50 Celebration of Life Ideas for Mom

Moms wear many hats. They may be caretakers or breadwinners, dream weavers or cheerleaders. They are often tireless supporters and miracle workers. And though you might remember yours for her big accomplishments, it's more likely you'll hold onto the little details: her recipe for Bolognese sauce, her devotion to volunteer work at the hospital or the way she always paired her lipstick with her dress.

A celebration of life brings family and friends together to remember the special person Mom was. When planning your mother's memorial, think about her hobbies, passion projects, career pursuits and personal style. Use these unique personal details to inspire a theme that runs through the menu, music, decor and more.

It’s not easy to lose a loved one—especially a mother. But we’re here to help you plan a celebration of life that truly honors the lady you love.

Shells in a glass bowl near a flower arrangement for a beach-themed life celebration.
Tranquil black rocks in a bowl with love spelled out on top in white rocks.

Themes for celebrating your mother’s life

Angels: She believed in them and now she’s yours. Add songs like “Angel,” by Sarah McLachlin, and “Calling All Angels,” by Train to the playlist.

Beach: If the beach was her happy place, set the theme as fun-in-the-sun, complete with flip-flops, floppy hats and tiny umbrellas in the drinks.

Christmas: Deck the room in cheerful red and green and decorate trees with her extensive ornament collections. Allow guests to each choose an ornament from her collection before they leave.

Big band: Hire a 10-piece band to take the stage. With a slideshow backdrop of her enjoying life, put down a black-and-white checkered dance floor for guests who want to cut a rug.

Crossword puzzles: She never missed a Sunday crossword. Host a crossword competition at her celebration of life.

Diner: Decorate the room like a diner from the 1950s, complete with a jukebox with her favorite hits. Set up an ice cream sundae bar with a dozen toppings.

Movies: Project her favorite flick on the wall and have extra butter on hand for the popcorn. Junior Mints and Milk Duds are a must.

Fall: Mom lit up when the leaves started to turn. Serve a meal of quintessential fall flavors, like butternut squash soup and apple pie, among a fall color palette.

Hats: Ask guests to don their boldest chapeaux in honor of mom’s legendary collection. Serve tea sandwiches and champagne for the ultimate lady lunch.

Spa day: Greet guests with smoothies. Serve salads and offer mini manicures and shoulder massages.

Teatime: Fashion a traditional afternoon tea, complete with scones and clotted cream. Set tables with teacups and saucers from her personal collection.

Western: Cowboy boots are a must. Hire a country and western band to entertain guests, and go big on the sunflowers and bandana decor.

Three teammates hug, wearing matching commemorative baseball jerseys.
Various travel pamphlets and brochures for Hawaii.

Be inspired by her passion

Chef: Sunday supper was her specialty. Gather loved ones together for a catered or home-cooked meal just like she would make. Pass out recipe cards of her most loved creations.

Bingo: Invite friends and family for an afternoon of Mom’s favorite game. Print personalized cards with facts about her life in lieu of numbers.

Broadway: She could hum almost every showtune. Bring in a live performer to sing her favorite numbers. Make personalized playbills for invites and programs.

Cats: She loved pets big and small, especially her feline friends. Work with the local SPCA to set up a kitten adoption event in her name.

Host: She always knew how to make guests feel welcome. Throw an evening event featuring her favorite flowers and passed hors d'oeuvres.

Safari: Cover the reception room in top-to-bottom leopard and zebra print. Lead guests on a safari with a slideshow of Mom’s most impressive in-the-wild photos.

Sports: She never missed your games, and she loved to cheer on the home team, too. Put hot dogs and popcorn on the menu. Decorate with felt pennants and the colors of her favorite team.

Symphony and opera: Treat guests to a string quartet playing beloved symphony sounds, or hire a soprano to honor her memory with her favorite aria. Make music notes the motif on the invites, menus and table decor.

Travel: Theme an event around Mom's favorite places on Earth. Fill suitcases with souvenirs from her travels, perhaps some that guests can take home as a memento. Cater foods inspired by her favorite destinations.

Trivia: Host a trivia night based around the facts of Mom's life. Can guests guess the real story of how she and dad met?

Volunteering: Follow in her do-gooder footsteps and organize a Saturday afternoon of delivering meals to seniors, cleaning up a stretch of highway or repainting an underserved classroom.

Wine lover: Order cases of wine made with her favorite grape and customized labels. Host a tasting with a giant cheeseboard. Bring out a bottle on her birthday every year.

Wooden spatulas as mementos
Golf ball mementos
Gardening supplies sit on an outdoor wooden table

Be inspired by her hobby

Antiquing: For Mom, the fun was always about the hunt, and her collection is proof of that. Set up the reception room with an abundance of her treasures.

Baking: Make her famous chocolate cake or cherry pie—or both!—for everyone to share. Gift guests wooden spoons as takeaways.

Bridge: A good game of bridge was always in the cards for Mom. Invite her fellow players and have decks personalized as favors.

Crafting: Mom delighted in making things with her hands—your science projects included. Fire up the hot glue gun for a crafting session for charity.

Cycling: Book bikes at a local studio and ride to the songs on her playlist, or participate in a community charity ride. Gather after for her favorite post-workout snack.

Gardening: Decorate circular tables with hand-tied bouquets and send guests home with cuttings from her garden. Offer guests her favorite gardening books or tools to take home.

Golf: Place her clubs front and center. Serve Arnold Palmers in cups with her favorite course’s insignia. Send guests home with personalized golf balls and tees.

Horseback riding: Display her blue ribbons and trophies as table centerpieces. Keep the celebration outdoors, where guests can pet her cherished ponies.

Knitting: Her knitting circle was a weekly event. Ask her fellow knitters to share funny stories. Drape Mom's handmade creations over the backs of pews in the chapel.

Painting: Hang her works around the room. Ask guests to sign a the matting around one of her pieces of art as a way to remember those who came to celebrate with you.

Photography: Host an art show with her photographs on display. Plan for an evening event and serve champagne, just like a gallery would do.

Quilting: Drape pews, benches or rows of chairs with her beautiful quilts. Present the quilts to family members during the celebration of life. 

Reading: She devoured bestsellers and classics alike. Clear her bookshelves, stamp her name inside, and let guests choose titles to take home. Or, collect book donations for the local library.

Running: Organize a family-and-friends 5K. Supply matching sweatbands or personalized tees in her favorite color to all the runners.

Sailing: Invite friends and family to an afternoon at the yacht club. On the menu: clams, oysters and lobster. Watch the boats come in while you share memories of your mother.

Tennis: Commandeer a court at the club to set up the celebration. Ask all guests to wear white—and her tennis team to wear their tennis whites as they share special memories.

Yoga or meditation: Hold a yoga or meditation class in her honor. Today's intention: remembering the people we have loved and lost.

Baked egg, bacon and toast cup for breakfast brunch.
Romantic love letters, wrapped envelope,lace and flowers
Personalized take-away pencils in a basket in a memorial display.

Be inspired by her career

Esthetician or beautician: She was the best at making people feel beautiful. Invite all of her clients to write short memories about a time when they left her salon with a smile.

Flight attendant or pilot: Mom logged many miles in the air. Choose sky blue as a theme color. Supply guests with wing pins and plenty of snacks.

Farming: Bring in family heirlooms from the farm, from bookkeeping ledgers to empty milk bottles from the old dairy farm. Decorate with bales of hay covered in muslin.

Fashion: Ask guests to dress to the nines and welcome them with a makeshift runway. Display Mom's costume jewelry and designer handbags.

Interior decorator: Host her celebration at her home, which is a testament to her lifelong talent. Send guests home with Mom’s go-to design books.

Military veteran: Honor her service to our country with flags and patriotic musical selections. Bring her uniform, pins and photographs from years in the service.

Physician, nurse or healthcare provider: Taking care of others came so naturally to mom. Collect donations for a hospital or healthcare organization in her memory.

Teacher: You were the apple of her eye, of course, but so were her students. Ask former pupils to read notes about her impact on their lives. Display class photos taken through the years.

Telephone operator: In the days before the internet, her job was integral to keeping us connected. Dial up memories with old-fashioned phone booths for a photo opp.

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