When it comes to traditional funeral service practices, some people might envision a solemn ceremony in a formal setting with a focus on scripture. However, many families today are looking for a more personally meaningful experience when honoring a loved one who has passed. As a result, celebrations of life are becoming increasingly popular. In a broad sense, a celebration of life is a modern take on a funeral service or ceremony, but the specific definition may vary from one family to another. While religious elements are often still included, a celebration of life goes beyond a traditional mindset and places the most emphasis on doing just as it claims: celebrating the life lived and the legacy left behind.

A celebration of life should be one-of-a-kind and highly memorable. Families who choose a celebration of life may opt for a unique venue, such as at a lake, which often creates a more casual atmosphere. Little creative features can make a big impact not only on the families served but also on all who attend. Andrew Yaggie, a licensed funeral director and certified funeral celebrant at Glende-Nilson Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, recognizes the need for celebrations of life in a time when a more traditional or universal approach is not what everyone might want. He has a deep desire to meet the individual needs of those seeking his direction and to encourage families to carefully consider their options. Parking John Deere tractors outside the funeral home, asking people to wear a superhero shirt, and using a motorcycle escort are a few of the personalized features he has helped families include in their final farewells.

No matter how much of a celebration is involved, however, funeral directors do not take assisting the bereaved lightly. Yaggie says, “Some families see a ‘celebration of life’ as merely a party and as a way of circumventing their grief or a formal ceremony, but those who have lost a loved one still need to come together in support for a time of meaningful remembrance.” That is why a funeral director plays a vital role in supporting and guiding families through the process, even if they desire a more informal event.

Celebration of life services can require a fair amount of coordination and extra time spent by the funeral home staff to incorporate requests, though the efforts are well worth it. Yaggie’s advice to anyone desiring a celebration of life is to block out the norms they might have observed in more traditional funeral service. He says, “Think outside of the box. Every life is unique and worth remembering. How do you want to be remembered?”