Celebration of Life Program: Ideas & Templates

Written by: Adam Binstock



Time to read 6 min

celebration of life program

If you ‘re looking to plan a celebration of life program, you’ll know that these ceremonies tend to be  more personal, relaxed and upbeat, compared to a traditional funeral.

 But because these ceremonies are very flexible and personalized, there are quite a few decisions to be made regarding the program.

In this article we will give you some good ideas of what you should include in a Celebration of Life Program. We'll also provide some templates and some tips on planning a ceremony.

What is a Celebration of Life Program?

A Celebration of Life program is quite different to a funeral service and is more about the freedom to create your own personal celebration. The style is relaxed, whether through music, stories, or other activities, instead of focusing on  mourning and rituals. 

A traditional funeral isn’t everyone’s thing, especially if you’re the type of person who wants to bring out the true essence of who your loved one really was.

It's an intentional event designed to celebrate the unique life of your loved one. It gives you the freedom to be more personal, free, and centered on the fun aspects of your loved one's life. 

Welcoming & Seating Arrangements

There’s always an awkward silence when entering a cold church building with its hard pews. Finding a seat, next to a mourning stranger, can be unappealing to say the least. 

Now, just imagine the opposite experience, your first impressions when the guests walk in carrying a bouquet of emotions, walking into a space that instantly evokes the spirit of your loved one. Perhaps there's even a welcome table adorned with their favorite flowers or a photo montage that triggers happy memories. 

As for the seating, imagine walking towards people you recognize in a cozy circle, or even a mix of lounge chairs and blankets on the grass. You’ll feel far more relaxed when you create an inviting atmosphere that serves as a warm hug for everyone who enters.

Toast & Opening Reading

Toast & Opening Reading

A Celebration of Life event is perfect for making a toast. This is when eyes meet, hearts open, and the communal journey of remembering begins. A toast can be a beautiful way to initiate this journey. 

Just forget your inhibitions and raise a glass of your loved one's favorite beverage, and propose a toast that captures their essence. 

Keep going with an opening reading. This perhaps could be a cherished poem, a piece of scripture, or even a quote from a favorite movie. It really makes all the difference to set the right emotional tone for the event and the program that follows.

The Speech

There’s no better way to say ‘’good-bye’’ than a sincere tribute that digs deep into the heart of who your loved one was. It’s far more than listing some kind of timeline, like in a history class but rather sharing their spirit, their virtues, their quirks, and even their imperfections. 

Consider what's appropriate to say at a celebration of life. Were they passionate about their hobbies? Did they have a classic laugh that you could recognize a mile away? 

This is really your chance to paint a portrait with words, an intimate picture that helps everyone see your loved one through a lens of love and admiration.

A Creative Activity

Here's where things can get creative. A Celebration of Life activity should be interactive and  engaging, most of all, a tribute to your loved one's unique personality or interests. If they loved gardening, perhaps everyone could plant a flower in their name. If they were an avid reader, maybe guests could exchange books that were meaningful to the departed. 

It is nice to also include friends and family members in the planning of the event. Many people want to honor their loved one in some way and can be quite creative. If you're looking for something creative, have a look at our unique celebration of life venue ideas.

Activities like these not only serve as living tributes but also provide an outlet for collective expression, enabling guests to partake in something greater than themselves. 

You can even do some of the following:

Final Reading & Thanks

It’s lovely when you can quite naturally bring a program to an end. A final reading can be the emotional bookmark that concludes the chapter of collective remembrance. Think about choosing a passage that offers a sense of closure, be it a literary extract, a religious scripture, or even a line from their favorite song. 

So many people contribute to making an event special. Don't forget to express your gratitude to them - thanking your guests isn't just courteous; it also builds a sense of community and shared love that is important throughout the entire event.

Program Examples & Templates

It might be helpful to see a few examples of a program, so here you go

Program Example 1

Celebrate The Life of Henry Williams


Date: Saturday, October 5, 2023
Location: River Bend Community Outdoor Centre
Time: 2:00 PM - 4 PM

Order of Service

  • 2 pm: Welcome & Drinks

  • 2.30 pm: Start of the Service

  • Opening reading by Emily Williams

  • Memorial Slideshow 

  • Eulogy by George Wade

  • Thank You & Toast

  • Closing Words by Mary Williams

  • 3.30pm: Mingling & Farewell 

Program Example 2

Celebration of Life for Laura Adams


"Rooted in Nature, Boundless in Spirit"


Date: Saturday, October 12, 2023

Location: Willow Creek Natural Reserve

Time: 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM


Order of Service


  • 11 am: Welcoming & Morning Tea

  • 11.30 am: Start of the Ceremony

  • Poem reading

  • Celebration speech by Daniel Adams

  • Group singing

  • Tree planting activity

  • Thank you


  • 1pm: Picnic celebration

Program Example 3

Celebration of Life for Andrea Thompson


Date: Friday, October 18, 2023

Location: La Bella Vita Italian Bistro

Time: 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM


Order of Service


  • 6 pm: Welcome drinks

  • 6.20 pm: Opening words

  • Eulogy by 

  • Share the microphone 

  • Thank you

  • Dinner 

Planning a Celebration of Life Program

This process is deeply personal and true to your loved one and needs careful thought and reflection. It will help if you:

  • Brainstorm some ideas: take some time to think about the unique qualities, passions, and interests that describe them. Were they an outdoor enthusiast, a book lover, a musician?

  • Choose a location: if your loved one was an art aficionado, consider hosting the event in an art gallery. For a nature lover, a scenic park or botanical garden could be the perfect setting. The venue itself can speak volumes about who they were.

  • Traditional and cultural themes: keep in mind some traditions or cultural elements that were important to them. Whether it's a specific religious ceremony, cultural dances, or even a particular way of dressing, these details give the event a special touch.

  • Visual elements: this can also be personalized. Think about creating a photo slideshow of important moments in their life or make a memory table filled with items that represent their hobbies, achievements or passions. These decorations are a really special way for guests to connect with who they were.

  • Small gifts: consider a keepsake that embodies their spirit—a bookmark for a book lover, seed packets for a gardening enthusiast, or a small craft that they enjoyed making. This will serve as a lasting memento for guests to cherish.

Hire a Celebration of Life Planner

Planning and overseeing a Celebration of Life event all on you own, might be a bit much for you. Don’t forget you’re still grieving too. It might be a good idea to hire a planner.  

Hiring a planner can really take the load off your shoulders during a time of grief, and their expertise will make sure that the event is a personalized, seamless tribute to your loved one. Their professional guidance allows you to focus on honoring and remembering, rather than managing and coordinating. 

It’s always good to ask for recommendations from trusted friends or family when looking for a planner. Researching online reviews for experienced professionals are definitely a plus. Once you've narrowed down your options, conduct interviews to make sure their vision aligns with yours. Don’t forget, always confirm details, including services and fees, in writing. 

That’s about it on the topic. I hope this article has been helpful. Please do share it with someone else.