How To Plan a Great Living Funeral

The greatest moments in 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. Gone. Can’t hear a thing. A living funeral corrects that. Here’s how to plan a living funeral to cherish and enjoy.

What Is a Living Funeral?

A living funeral is a celebration of life before death.

Since death doulas have added “funeral planning” to their list of services, more and more people are choosing to attend their own funeral or memorial service. Reasons vary, depending on the person.

For example, a living funeral can encourage loved ones to better accept or come to terms with impending death.

Even if this is about your life rather than death, it can still help loved ones process their grief in positive ways. Connecting with supportive friends and family is healing.

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, including yourself, 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. This can help change that.

Planning an event, organizing guests or mourners, and guiding them through the process of saying goodbye helps you 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 by planning and paying for the event, your loved ones won’t feel that burden. It’s a gift to yourself and them. When the time comes, and you’re gone, they can look back and find comfort in this wonderful memory.

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

Beforehand, set the mood

When researching how to plan a living funeral, remember that words matter. 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 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

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, they can bring favorite photographs, videos, or other mementos from your 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

You may want to make 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. Plan 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.

Make it a great memory for everyone

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. If you’re in Chicago, contact Anitya Doula Services for help planning such an event.

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