Want to give your loved one the best send-off possible? We’ve got advice. Personalizing an end-of-life celebration or funeral gives you a chance to pour your love (and your grief) into something important for you and for other people who loved the person who’s died. It’s also a chance to create a service, a gathering (or both) to reflect a beautiful life. Think: A personalized farewelling where friends and family come together not just to mourn the person, but start a movement where end-of-life celebrations allow everyone to laugh, cry, share stories and, if we do our jobs right, leave feeling uplifted and encouraged by the legacy left behind.
But also consider how you want to begin the healing process. A funeral (whether a service, a less formal gathering or some combination of events) is as much a conduit for your healing as it is a celebration of a loved one’s life.
The following suggestions are simple, yet they can set the right tone for how comfortable others feel sharing memories and partaking in any festivities you organize.
So How Should You Personalize a Funeral?
Think of the person you loved so dearly and what they would have wanted. If they have a funeral plan or a Farewelling Worksheet, you can use that to help inspire you. But you can also just consider their values—were they religious, spiritual or not so much? Would they want something traditional and elegant, more down-to-earth and funky or totally out of the box? Try to note some adjectives that describe their personal style (bohemian, conservative, eco-friendly, cutting-edge, minimalist, etc.). Use those notes to help guide your planning choices for readings, music, even décor, food and drinks.
Host a Gathering After the Funeral Service
Your funeral home may offer an event space for a luncheon or reception, but you may prefer to choose something more personal or unique. Depending on their wishes, you may decide to celebrate your loved one with a lavish party at a venue they loved, or a more intimate get-together at their home or yours. A farewelling can take place anywhere—in a cool barn, at a hotel bar or on a stretch of beautiful beach. Maybe they wanted memories shared over a big screen with a slideshow, or even around a campfire outside where everyone tells stories while toasting s’mores and sipping spiked hot chocolate.
Add the Right Music
Music can be a part of the funeral service and any of the satellite celebrations that surround. Do you already know your loved one’s favorite tunes? If so, make a farewelling playlist. You can also ask friends and family to suggest songs if you need a bit of inspiration. That’s a great way to build a community around the events and to take a little bit of pressure off yourself if you’re doing all the other planning. It’s not unheard of to hire live musicians, a cover band or even a DJ, depending on preferences and budget. For more on selecting great music for your farewelling, come on over here.
Don’t Forget About Food
Did you know that some cultures actually honor their loved ones who’ve died by feasting on their favorite foods? In Mexico, families lay out an offering of food and drinks next to photos of the person, in hopes that they’ll return and enjoy them. Does your loved one have a favorite dish? The menu and format you choose can be dictated by your venue, or if you’re honoring a true foodie, then flavors and ingredients might be a deciding factor in where you choose to celebrate!
Set the Mood
Most people we ask say they’d like their friends and loved ones to celebrate life and be positive (rather than morose) at a farewelling held in their honor. So, think about the tone of any event you might host. The choices you make will tell your guests how to behave. Even lighting, flowers and the way the room is set up will give clues as to whether this is a quieter gathering, a grown-up affair or a boisterous bash. If the person you’re celebrating didn’t leave a farewelling file or funeral plan, just do what you think they would have wanted and liked. The spirit of the gathering is much more important than any fancy or fussy details.