Is a ‘Life Celebration’ a funeral?

become a funeral celebrant

I am often asked what the difference is between a funeral and a life celebration. It’s the celebration that makes it different. A funeral, traditionally here in the UK at least, is often portrayed as depressing, sad, everyone dressed in black. A life celebration is carried out with a focus on the life of the person, rather than their death. This makes it a reason (or often many reasons) to smile, laugh and celebrate as we remember the joy and love brought into our lives by this person.

The venue does not dictate the tone of a celebration of life

At a recent crematorium service, I asked everyone gathered to sing together and to dance like nobody was watching. At another, family and friends all hugged and drank mead together and there was indeed a good deal of celebrating. ‘Is it wrong to tell you I enjoyed the service today?’ people often ask me. That, to me, is a clear sign we had a celebration of their loved one, not a funeral.

Being constrained by time at a Crematorium does not, however, have to dampen the tone ro prevent an Independent Celebrant from creating a ceremony that personal. We are trained to work within very tight time limits and still craft words that matter.

In reality, funerals through history were much more celebratory than we might imagine. The Victorians and the Church of England are largely responsible for the tone set in the last century. Visit most other parts of the world, however, and you’ll find that celebrating the end of (this part at least) life is a more inclusive, joyful and uplifting affair.

It takes a team to create a ceremony

As an Independet Celebrant, I am always delighted when a family asks me to create a Life Celebration. I also appreciate that I am fortunate to work with Funeral Directors who tell our mutual clients about their choices. We work as a team to make sure the family is aware of the different options available to us as we create a farewell that feels authentic and appropriate.

We work as a team, often including many professionals, to ensure the family and loved-ones of the deceased are seen and cared for in their grief. The experience the different people involved will bring, allow us all to work together to this common goal. A celebration of someone’s life needs many details to be considered and each of us to help the other with great communication and a willingness to be flexible.

What elements can we include to create a feeling of celebration?

Every time we create a ceremony, as professional Independent Celebrants, we start with a blank page. None of your ‘insert name here’ funerals are created by trained Celebrants. And if we are to create a sense of joy, hope and love in rememberance, we have to be open to crafting truly unique scripts and including elements that work for the family.

Some of these might include:

  • Photographs of happier times, displayed on a board or as a carousel during the service make a lovely, positive focus. Consider asking those attending to bring a favourite photo with them, to pin on the board for the family to keep.
  • Songs and music. In ancient traditions and faiths, all the members of the community would sing or play an instrument at a life celebration. Each person took a turn, as though playing for the deceased. Include music that reminds those attending the ceremony, of the positive and best of times. Asking people to join in, or dance, can bring smiles and laughter to a challenging time.
  • Readings and writings. Members of the family, or friends, are often asked to read at a life celebration. I particularly love it when someone asks if they can write something themselves. This chance to express their loss and also share their favourite memories is healing for them.
  • Prayers and blessings. One of the greatest parts about our work as Independents, is that we are able to include elements of many faiths, or none, in our life celebrations. This means that whatever feels right for the deceased and their family, can be included.

Where can you hold a Life Celebration?

Anywhere! Truly, we can create and hold a ceremony anywhere, provided we have permission. Many people are not aware that you can hold a funeral service somewhere other than a crematorium or a burial ground. There are now many venues, from town halls to private homes, who have embraced the chance to remember and honour someone in a place they loved. Imagine creating a life celebration at someone’s favourite hotel, or the pub where they were a regular.

With the team of Independent Celebrant, Funeral Director and Venue, the coffin can even be present for the ceremony. This allows families to create an atmosphere that is more relaxed and uplifting.

If you’d like to know more about our training for Funeral and Life Celebrations, take a look here. And if you’d like to talk about your options, why not book a conversation into my diary.


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