What To Say At A Celebration Of Life Service

Written by: Adam Binstock



Time to read 9 min

What To Say At A Celebration Of Life Service

A Celebration of Life service offers a uniquely personal way of honoring a loved one who has passed away. Unlike most traditional funerals, this relaxed and natural way of celebrating the person’s life, makes saying good bye more sincere and memorable. It does not diminish the grieving process but just enhances the positive attributes of the deceased person’s life.

It’s not always easy knowing what to say at a service but this article will guide you in making the process easier.

What Guests Should Say To The Family

What Guests Should Say To The Family

When thinking about what to say to family and friends of a deceased person, try to be thoughtful, sensitive and positive. It does help to express your feelings more naturally, when the focus is on honoring and celebrating the positive aspects of a loved one’s life. It also helps when the setting reflects who the deceased truly was, so that family and guests can feel somewhat more relaxed.

If you find yourself at a loss for words, here are some uplifting and positive quotes that you might consider saying to the family:

  1. "Daniel was such an inspiration to me. I feel lucky to have been a part of his life."

  2. "I'm so grateful to have known Rhonda. Her joy and passion for life was truly infectious. She would love this celebration of her life!"

  3. "I can only imagine how proud you must be of your father. Jakob’s legacy will certainly live on."

  4. "Fred had a way of making everyone feel special. I’m so glad I had the chance to experience that magic."

  5. "We are all better people for having known Gerri. Her  positive impact on those around them was truly remarkable."

  6. "Dave always brightened up any room. We'll carry that light with us always."

  7. "I'll never forget Trent's incredible sense of humor. He made the world a happier place, and for that, I am forever thankful. I hope we do him proud today"

  8. "It's hard not to smile when I think about all the good times, we've all had with Carol. She left us with so many happy memories to cherish."

Offer Your Support

Home prepared meal at a Celebration of Life

You might also be the type of person who likes to show your support in practical ways. It’s a powerful and tangible way to help during the grieving process. It’s not unusual for support structures to dwindle with time, and for frequent calls and messages to eventually end. Consider saying Let me know if you need anything.” and you’ll be surprised how many people might just take you up on an offer that is concrete. You could offer your support in some of the following ways:

  1. Help serve the refreshments and stay to clean up after the celebration. 

  2. Deliver some meals and organize a meal chain.

  3. Run errands.

  4. Babysit their kids.

  5. Walk their dog.

What Not To Say To The Family

It’s not easy to navigate your way through a funeral service, especially when you cannot predict how someone will respond with their emotions. Even the best intentions can sometimes be misunderstood and certain phrases or remre are eight examples of what you might want to avoid saying to the family:

  1. "At least they lived a long life." — This statement may diminish the family's grief, making it seem like they should be less sad because of the deceased's age.

  2. "They're in a better place now." — Although this may seem comforting, it can be problematic if it doesn't align with the family's religious or spiritual beliefs.

  3. "I know how you feel." — Grief is a personal experience, and assuming you know how someone feels may come across as presumptuous.

  4. "Everything happens for a reason." — The grieving family might not appreciate the analytical insights at this time. 

  5. "Well, we're all going to die someday." — While this is a fact of life, mentioning it in this context can be perceived as dismissive of the family's unique pain and loss.

  6. "At least they're not suffering anymore." — Even if this is true, the family is still suffering from their loss, and the phrase might not bring the comfort you intend.

  7. "What was the cause of death?" — Unless the family brings it up, this question can be intrusive and is generally not appropriate to ask.

  8. "Time heals all wounds." — Although meant to be reassuring, this saying might not be comforting to hear when the pain is fresh and raw.arks can result in hurt or offense. When attending a Celebration of Life service, he

Preparing A Celebration Of Life Speech

Preparing A Celebration Of Life Speech

Sharing a speech can be daunting at the best of times, When the focus is however, on celebrating a deceased loved one’s life, the outcome tends to be more authentic and less rehearsed. If you know the audience, it might even help to break the ice with a familiar quote or story or even some humor.

You could also consider some of the following:

Know Your Audience

It helps to know who will be attending so that you can craft a speech that resonates with everyone. If the attendees are mostly close family, friends or perhaps co-workers - tailor your message and make it relevant to them.

Adapt to the Ceremony

Find out whether the event is formal or casual, religious or not. Knowing the tone can guide you in striking the right balance between solemnity and celebration.

Brainstorm Ideas

It’s a good idea to jot down stories, attributes and memories of the deceased. You may also want to consult with the family for any specific points they would like covered.

Prepare with Someone

Think about rehearsing your speech with a trusted person. It really helps to provide valuable feedback and boosts your confidence.

Opening Words For A Celebration Of Life Speech

Opening Words For A Celebration Of Life Speech

Knowing what to say at a Celebration of Life ceremony can seem tricky but it’s actually easier than you realise. It also helps to be yourself. An opening sentence for a Celebration of Life speech sets the tone for the tribute you're about to give. It's an opportunity to capture the essence of the person being honored and to connect with the emotions of the audience. We’ve come up with ten examples of opening sentences that will help you:

  1. "Good [morning/afternoon/evening] all! You know, [Name] had a saying: 'Don't count the days, make the days count.' We're here to celebrate just how well [Name] did that."

  2. "Hey everyone, if there's one thing [Name] taught us, it's how to enjoy life—so let's do [Name] proud today!" 

  3. "Thanks for coming, everyone. [Name] would absolutely love this—good people, great stories, and a whole lot of love in one place."

  4. "Hi there, folks! You know, [Name] never missed a party—so let's make sure this is one [Name] will be smiling down on."

  5. "Hey, everybody! If we're going to celebrate [Name]'s life, let's do it the way [Name] lived—full of joy and zero regrets."

  6. "We're all here because [Name] touched our lives in some way, and I say we toast to the amazing times we were lucky enough to share together."

  7. "What’s up, everyone! You know [Name] always said, 'Life's too short for sadness.' So today, let's remember all the happy times and share some laughs."

  8. "Welcome, everyone! [Name] was the first to say that a day without laughter is a day wasted, so let's not waste today."

  9. "Hey all, we’re not here because [Name]'s life ended, but because it was so beautifully lived. Let's celebrate that!"

  10. 10. "Hello, friends and family! [Name] sure knew how to light up a room, so let's keep that light shining today as we celebrate all the amazing moments, we had together."

What To Include In The Speech

What To Include In a celebration of life speech

A Celebration of Life event can be both joyful and sad, so here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when preparing your speech.

Thank Everyone for Coming

You can begin by expressing a word of thanks to the attendees for being there to celebrate the life of the person who has passed.

Mention Their Life Story

It’s meaningful when you provide a short bio that highlights significant milestones, achievements, or struggles that the deceased overcame.

Share Personal Stories

Personal anecdotes can make your speech relatable and touching. Choose stories that epitomize the person's character or their impact on your life.

Talk About Their Family

Mention close family members and their relationship with the deceased. This helps to acknowledge the depth of their relationships and loss.

Talk About Their Positive Traits and Passions

Share attributes that made the deceased unique. Were they compassionate, adventurous, or extraordinarily kind? What were their passions or hobbies?

Say Something Uplifting

Remember in a Celebration of Life speech, the focus is on celebrating the loved one’s life. So, in the spirit of a celebration, include uplifting messages or lessons learned from the deceased that attendees can take away.

Talk About Their Legacy

Everyone leaves some kind of legacy or story behind. Think about what the deceased is leaving behind - whether it's a loving family, a successful business, or a charitable cause. Highlight it.

Meaningful Quotes & Poems

A well chosen quote or a memorial poem can capture the essence of the deceased and add a touch of literary beauty to your 


Add Some Humor

Humour has a wonderful way of breaking the ice, even at funerals. If appropriate and consistent with the person's character, a light-hearted story or joke can ease tension and bring smiles.

Include a Closing Remark

You can end by summarizing the person’s impact and thanking everyone again for their presence. A final, poignant quote can also be powerful.

Celebration of Life Speech Examples

The type of Celebration of Life speech you give can differ based on your relationship to the deceased. Below are three different types of speeches suited to various relationships, whether a friend, a parent, and a colleague. Each speech is designed to be uplifting and celebratory, in keeping with the spirit of the event.

Celebration of Life Speech for a Friend

  1. Opening

  • Thank everyone for coming.

  • Mention the unique and joyful qualities of the friend.

  1. How You Met

  • Brief story of meeting the friend and the impact on your life.

  1. Memorable Adventures

  • Share a couple of stories that demonstrate your friendship and the deceased's personality.

  1. Qualities to Remember

  • Discuss the positive traits and passions of the friend.

  1. Shared Humor

  • Insert a light-hearted story or joke that your friend would have appreciated.

  1. Their Legacy Among Friends

  • Talk about the impact they had on your life and on your circle of friends.

  1. Closing

  • Final uplifting message or quote

  • Invitation for others to share their memories of the friend.

Celebration of Life Speech for a Parent

  1. Opening

  • Thank attendees for being present.

  • A sentence that captures the essence of your parent.

  1. Childhood Lessons

  • Recount early memories and the important lessons learned from the parent.

  1. Parent's Passions

  • Share what your parent loved and how it influenced you and others.

  1. Family Stories

  • Narrate a few touching or funny family stories.

  1. The Parent as a Friend

  • Discuss the friendship that evolved between you and your parents in your adult years.

  1. Their Lasting Legacy

  • Mention how they continue to live on through the family and the community.

  1. Closing

  • An uplifting quote or saying that your parent lived by.

  • Open the floor to more stories and memories.

Allow Guests To Share Stories

Allowing guests to interact and share their stories, are what makes a Celebration of Life speech quite different from those at traditional funerals. While your speech is important, allowing other guests to share their stories can be just as meaningful. 

It’s a good idea to allocate some time for this during the service or set up a space where people can publicly or privately share their memories and thoughts. Hearing from others can be of great comfort, and you will likely learn a lot of things you never even knew about your loved one.

You could also consider including a celebration of life guest book, which will allow people to express themselves in writing.

If people seem reserved, try a ‘’word bath’’. Say a word, or two that comes to mind when you think of the deceased. Have everyone shout out words, like ‘’caring’’, ‘’hilarious’’, ‘’team-player’’ and more.

The words chosen for a Celebration of Life service carry immense weight and offer a chance for everyone to grieve, remember, and yes, celebrate. It’s best to keep your words authentic, and you will undoubtedly deliver a touching tribute that honors the loved one while comforting the living.