What to Say at a Celebration of Life Service
Celebrations of life are memorial services that are focused on celebrating the life of the deceased. This celebration can be considered a departure from traditional funeral services which generally hold a more somber and serious tone. Attending a celebration of life can sometimes be jarring, especially if you aren’t sure what to say or how to act. Knowing what to say at a celebration of life beforehand can help you avoid an awkward moment during the event. If you happen to be the one organizing the event (or are asked to speak at a celebration of life), it’s also important to know the right thing to say.
What to say at a celebration of life ceremony as a speaker
Being asked to speak at any event can be daunting, but many people don’t feel as pressured as they might at a celebration of life. Speakers can often feel anxious, nervous, or concerned about what their speech will contain and making sure that they’re saying the right things that truly honor their loved one’s life and impact. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re asked to speak at a celebration of life:
Keep the content celebratory. Try to stray away from somber or morose content, especially if it’s a celebration of life ceremony. Celebrations of life can be sad, but they’re events that are meant to celebrate joy, love, and the impact that one’s life had on those around them. Try to focus on positive things and how important this individual was to those attending and those that you knew.
Include personal stories or favorite memories. Families often love to hear stories and specific memories about the way that their loved one affected those around them. Sharing a specific story that illustrates how special the person was can be healing and a reminder to those around of all the good that someone did during their time. Including favorite memories is also an excellent way to get across the personality of the deceased and how much they meant to you.
Try not to make the moment about you. Stating how important the deceased was to you is poignant, but avoid making the entire story about you and your life. Remember to keep the focus on the deceased and what kind of person they were.
Consider running the speech by the family beforehand. If you’re nervous or worried about your speech, it’s okay to ask someone in the immediate family to take a look at it before you’re scheduled to give it. They can give feedback and give you insight as to how the rest of the family will react.
What to say at a celebration of life ceremony as an attendee
Here are some celebration of life sayings to get your started when speaking with loved ones or the family at a memorial service.
“This is a wonderful celebration of a life well lived, [he/she] would have loved this.”
"I just wanted to tell you how beautiful this event is and how much I'm sure [First name] would have loved this. It's a testament to [his/her] life."
“Thank you so much for letting me join you and yours in celebrating [name’s] beautiful life. I’m thankful to be a part of this.”
“One of my favorite things about [name] was [his/her] ability to ___.”
*"[First name] was one of the most [describe positive character traits] people I've ever met. Anytime [he/she] would walk in a room, they'd light it up with their [smile/jokes/laughter/sense of humor/stories[."
“You were so incredibly important to [name] and they would feel honored if they could see this celebration you’ve held for them.”
“X always talked about how much they loved you and how proud they were of you. I truly hope you know how much you meant to them.”
“I just wanted you to know how important [name] was to me. They lived an incredible life and they would feel so loved by all of those you’ve invited here. [He/she] was an incredible [man/woman/person]."
“Please reach out to me at any time if you need help, someone to talk to, or if you’d just like to share some stories about [him/her]. I’m always here for you.”
Weaving in personal details or specifics will help your condolence come across as genuine rather than as a platitude. Giving a generic condolence may feel more comfortable, but the family will likely appreciate knowing how their loved one impacted the lives of others. Including your favorite personality traits, accomplishments, stories, or memories in your condolence can help illustrate that to the deceased’s loved ones.
Celebration of life quotes & sayings
If you’re looking for more general celebration of life saying or celebration of life quotes instead of something more direct, you can consider some of the following quotes:
“Be brave and never hesitate to explore everything life has to offer.” - Unknown
“Say not in grief that he is no more but live in thankfulness that he was.” - Hebrew Proverb
"They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies." - William Penn
"Only a moment you stayed but what an imprint your footprints have left on our hearts." - Dorothy Ferguson
*"A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world." - Nazr Mohammed
“A life well lived is a blessing and example to all.” - Unknown
“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” - A. A. Milne
“To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead.” - Samuel Butler
“A life well lived leaves others better off.” - Unknown
“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well-used brings happy death.” - Leonardo da Vinci
“Life is a game -- don’t forget to enjoy it.” - Unknown
“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends leave footprints in your heart.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“Love is one of the most important lessons in life. And love is all they gave.” - Unknown
“The comfort of having a friend may be taken away but not that of having had one.” - Seneca
“The world changes from year to year, our lives from day to day, but the love and memory of you, shall never pass away.” - Unknown
“Immortality … a fate worse than death.” - Edgar A. Shoaff
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” - Isaac Asimov
These quotes can be used during a eulogy, a reading, when sharing a story or when chatting with others at the celebration of life. Try to be cognizant of the tone or mood of the people or person you're speaking with since some may find celebrations of life to be really difficult, while others may rejoice in the celebratory nature of the event. It’s okay to feel a mix of emotions when attending any service for someone who has passed away.
If you’re looking for a way to collect condolences from your friends and family (and keep them in the loop regarding events), starting a memorial website is a great place to start. Memorial websites are free, easy to set up and make it easy for your loved ones to send their condolences.