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20 Ideas for Planning a Celebration of Life

Celebrations of life are becoming more common as people look to honor and remember their loved ones in a positive and unique way. Here are 20 ways to pay tribute to life well lived.

1. Host an open mic

Encourage guests to stand up and share their favorite stories and memories. This gives everyone a chance to express their feelings and grief can give others insight into sides of your loved one that they may not have know. Open mics are also a bit less formal and can open the floor to people who may have been too nervous to speak at a more formal event.

2. Plant a tree or flower

A plant will give you an ongoing reminder of the person you lost and a place that you can visit to feel more connected to him or her. Planting a tree is a great way to give back to the community and help the environment, which many people consider to be a living tribute or lasting legacy.

3. Serve their favorite foods

Design the menu around foods that your loved one enjoyed, or put out their favorite desserts. Ask friends and family to bring their favorite dishes that your loved one enjoyed as well. Just the act of cooking and eating together may bring fond memories to guests.

4. Make a photo collage

Encourage guests to each bring a photo of your loved one, and create a wall where everyone can share their photo and browse the photos of others. You can also create a memorial website and ask that folks contribute their favorite photos and memories on the Memories tab.

5. Put together a custom playlist

Play music that your loved one enjoyed to help bring back even more memories. You can even start a collaborative playlist on Spotify that your friends, family, and community can contribute to to memorialize your loved one.

6. Make a donation to charity

Continue your loved one’s legacy by encouraging guests to make a donation to charity in their name. You can set up a memorial website to collect donations towards your chosen charity.

7. Create a memory capsule

Ask guests to bring something that reminds them of your loved one, and put them all in a beautiful box. Choose a date (such as your loved one’s birthday or anniversary of their death) to reopen the box as a group and relive those memories.

8. Hold a gift drive

Recommend that guests bring a gift that they would have liked to give to your loved one. Then, donate them to a charity that helps families in need.

9. Attend an event

Attend a sporting event for a team that your loved one rooted for, or see a performance that they loved. If your loved one was passionate about a community event or team, ask your friends and family to attend the event in their honor alongside you.

10. Wear a piece of their clothing or jewelry

Wear a bracelet or tie that they loved to add a personal touch to the day. If they had a favorite color, you can suggest all attendees to wear a piece of clothing of that color.

11. Give guests seeds to take home

Purchase seeds for your loved one’s favorite flowers and make small bags for guests to take home and plant themselves.

12. Create a memorial website

Create an online memorial for your loved one and ask friends and families to post their favorite stories and photos there. Visit it whenever you feel like you want to connect with your loved one.

13. Create a map of their travels

If your loved one was an avid traveler, put up a map and mark the places they traveled to with pins. If you have photos from your trips to those places, place a photo in each spot of the map.

14. Display their favorite books

Use your loved one’s favorite books as decorations, and let them inspire the reading lists of your guests. You can even go so far as to create a book list on Goodreads that your friends and family can follow, so that they can read the same books your loved one loved.

15. Ask guests to make memory stones

Set out a pile of smooth stones, paint and markers, and ask guests to write their favorite memories of your loved on on the stones. Collect them at the end of the event, and keep them on display.

16. Support their favorite team

If your loved one was a big sports fan, suggest that guests come dressed in the colors of their favorite team.

17. Release doves

Doves are a symbol of peace and love, and the physical release of them can be therapeutic to some people as a representation of letting go.

18. Give a toast with their favorite drink

Serve your loved one’s favorite drink. Encourage everyone to grab a glass and toast to their memory.

19. Make a book of cards and letters

Gather cards and letters that your loved one wrote and put them together in a book that guests can browse.

20. Enjoy their favorite activity

If your loved one was an outdoors lover, go on a hike. Or if they loved the ocean, spend a day at the beach.

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Last updated February 23, 2021
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Tracy Neely "Baskets of note cards & ink pens gave guests the opportunity to share a memory at my son's memorial service. Personal favorite, "Because of Andrew I know God.""