a picture of order of service

Celebration of Life – Order of Service

Deciding which elements to include in a Celebration of Life service can be very challenging. After all, this time is meant to summarize and conclude a lifetime of achievements, relationships, and unique events that made you the unique individual that you are. That’s why it’s a good idea to consult with other people to ensure the proceedings really capture what you want. For uniqueness and character, you’ll want to discuss your plans with family members and close friends. They can help you think of memories and important times in your life that you may have forgotten.

A Traditional Funeral

Though it may seem like a large task when you’re arranging the order of service for your own funeral, this is a task that is done fairly often, especially in the case of traditional funerals. For help on what to include in these meaningful celebrations, you can consult with a clergy member or a funeral director. They have likely planned dozens of these services and know what to include to help the service flow well and provide good closure for those attending. They may even be able to provide you with samples that you can model your own order after.

A Traditional Church Funeral

If you desire to have your Celebration of Life in a church building, it’s important that you consult with a leader of that congregation to ensure all essential elements are included. Many faith traditions have certain elements that must be included in a funeral for it to be considered complete. To prevent any confusion or bumps in the road, it’s important to consult with someone who is knowledgeable about these elements as you’re planning your funeral. That’s not to say a funeral in a church can’t represent your unique personality, just that it needs to have, at its core, the specific elements that are crucial to the faith tradition.

A Funeral Home Chapel Funeral

Conducting a service in a funeral home chapel is a popular option, as it simplifies the funeral proceedings for friends and relatives and ensures that the day goes smoothly. The director of the funeral home will be glad to show you the facilities that will be available to conduct the visitation, funeral, and any other proceedings you wish to take place. The funeral home director is also a valuable source of information regarding the order of service for your funeral.

An Informal Memorial

Some people prefer more informal memorials, as it tends to put more of the focus on those who are living, rather than on the deceased. These gatherings can be held just about anywhere that is special to you, allowing the memorial to truly reflect your personality.

Since these proceedings may sometimes take place in locales that are not accustomed to memorial gatherings, it’s important that you gain official permission from the venue prior to committing to holding your memorial gathering there. In addition, if you will have any other needs, such as a sound system, projection system, or other technology, it’s important to ensure that the facility you choose can provide this, or to figure out who will be in charge of obtaining these elements if the facility doesn’t have them.

The Funeral Program

If you choose to have a program containing the order of service, it’s important to include accurate information so that no one becomes confused during the proceedings. Any necessary copyright information should be included if songs are to be played or sung, with proper credit given to the appropriate artists. In addition, every element should be included in detail, so that those with a direct role in the funeral will know when it is their time to come forward.
Among the elements you may want to include in the funeral proceedings are:

  • Opening: This is a time for the main speaker to welcome everyone and help those in attendance begin to focus on the task at hand
  • Music: Either music that’s special to you, or music that’s important to your faith tradition
  • Prayer: If your faith tradition includes prayer, it is a good idea to have one or more prayers during the funeral
  • Eulogy: This is a crucial element in almost any type of funeral or memorial, as it is a specific time to take one last journey through your life
  • Tributes: This allows people who knew you to share a short memory of how their life intersected with yours
  • Readings/Scripture: This is a great time to allow those in attendance to pause and reflect, providing an opportunity for you to “speak” to those in attendance, in a way
  • Viewing of Deceased: If you are having an open casket funeral, this is the time for those present to come view your body and console close family members
  • Closing: This is a good time to give any “housekeeping” instructions that people may need to be aware of prior to leaving the facility

Again, depending on what type of funeral you choose to have, you may include some, all, or even none of these elements. The most important component, however, is that once you choose the elements you would like to include, you must determine who is going to perform these elements during the gathering. Typically, a clergy member, relative, or close friend will perform a majority of the elements, with others coming forward periodically, perhaps to sing a song or provide a short tribute.

Even if only a few people will be involved, however, this needs to be spelled out explicitly in your plans, so that everyone knows what they need to do when the day arrives. In addition, assigning specific responsibilities ensures that if someone is not able to perform a certain element of the funeral, that specific responsibility can be passed to someone else prior to the start of the proceedings. This prevents any uncomfortable pauses or confusion during the funeral, allowing those grieving to focus solely on their thoughts and emotions.

Ultimately, planning your Celebration of Life in advance is a great way to ensure that you’re remembered exactly as you wish to be. In addition, it helps take a large burden off of those you leave behind, since they’ll know your exact wishes without having to do any last-minute planning. As a gift to both yourself and your loved ones, planning this gathering ahead of time is one of the most gracious things you can do.