How To Plan a Great Living Funeral

If you want to plan a living funeral, where the decedent isn’t…umm…dead, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s discuss this relatively new phenomenon.

Some of the greatest moments at a funeral are the tributes. Eulogies. Speeches where loved ones get up and talk about the deceased person in glowing terms. Some of the most profound sentiments ever uttered. And the guest of honor, the one evoking all these kind words, is dead.


Can’t hear a thing.

A living funeral corrects that.

What Is a Living Funeral?

A living funeral is a celebration of life before death.

Since death doulas like me have added “funeral planning” to our list of services, more and more people are choosing to attend their own funeral or memorial service.

Why Are They Popular?

Reasons vary, depending on the person.

For example, I had a client who wanted a living funeral to encourage loved ones to better accept or come to terms with her impending death. The event helped her loved ones process their grief in positive ways. Connecting with supportive friends and family was healing.

Many clients tell me that they’re paying for the event, so they want to enjoy it. They want to hear all the wonderful eulogies and say goodbye to the people they love.

No matter the reason, living funerals feel important. They honor someone in an almost sacred way, different from other milestones or birthday parties. Guests celebrate the whole life of a person, from beginning to end, in a way that feels truly profound.

This also helps remind everyone that a person who is dying is still a person. Living funerals bring tremendous joy to a somewhat dark experience. The celebrated person feels alive again seeing themselves through the eyes of the people who matter most.

Very few of us feel in control of our own ending. Living funerals help change that.

Planning an event, organizing guests or mourners, and guiding them through the process of saying goodbye helps my clients own one aspect of this reality. After all, people begin to accept and heal through grief rituals.

That’s why we have them.

Another bonus is that when my clients plan and pay for the event, their loved ones don’t feel that burden. It’s a gift they’ve given to themselves and their inner circle. When the time comes, and my client is gone, their friends and family look back and find comfort in this wonderful memory.

various desserts on a table covered with baby blue cover

What to Call It?

Let’s say you’ve decided this is how you want your funeral to roll, with you, the guest of honor, enjoying every minute. This event can be whatever you conceive it to be. Consider your guests, your state of mind, and how you want to feel when it’s all done.

Should it be a fun affair? Or will you focus on the seriousness of the situation?

Here are some popular options when naming your event:

  • Living Funeral
  • Ceremonial Farewell
  • Living Wake
  • Pre-Funeral
  • Celebration of Life
  • Friendship Service
  • Living Tribute
  • Reminiscing Party
  • Final Countdown
  • The Sendoff

Set the Mood

When researching how to plan a living funeral, remember that words matter. I usually send out invitations with the reasons for this living funeral. Let everyone know why you’re doing this, what it’s called, and how you’d like them to participate.

Check with your local funeral home and make sure this is something they can accommodate. Living funerals and memorials are growing in popularity but are still fairly uncommon in many places.

When is the Best Time?

Schedule this when you’re still physically able to enjoy it. Most of my clients begin to formulate the plan when they don’t have much time left to live but are cognitively aware enough to plan and participate.


Here are some ideas about where to have your living funeral or memorial service:

  • Home
  • Backyard
  • Community center or clubhouse
  • Church, Synagogue, Temple or Mosque
  • Local garden, beach, or park
  • Hotel banquet hall or favorite restaurant
  • Historic Landmark or House
  • Funeral Home
people having wine in a restaurant

Dress Code

How fancy do you want everyone? Again, this is your call.

If you’re still feeling fairly healthy, you can wear a dress or tuxedo. If you’re not up to it, wear something casual and comfortable. Some people have themes like an 80s party or Wacky T-shirts. Get crazy!


If you are religious, choose among many fitting prayers or scriptures. Passages from your holy book of choice or ceremonial readings by clergy can be included.

Or you might want a passage from your favorite book or poem.

Role of Family and Friends

Who’s on your guest list? Give some thought to your budget and how many people that budget can accommodate.

Encourage family and friends to contribute special items. For example, I’ve planned living funerals where loved ones bring favorite photographs, videos, or other mementos from my client’s life to share with people.

Loved ones might also want to write about shared memories with you and read them for everyone to enjoy.

Other Considerations When You Plan a Living Funeral

You may want to make complete pre-arrangements with a funeral home. That removes the entire burden of post-death care from beneficiaries. Pick out a casket or urn and then display it at the front of the sanctuary. Make arrangements for burial and write your obituary.

If you’re planning to speak at your living funeral, write out what you’d like to say to your guests.

This is a time to express love, appreciation, and memories. And they do the same in return.

After hearing about your importance in the lives of loved ones, the mood tends to lighten. It’s a party after all. Good food is served with music playing and videos/pictures in the background.

At the event itself, you can display a memory jar for people to add their own photos, letters, or cherished mementos. Later this can be used as a display in someone’s home, again providing comfort for your loved ones.

A Great Memory

This event can be a source of comfort for people after you’re gone. Consider hiring a photographer or videographer. They can add a professional touch by creating a heartwarming movie or virtual photo album to be cherished for decades to come.

Or you can ask guests to take pictures or videos and send them to you. Use these candid shots to create your own legacy or memorial website.

In the end, plan a living funeral that is a celebration of all that you’ve done, created, and accomplished. You deserve it. Contact me at Anitya Doula Services for help when planning such an event.

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