25 Celebration of Life Ideas

5 June 2020 • Memories

Celebration of Life Ideas

Celebrating your loved one's life is a healthy and positive way of going through the grieving process. Rather than focusing on your loved one's passing, you and others should cherish the wonderful memories you had with your dearly departed during their lifetime. There is a misconception, due to traditions, that memorial services or mourning in general has to be solemn. Like all things in life, there needs to be a balance. Positivity and celebration are the opposites of grief and mourning.

A celebration of life is essentially a celebration of memories. By celebrating these treasured memories, you are embracing the warmth and radiance of your loved one's life, rather than lingering in the darkness of their departure. 

Today, we'll look at 25 celebration of life ideas that emphasize reflecting on the beautiful life and personality of your loved one, and all the invaluable memories you had with them. 


1. Host a memorial service

One of the most common ways to celebrate someone's life is to hold a memorial service. Many people think that memorial services are exclusively held after a funeral, but a memorial event can be arranged any time after a loved one has passed away, such as the one-year anniversary of their departure, or even on their birthday. 

However, a key difference is that memorial events held long after a loved one has passed are more light, with an emphasis on celebrating their life rather than mourning their death. You can host a memorial event anywhere, such as a family member's home or even at a nice park, especially one that your loved one enjoyed going to for walks. 

2. Create a video montage

A much more simpler way of celebrating your loved one's life and memories with them is to create a video montage. First, gather photos or video clips of them. After that, use a video editing program to arrange each photo or video file. Most laptops and computers come with a free video editing software, such as Movie Maker for Windows and iMovie for Apple users. You can even edit videos on your smarphone, which has more free app options than desktops. As an iPhone user, I use iMovie and InShot. The latter is also available for Android users. 

If you're not familiar with video editing, no worries. There are many user-friendly instructions on YouTube. Simply type in the program or app you're using followed by key phrases like "for beginners" or "how to use." 

After you're done creating your cinematic masterpiece, you can upload it on your YouTube channel, Vimeo account, or feature them in an online memorial page dedicated to your loved one. 

3. Host a photo exhibit

Collect photos of your loved one and print them. To save cost on printing, you can print them yourself if you have an inkjet printer. You will save even more by purchasing non-glossy photo paper online and by printing more black and white photos, because you can just purchase black ink rather than the more expensive color ink cartridge.

If you don't have a printer, you can go to your local Walgreens or Walmart who print photos for cheap. If your local independently-owned photo developer offers affordable places, even better. Nothing like supporting small businesses while doing something good for your loved one. 

Once you have all your photos printed, hang, tape or pin them on the wall of a large space art exhibit-style. Taping or pinning them, or even hanging them on a clothesline will save you money on purchasing frames, which can be more expensive than the printing costs themselves. 

Invite close friends and family for an "exhibition opening night." Like an actual exhibition opening, serve platter snacks like cheese and other healthy finger foods. Don't forget to serve champagne, wine, and non-alcoholic refreshments. Make a short welcome speech to signal the start of the exhibition. After that, enjoy the trip down memory lane with your loved ones as you share stories about each photo. 

4. Gardening party

Invite close friends, family, and even neighbors to a gardening party in honor of your dearly departed. If your loved one had favorite flowers or plants, by those seeds at your local gardening store or online. On the day of the gardening party, prepare tools and materials such as spades, gloves, and planting soil. 

When the guests arrive, serve food and refreshments, or even have a BBQ. You can also collaborate on making a sign for the garden, such as "Delilah's Memory Garden" or "Dedicated to John." There's nothing like a blooming flower to symbolize the beauty of life. 

5. Celebrate their birthday

Birthdays are literally a celebration of life. Just because your loved one is no longer with you on Earth, it doesn't mean their life reached a finality; they just continued their life in another realm. So, on their birthday, host a respectful but lighthearted birthday celebration as a kind of memorial event. During the celebration, encourage guests to share their favorite memories with your loved one. You can even play that video montage you created on the TV so that everyone can reminisce together. 

6. Host an open mic

Host an open mic night at your home or at a quiet venue that rents out for private events. First, send out an event invite to close friends, family, and colleagues of your loved one. Participants can perform anything they like such as spoken word poetry, songs, monologues, stories, and stand-up comedy. The only requirement is that their performance pieces are appropriate for all audiences and overall respectful to the person being honored. 

7. Collaborate on a memory book

Invite friends and family to collaborate on a digital memory book, which can be hosted on an online memorial page dedicated to your dearly departed. A memory book is very similar to a scrapbook. It features photos and captions, as well as pictures or scans of physical objects like letters and ticket stubs to a memorable concert they attended. The difference between a scrapbook and a memory book is that the latter can incorporate other digital media like videos and music. 

8. Share quotes

Share quotes about memories, life, and other positive and inspirational subjects. Encourage others to share their favorite quotes on an online memorial comment board, or on social media. You can even share quotes by your loved one. Share their wisdom and insightful words with others.

9. Donate to charity in their name

Donate to a charity, particularly one they supported during their lifetime, in their name. It is a great way to honor their memory and legacy, but you are doing good for society by donating to a great cause. 

10. Run in a fundraiser marathon in their honor

If you have an active lifestyle, try running in a fundraiser marathon or race. Run in their honor, and encourage friends and family to join. Not only is it healthy for you, you are doing something for a good cause in your loved one's name. 

11. Make a time capsule

Capture your loved one's moment in time by making a time capsule. You can use any sturdy and erosion-proof container like a stainless steel can. In fact, in high school we used cheap stainless steel sugar containers that were still in great condition when we dug it up a decade later. In the time capsule, store items that narrate the story of your loved one's life and that show their personality.

Of course, you should not place anything in your time capsule that are original copies that you may want to hold on to. You can bury it in a private property, like your backyard, so that the younger generation of your family can dig it up and learn about their ancestor. Alternatively, you can bury it on public land (you might need to get permission from the local government first) for others to discover. It can be like a treasure chest for anyone to find, except instead of gold coins and gems, it contains treasured memories . 

12. Collaborate on a memorial cookbook

Collaborate with others on writing, editing, and self-publishing a cookbook that contains your loved one's favorite dishes. If they were quite the chef themselves, share their awesome recipes and original culinary creations. Afterwards, you can cook some of the dishes in the recipe book, and invite people for a tasting. 


13. Create a playlist of their favorite songs

If you have a streaming service, like Spotify, you can compile a playlist of your loved one's favorite tunes. You can then share the playlist online through a URL or embed feature, so that others can enjoy. 

14. Host a book drive in their memory

If your loved one was an avid reader and book collector, you can host a book drive in their memory. After you've collected the donated books, donate them to your local public library, especially one that your loved one frequented. You can also donate relevant books to students who are struggling financially. 

15. Give away personalized seed packets in their honor

You can buy seed packets at your local garden store or online. they are usually very cheap, so you can buy in bulk and give them away. You can then glue printed notes on the packet stating that you are giving them away in your loved one's honor. You can even include a poem or quote about Spring and blooming flowers, which traditionally symbolize life in literature. 

16. Visiting their favorite places

One of the simplest ways to celebrate your loved one's memory is to visit places they loved, whether it be a park or a museum. Make it a field trip and invite close friends and family. If you're visiting a place that has a lot of space for gatherings, like a park or the beach, you can hold an informal memorial event.

17. Write their name in the sand and have a lūʻau 

Speaking of beach, go there with family and friends of your loved one, and write their name or a message on the sand in big letters. If you or someone in the group has a drone, you can take an aerial group selfie that prominently displays your loved one's name. Since you're already at the beach, hold a lūʻau (a traditional Hawaiian celebration or feast), if it's permitted. 

18. Have a garage sale and donate the profit to charity

More often than not, people pass away without a will stating what should be done with their possessions. So what happens is that their things get stored in the attic or storage facility. If the materials don't hold strong sentimental value to you and they're not irreplaceable, you can hold a garage sale and sell your loved one's things. You can then donate all or a large portion of the profits to a charity your loved one championed. 

19. Planting a tree

Invite family members and friends of your loved one to help you plant a tree in your dearly departed's memory. Choose a place that your loved one frequented, or was closely associated with like family property. If it's a public place, like a local park, you might need to make a formal request to the local government first. If it's a private property that you have the rights to, you can begin choosing the sapling of a tree that are appropriate for the location. Pick a tree that is strong and has longevity to symbolize the power of life. 

20. Create an eco-reef

One of the most unique ways to celebrate your loved one's life and honor their memory is to create an eco-reef using their ashes. This is an interesting option (in a good way) if your dearly departed loved the ocean, or was passionate about marine conservation. 

21. Dedicating a star in their memory

One of the most popular and poetic forms of honoring someone's memory is naming a star after them. You can go to the International Star Registry (based in Canada) and start the process. It's a moving tribute to your loved one and one you can reflect on when you stargaze at night. Alternatively, you can scatter your loved one's ashes in space through Celestis. In fact, if you have the financial means (they can be quite expensive due to the nature of the process), you can both name a star after them and scatter their ashes in space so that they can become one with the glorious cosmos. 

22.. Get a group tattoo in their honor

This is for those who either already have tattoos or have always wanted one. If you're scared to get one or believe it's not for you, then you can get a temporary one that are high-quality. Choose a tattoo design that symbolizes your dearly departed, like their initials inside an infinity symbol or a flower if they loved to garden. For example, although my mom is very much alive and healthy, I have her actual signature tattooed on my wrist. I also have a rose tattoo on my forearm as a dedication to my aunt whose name is Rosie (who is also still very much alive, which goes to show that you can honor your loved ones while they're still present in your life). 

23. Create a memorial quilt

Collaborate with others on a making a memorial quilt. If your creative partners don't know how to quilt or sew, teach them, which will be a great way to bond with them. Each person can design their own section with illustrations that symbolize your loved one or tell a story.  

24. Release an environment-friendly sky lantern

In many Asian cultures, like in Thailand, China, and India, releasing sky lanterns is a traditional way of celebrating the lives of those who've departed. It's a beautiful spectacle at night. The tradition has become popular in North America as well, especially as the Asian population increases here. You can purchase eco-friendly biodegradable sky lanterns online. Before you do a release party with other people, make sure you are in an area with wide open spaces, and that there are no objects that can catch on fire or obstruct your lanterns. 

25. Simply have a dinner with friends and family

This list has many creative ideas on how to celebrate your loved one's life. However, nothing beats a simple dinner with close friends and family. Invite folks over to not only dine, but also share stories and laughter. Recount memories of your loved one and encourage others to share their memories as well. Being together with close friends and loved ones is the best way to celebrate life in general, because you are cherishing your time with each of them while they're still here. 

Back to list