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Celebration of Life vs. Funeral

Celebration of Life vs. Funeral

When many people think of a funeral service and a celebration of life, they often think they are the same. Both of these ceremonies do have many similarities. Both serve to help and support family and friends who have lost someone they love. They are both a public acknowledgment of the passing of a loved one and the coming together of those who cared for that person. Although it can seem like both ceremonies are the same thing, they actually serve slightly different purposes in their approach. Are you unsure about the differences between a funeral and a celebration of life? Robinson Funeral Home created this guide to educate you.


What is a funeral besides being a somber service for friends and family to grieve and support one another? Funerals have a longstanding tradition, with the first known funeral to have been performed by Neanderthals over 50,000 years ago. Modern traditional funerals usually comprise three parts:

  • Viewing: Also known as a visitation, the viewing usually occurs the day before the funeral service, although it can be scheduled for the same day. Embalming usually occurs in preparation for the viewing. Traditionally, friends and family attend the visitation to pay their respects. Each person may step up to the casket to view the body alone or with a surviving family member.
  • Service: The service is the main part of the funeral that family and friends attend. Funeral services often follow a specific order and include hymns, prayers, and scripture readings. An officiant may be present and lead the service, or a family member may choose to oversee the service. It is often during the service that a eulogy is read. Services often take place inside a funeral home not far from the burial site.
  • Committal: Committal is the service that occurs at the resting place of the loved one. It is also often referred to as a graveside service. This portion of the traditional funeral includes the respectful procession to the cemetery. There may be more speeches and prayers at the graveside, and at the end, the loved one’s casket is lowered into the ground.

A funeral service is often a gentler, respectful memorial for the loved one. Funerals are usually held at a place of worship, such as a church or a funeral home, and contain religious elements such as a scripture reading, although it does not always require these things. One of the main factors that set a funeral apart is that the body of the loved one is present throughout, from the viewing to the committal.

Celebrations of Life

What is a celebration of life as compared to a traditional funeral? While a funeral service eases friends and family through the mourning and grieving process, a celebration of life often focuses on the joy of the life of the loved one being celebrated. In most cases, a celebration of life may occur after the funeral, once dear ones have had some time to process the sadness of their loss. There are a few benefits to this kind of event:

  • More Time to Plan: Funerals are usually planned within a few days of the loved one’s passing. This could be a whirlwind to put together if arrangements were not made beforehand. However, a celebration of life can occur much later, which allows more time for friends and family to plan the event in detail. Some celebrations even occur years later.
  • Added Flexibility and Creativity: While funerals often follow the same order, celebrations of life can be more unique. There are often fewer religious components to a celebration of life these days, and there are infinite ways to do it. For example, you could throw a party that includes your loved one’s favorite music, food, and games. You could choose a theme centered on your loved one’s favorite hobby. Funerals are a time to grieve and process your loss; a celebration of life is an enjoyment of the things your loved one treasured.
  • Less Money: A celebration of life can be as big or as small as you want. Because this event does not feature a casket, graveside equipment, or other traditional funeral components, it is often a cost-effective way to pay tribute to the one you love.

It is not uncommon for families to plan a funeral service and also put together a celebration of life sometime after. Mourning the loss of someone close to you is an important part of the bereavement process, which a funeral can help with. This service provides a respectful opportunity for friends and family to face their loss and work through their emotions in different ways

After you have had some time to work through your loss, planning a celebration of life can also further help you honor your loved one in a more joyful atmosphere. To learn more about planning a funeral or celebration of life for yourself or for someone you hold dear, contact the compassionate staff at Robinson Funeral Home using our online form or by calling 864-859-4001.



Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Lucian Coman