At a celebration of life, friends and family gather to honor and remember a loved one’s special life. A person's hobbies, skills, passions, occupation and charming personality traits can inform a unique tribute to a special life.
Was Dad a person who never missed baseball's opening day? An afternoon with peanuts, hot dogs and popcorn is in order. Or was he a reserved man with a library that had to be seen to be believed? Give away some of his favorite books to friends and family at his memorial. Maybe his profession was his passion—that’s something to celebrate, too.
Whatever Dad loved to do—whomever he was—we can help you capture what made him the person you were proud of, the guy you loved, and the father you adored. Here are 50 celebration of life ideas to get you started.
Be inspired by his job
Barber: Dad's customers were like family. Ask as many as you can to write down their most cherished barbershop memories; bind them together in small books for others to read.
Woodworker: You rarely saw dad without his tool belt. Pass out pocket-size measuring tapes so guests can carry a little bit of Dad wherever they go.
Cook: Honor his love of food by holding the celebration of life at his favorite restaurant, or with his favorite recipes. Toast to his many delicious meals that brought family and friends together.
Construction: Dad never hung up his hardhat, working long hours making sure projects stayed on track. Take photos of the places he helped build and hang them around the room.
Doctor or healthcare worker: He committed his life to healing his patients. Display his white coat and stethoscope on a garment form. Ask guests to contribute to a healthcare nonprofit in lieu of sending flowers.
First responder: His duty as a public servant was his honor. For firefighters, the day wouldn’t be complete without a hook-and-ladder truck, of course. Park it at the entrance so that guests get a glimpse of his ride.
Farmer: Use mini tractors and fresh vegetables as table centerpieces. Serve a Sunday-style supper of fried chicken, green beans, corn on the cob and biscuits.
Journalist: He really knew how to sniff out a story. Issue a press release instead of a program, cover tables with newsprint, display all of his awards.
Policeman: He was a hero in your life—and for many others you may not even know. Ask his fellow officers to record short videos to play at the celebration of life.
Photographer: His Canon went everywhere he did. Place instant cameras on tables and ask guests to snap pics to leave behind when the celebration of life is over.
Pilot/airline worker: Design a program like an old-school airline ticket. Give guests wing pins to wear when they arrive. Serve drinks and snacks from a rolling cart.
Rancher: Dad was always at home on the range, so host the event at his barn. Ask friends and family to wear jeans and boots. Tack up his favorite mare as a special guest.
Be inspired by his passion
Animal lover: They say dog is man’s friend. Dad and his pup were proof of that. Invite the SPCA to host an adoption event at Dad's memorial and someone may just walk away with his new best pal.
Baseball fan: Hang pennants and jerseys from his favorite team. Ask guests to wear team colors. Be sure everyone gets his or her fill of chili dogs.
Boater: Dad was always happiest when he was making a wake. Meet for a ceremony at his dock before taking his boat for one more sunset cruise with close friends and family.
Basketball fan: Shoot for hoops-themed afternoon, complete with team colors and mini basketballs from his alma mater.
Classic car lover: You could always find dad in the garage, tinkering with his latest set of wheels. Display his pride and joy, and ask members of his car club to bring theirs.
Football fan: Commandeer the funeral home parking lot for a real-deal tailgate. Set up flat-screens and put a game on, have burgers on the grill, and ask everyone to come in team colors.
Grill master: Pop’s ribs were legendary. Share his dry rub recipe with guests, and bring in BBQ from a few local joints for a group taste test.
Kiwanis/Lions/Rotary/Masons: Serving the community was at the heart of everything Dad did. Ask fellow club members to organize a volunteer outing for family and friends.
Outdoorsman: The wilderness was no match for Dad. Pitch a tent and kick off the event with campfire stories. Send home guests with the makings for s’mores.
Racing fan: If Sundays were for the speedway, deck tables in black-and-white checkered tablecloths and show famous races on the flat-screen.
Traveler: Design the program like a passport. Fill suitcases with maps and souvenirs from Dad’s favorite destinations.
Wine connoisseur: Dad’s wine knowledge was something to be admired. Gather close friends for big reds and fond memories. Let guests take home souvenir wine glasses.
Be inspired by his hobby
Artist: Transform the funeral home into an art gallery. Hang some of Dad's work and host a silent auction for his favorite charity.
Baseball card collector: Frame some of his more coveted cards and display them with other memorabilia on the tables at the service.
Biker: For Dad, there was nothing like an open highway. Set the dress code as leather and serve chicken-fried steak as a nod to his chosen roadside diner.
Billiards player: Set up a pool table in the funeral home and have guests cue up. Chill out with burgers and beers.
Bird watcher: Invite guests to his favorite nature conservatory. Let the natural beauty—and the sound of songbirds—be the backdrop. Have guests bring their binoculars.
Bowler: Reserve a few lanes at the local alley and divide guests into teams. Ask friends and family to use a Sharpie to sign Dad’s bowling ball.
Comic book collector: Ask guests to fashion superhero capes to wear to Dad’s celebration. Showcase his collection for everyone to see. Play one of this favorite superhero movies during the reception.
Cyclist: He was dedicated to his bike. Host his memorial at his favorite spin studio. Help the instructor with tunes for a Dad-driven playlist.
Fisherman: Meet at the river and pass out some poles. The peaceful ritual of fishing may be all you need to find comfort. Fry up the afternoon’s catch just like Dad would have done.
Gardner: Serve an alfresco farm-to-table meal that speaks to Dad’s green thumb. Hand out seed packets so others can spread the love.
Golfer: Dress the room in Masters green and put in a putting station. Serve pimento cheese sandwiches and send guests home with personalized golf balls.
Home brewer: He finally perfected his hoppy home brew. Bottle up his last batch and pass it out at his celebration. Pair with brats and a game of darts.
Hunter: If Dad liked to greet sunrise in the woods, deck out a room like a deer blind. Have guests wear camo and hunter orange. Display his trophy buck.
Hockey fan: A night at the rink with Pops was always a blast. Decorate the room in his team’s colors and don’t forget the puck-shaped cookies.
Musician: No family event was complete without Dad on the guitar. Ask his fellow musicians to play at the memorial. Display his instruments for all to see.
Poker player: Host a charitable poker tournament, with all proceeds going to a nonprofit. Play with poker chips personalized with your gamblin’ man’s photo.
Runner: Organize a Saturday morning 5K. End the run with a celebration featuring marathon tales and energy drinks.
Skier: You’ll never forget racing down the slopes with Dad. Follow suit with an après ski theme, complete with hot toddies and hot chocolate.
Tennis player: Don Wimbledon whites for Dad’s memorial. Serve a traditional English tea, complete with scones and cream.
Other themes for Dad’s memorial
Black-tie affair: Host a fancy event with a violin player and passed hors d’oeuvres for your classy guy. Ask guests to toast to Dad’s memory during a seated dinner.
Country and western: You know Dad loved to show off his two-step. Hire a crooner and put down a dance floor.
Day at the races: If Derby Day was an official holiday at your house, ask friends and family to wear seersucker suits and fabulous hats. Pass out mint juleps for the toast.
Disco: He liked to boogie, sohang a mirror ball and hire a DJ to play all Dad’s favorite ’70s hits. Have guests wear costumes that channel your dancing king.
Game night: Set up tables with different games—dominoes, Scrabble, Cards Against Humanity, even charades—and ask guests to remember Dad’s competitive spirit as they cheer each other on.
Night at the movies: He could quote lines from practically every film released since 1960. Roll out the red carpet and ask guests to dress in their Oscar best. Pass out tiny boxes of movie theater candy.
Patriotic: The man loved his country. Play “Born in the U.S.A.” at the top of the hour. Ask guests to sing along to “God Bless the U.S.A.” Decorate the room with red, white and blue.
Imagine funeral planning differently
A funeral or memorial service should be a one-of-a-kind celebration. Everyone has their own unique story. How do you want to tell yours? Imagine is a book full of ideas for creating a beautiful and unforgettable remembrance for yourself or a loved one. Download Imagine to begin planning an unforgettable tribute today.