Celebration of Life vs Funeral: Is There a Difference?

When a loved one dies, you want to honor their memory and lay them to rest with respect and dignity—but you also want to honor their unique life. And when you’re considering a celebration of life vs funeral, you’re thinking of how best to honor your loved one.

The truth is, funerals and celebrations of life have many features in common. They’re both a time for a group of people sharing a common loss to come together, support each other, and honor the memory of the deceased.

Which is the right choice for you and your family? Here’s a closer look at the differences between a celebration of life vs funeral.

What Happens at a Funeral?

When you picture a somber, traditional service for your loved one, you’re likely picturing a funeral service.

What happens at a funeral is highly personal, a unique mix of your own experience, your relationship to the deceased, and history. In the U.S. until the 20th century, funerals were always held at home and organized by family, friends, and neighbors. As communities grew (and cemeteries grew alongside them) funeral homes were established to help the family deal with the logistical side.

Today, a funeral generally consists of three elements:

  1. Visitation
  2. Funeral service
  3. Committal service

The visitation is held before the funeral, often the night before. This is an opportunity for people to pay their respects to the deceased and show their support for the family. It is not to be confused with a memorial service, which does not include the body of the deceased.

The funeral service is the formal element, traditionally led by an officiant in the funeral home or a church. The committal service happens at the cemetery when the casket is lowered into the grave.

What Happens at a Celebration of Life?

A celebration of life is just that—a celebration. Where a funeral tends to focus on the ceremony, a celebration of life is about telling and celebrating the life story of your loved one.

These are much looser events that vary widely depending on the individual. Basically, they’re a memorial event blending formal and informal events, and how that blend works is up to the organizer. There’s much more room for creativity, but the focus is all about celebrating the uniqueness of your loved one.

Because of this, celebration of life ideas are up to the organizer. You might collect photos of your loved one, gather in a special location, play their favorite music, or invite guests to tell stories.

Celebration of Life vs. Funeral

Funerals and celebrations of life are differentiated by three points: focus, formality, and tone.

Funerals are generally focused on recognizing the grief of family and friends and offering support. Celebrations of life provide that too, but they do it by focusing on the highlights of your loved one’s life. For this reason, celebrations of life are much less formal and more upbeat than funerals.

If you’re not sure whether to host a funeral or a celebration of life, you don’t have to choose. Celebrations of life are often held after formal funeral services as a way to shift from focusing on grief to celebrating your loved one.

Your Resource in Planning a Funeral Service or Celebration of Life

When choosing a celebration of life vs funeral, one way or another, you’re taking time to honor and remember your loved one. It’s a vital process for families to process their grief and also share in their love. But in a time of loss, it’s hard to know where to begin.

At Kuzo and Foulk, we guide families through the aftermath of death to ensure that they celebrate their loved ones as they deserve. Whether that means a funeral, a cremation, or a unique service, we are here to support your family through this difficult time.

If you are planning a funeral for a loved one, get in touch at one of our two locations today and let our family support yours.