How Does a Celebration of Life Differ from a Funeral?

By: David Tindall
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When deciding how to memorialize their loved ones, families often find that the choice of memorial event opens two options: celebrations of life and funerals. For those not experienced in the funeral industry, it can be challenging to make the distinction between the two options. And so within this blog, our team will highlight the main differences between funerals and celebrations of life.

First, the Commonalities

Before deciding between a funeral and a celebration of life for a loved one, it’s important to recognize the elements that both types of event have in common. These include the following:

  • They’re designed to provide social support to the grieving family
  • They help friends and family acknowledge the death of a loved one
  • They provide an official means of recognizing a person’s death

Funerals

Funerals are the traditional form of remembrance for a loved one. Historically, they have comprised three specific elements as a means to provide order to the proceedings: the visitation, the funeral service, and the committal service.

  • The Visitation

Visitations are held in the immediate time before the funeral and act as a way to support the family in recognizing the death of their loved one while paying respects. As part of the visitation process, a viewing may also take place where guests step up to the decedent’s body and pay their respects directly.

  • The Funeral Service

The funeral service is usually held at a church and led by a church officiant. There is a traditional order for funeral ceremonies, and this order includes the singing of hymns, Bible recitations and the reading of prayers, as well as speeches by family members and close friends.

  • The Committal Service

The committal service takes place at the decedent’s gravesite, and may involve the reading of further Bible passages as well as final prayers. The service ends with the casket being lowered into the ground.

  • Celebration of Life Events

Celebration of life events are becoming more common and are designed to help friends and families share memories of the decedent while mourning their loss. They are deeply personal and can be organized according to the wishes of the decedent’s family. A celebration of life event will include the following elements:

  • A Short Ceremony

Rather than a deeply spiritual service, a celebration of life event is catered towards telling the story of the individual. It may include loved ones telling stories of the person, as well as the showing of video clips to highlight the person’s unique personality.

  • Post-Ceremony Activities

The celebration of life event is built around activities to memorialize the person. For example, loved ones might play a game that reminds them of the decedent. Or they might simply have a catered event at which all guests are welcome to share their stories.

  • A Release Activity

To conclude the celebration of life, many families have a release activity to symbolize the person being released into the spiritual world. They may choose to release balloons into the sky or release a bottled memory into the sea.

Both funeral events and celebrations of life hold a range of benefits for those remembering their loved ones. It’s important to consider both options carefully before making a selection and to speak with an industry specialist to determine the right option for your loved ones. To discover more on this topic, speak with our team today.

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