What To Bring To A Celebration Of Life?

Written by: Adam Binstock



Time to read 4 min

What To Bring To A Celebration Of Life

If you haven't attended a memorial service like this before, you might be asking yourself what you need to bring to a celebration of life ceremony? And while these ceremonies are generally less formal than traditional funerals services, they can still vary quite a lot in terms of family wishes, venue, and religious or cultural considerations. 

From donations, flowers, right through to celebration of life gifts, we will go through the sympathy gift ideas to consider bringing.

Celebration of Life Etiquette

It might sound a little cheesy, but our most important piece of advice would be to bring a respectful attitude. This might mean bringing an open heart to celebrate the life of the individual who has passed. Or it might mean being prepared to offer emotional support to grieving family and friends. Here are is some general etiquette tips to consider before attending:

  • Read guidelines: Follow any guidelines given by the family for event.

  • Arrive on time: Try get to the ceremony at least 15 minutes before.

  • Dress appropriately: Wear attire that is respectful and appropriate for the tone and setting of the event.

  • Offer Condolences: Take a moment to offer your condolences to the family of the deceased.

  • Keep your phone on silent: Make sure you check just before the ceremony starts.

Should You Bring Flowers?

Sympathy Flowers

Don't bring flowers or sympathy plants to the ceremony, send them to the family ahead of time.

Sending flowers is a great way to offer condolences. The best flowers to send include:

  • Lilies: White lilies are particularly common and can symbolize the soul's return to a state of innocence.

  • Roses: White roses often signify reverence and remembrance, while dark red roses convey deep love and respect.

  • Carnations: Long lasting and fragrant, white carnations signify purity and innocence, while pink ones represent remembrance.

  • Chrysanthemums: Another popular memorial flower, they are often used to signify truth and are viewed as a symbol of sympathy.

Charitable Donations

Park bench donation

It is quite common that the grieving family might request that, in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations be made to a chosen charity. Donation information may be included in the obituary, the celebration of life invitation, or told directly by the family. If no requests have been made, you may consider: 

Local Charities

If the deceased was involved in a particular part of the community, this would be a thoughtful and fitting place to donate. This may include a community organization, book club, sports club, or local hospital.

Interests & Passions

Another appropriate place to donate would be to a cause or passion that was close to the deceased's heart. Ideas are endless, but could be something like the environment, a Church, animal welfare, a library, or even medical research.

Ideas On What To Bring

Sympathy Cards

Sympathy cards

A sympathy card is a simple and thoughtful gesture that can be given to the family by itself or combined with another memorial gifts like flowers.

When writing a sympathy note, the idea is to show that you care and are there for them in this difficult time. Here are some important points:

  • Acknowledgment of the Loss: Clearly state that you are sorry for the recipient’s loss.

  • Express Sympathy: Offer your condolences and let them know you're thinking of them.

  • Offer Support: Make it known that you are available for support, whether that's a shoulder to lean on, or a practical offer of help like running errands.

  • Keep it short: While you want to express care and concern, try not to overwhelm the grieving individual with a lengthy message.

  • Closing: Sign off with a warm, comforting closing, like "With love," "Thinking of you," or "With heartfelt sympathies."

Photograph Gifts

Photographs are a thoughtful and meaningful ceremony gift for the family. As long as the photos contribute to the positive and uplifting tone of the ceremony, it can be a beautiful way to remind family and friends of cherished memories.

Some ideas to create the gift would be to create a memory table, photo album, buy a frame, create a canvas print, or make a photo collage.

Bring Food

celebration of life food

Brining food to a celebration of life will be much appreciated. Bringing a small dish in disposable containers to the reception can alleviate some of the stress.

Finger Foods: Cheese & meat boards, Vegetable platter

Main Meals: Casserole, Salads, Pasta Salad

Desserts: Cookies, Brownies, Fruit Platter, Cakes, Pies

Beverages: Coffee, Tea, Soft Drinks, Juice, Alcohol (If appropriate).

Celebration of Life Gift Ideas

memorial candle

It's the thought that counts, anything that shows you care. Try to find something small and not within a modes price range.

If you're not sure whether your gift will be received well, keep this advice in mind:

  • Know Your Audience: Make sure your gift is appropriate to the relationship you had with the deceased or have with the family.

  • Cultural and Religious Sensitivities: Always consider any cultural or religious factors that might make certain gifts inappropriate.

  • Consult the Family or Organizers: When in doubt, it's best to consult with those closest to the deceased for guidance on what would be most appropriate and meaningful.

Here are some other appropriate gifts to bring to a celebration of life:

  • Comfort gifts: This could include things like gift baskets, spa day vouchers, aromatherapy kit, or a book about coping with grief.

  • Memorial gifts: This could be things like memorial candles, memorial ornaments, personalized jewelry, wind chimes, or a sympathy card.

  • Handmade gifts: These deeply personal gifts could include memory jars, photo collages, custom artwork, or a handmade quilt.

Adam Binstock

Founder of You Are Forever & The Cremation Institute, he providing end of life advice since 2010. He has particular knowledge and interest in memorials, cremation art, & non traditional funerals.