thanks for everything your loved one gave them in life, whether it’s their friendship, love, or a helping hand. One last gift could be the perfect way to say goodbye.
Some people give out seed packets so that mourners can grow flowers in loving memory – forget-me-nots are a common choice. If your loved one was an avid reader, you might consider handing out their books, with a special memorial sticker in the inside front cover to remember them. Another option is repurposing funeral flowers after the service so that each mourner can take home a small posy to remember a very special celebration of life.