The difference between funerals and celebrations of life

Both funerals and celebrations of life offer a gentle avenue into the mourning process. The main difference between them is the presence of the body; at a funeral it is present, while in a celebration of life it is absent. That said, the specific definitions can significantly vary between different cultures and religions.

Funerals are traditionally held in places of worship, while celebrations of life are held in diverse locations such as homes, hotels, beaches, parks and local pubs – usually somewhere of significance to the deceased. Generally speaking celebrations of life are also less solemn and can make the passing of a loved one easier to cope with.

What’s takes place in a celebration of life?

The term ‘celebration of life’ is fairly loose. There are no formal arrangements or traditional procedures because events are specifically tailored to the deceased or the wishes of their family and friends. Fundamentally, what sets them apart from funerals is the atmosphere. Rather than focusing on grieving a loss, they place more emphasis on  celebrating the life in a joyous manner.

Typical pastimes often include; listening to the deceased’s favourite music, playing their favourite movie, toasting to their achievements, viewing a slideshow, sharing personal stories and playing their favourite games.

Some ministers argue that feeling sadness is an important step towards being at peace; therefore, bypassing the funeral and moving straight on to the celebration can be detrimental to the healing process.

What are the benefits of having a celebration of life?

Funeral services tend to occur within a few days of an individuals’ death, which can make them difficult to arrange if they weren’t pre-planned. Celebrations of life can occur at any time, sometimes months or even years later. In addition, they don’t cost as much because the casket, transportation costs and burial fees, etc., are avoided.

Funeral services and celebrations of life are becoming increasingly similar. In modern society there is far less emphasis on the religious and traditional elements than there used to be; therefore, family and friends often take an active role in the proceedings in order to find unique and personal ways to celebrate the life of a loved one.

Most modern funeral firms are quite diverse and equipped to offer a multitude of services, including celebrations of life. However, due to their loose nature, pre-paid plans and funeral insurance will rarely cover the costs.

Funeral Traditions and Customs Which are Alive and Thriving in the UK Today

Many British funeral traditions and customs that are still alive and thriving today date back to the Victorian era. It was at this time that society developed strict codes of conduct in regards to how a person should be mourned and how their life should be celebrated. In this article we will provide a guide to some of the funeral traditions and customs that are still alive and thriving in the UK today.

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In the UK it is still customary to wear black or dark clothing to funerals unless the family organizing the funeral have specified otherwise.

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Funeral announcement

In the UK it is customary for individuals to announce the death of their loved ones (known as an obituary notice) in a national or local newspaper. Alongside the announcement, they usually include the funeral details. This gives distant friends and relatives the chance to make arrangements to attend the funeral or send flowers. Most funerals are open to the public in the UK, unless the family has requested a private, intimate funeral with immediate friends and family only.

Black clothing

In the UK it is traditional to wear black, smart clothing to a funeral. Men often choose to wear suits. Black has long been the colour associated with mourning, as it has connotations of being respectful. If you have not been told otherwise, it is advised that you choose a predominantly black coloured outfit for the funeral you are attending.

Today some people ask funeral guests to dress in colours other than black. This is often the case with children’s funerals, where their parents will ask guests to dress in their child’s favourite colour. If this is asked of you, it is important to fulfil the request as a mark of respect.

Funeral procession

The traditional funeral procession is still popular in the UK today. The procession is lead by the hearse, containing the coffin and the funeral flowers. It is usually followed by the car or limousine driving immediate family of the deceased. Although there are no special rights of way for funeral processions in the UK, many funeral directors create markers and flags in attempt to alert other motorists and keep the procession together.

Traditionally the funeral director would lead the cortege on foot. This ritual was called ‘paging away.’ Although this is less commonly seen today, some individuals still choose to include the ritual as part of the funeral procession, however the pager (funeral director) only tends to walk a short distance before getting into the hearse. It is believed this tradition dates back to the times when horses and carriages were the predominate method of transport. Walking in front of the hearse slowly allowed neighbours and passersby to stop and pay their respects.

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In the UK white lilies are the most popular and traditional funeral flower. Though carnations and roses are also fairly traditional choices.

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Funeral flowers

Funeral flowers play an important role in British funerals, providing beauty and comfort at a time of sadness. Many people also believe that flowers symbolise the continuation of life. Although many people choose funeral flowers based on the favourite flower of their loved ones, others choose flowers based on their connotations and meaning.

In the UK, the flower that is most commonly associated with funeral services is the lily. White lilies are often believed to be a symbol of the innocence that has been restored to the soul of the deceased. They also symbolise sympathy and purity.

Another popular type of funeral flower is the carnation. These are available in various different colours, each which have their own meanings. Red carnations stand for admiration; pink carnations for remembrance and white carnations stand for love and innocence.

Burial traditions

In the UK, the deceased can either be cremated or buried. During a burial service it is customary to throw soil onto the coffin as it is lowered into the ground. Sometimes this ritual is carried out by the funeral director, however family members often perform this ritual instead.  As well as throwing soil onto the coffin, family members often throw things like flowers and personal items onto the coffin. This ritual is carried out as a symbol of love and remembrance.


It is customary to hold a wake after a funeral has taken place in the UK. This event is kind of like a small party and is designed to celebrate the life of the deceased. The wake is usually hosted at the house of the deceased’s immediate family, though it can also be hosted at a local pub or hotel. You will usually find that there is plenty of food and drink available for you to help yourself to.

Something that often ends up happening at wakes in Britain is the telling of old stories. Family members and friends of the person that died usually share fond memories of their loved one. Although wakes are a sad occasion, they provide a chance for families to reunite and remember the good times.


Despite the fact that funerals are undergoing a fundamental change, with many people viewing them as a celebration of a person’s life, rather than the mourning of their death, many British traditions and customs are still alive and well. Today many individuals choose to combine UK funeral traditions with contemporary elements to create a personalised service that they believe their loved one would have been proud of.

Image credits: Catholic Church (England and Wales) & garryknight

What are the Advantages of Buying a Pre-Paid Funeral Plan?

Although the thought of pre-planning your own funeral may feel a little morbid, there are actually many benefits to getting preparations in order whilst you are still alive and well. Today many people choose to buy pre-paid funeral plans to obtain peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones. In this article we will explain some of the advantages of buying a pre-paid funeral plan.

Funeral Service for Vin and Lena Brown.

Buying a pre-paid funeral plan can cover the costs of things like your coffin, the service and your funeral flowers.

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Protection from the rising cost of funerals

Funerals can be expensive and although many people choose to put money into their savings accounts or ISAs later in life as a way to contribute towards the costs, this will not protect your family against the rising costs of funerals. Since 2004, the cost of funerals has risen by eighty per cent and this is set to rise and rise. One of the benefits of arranging your funeral now is that you can pay today’s prices.

When looking to buy a pre-paid funeral plan, you will discover that there are many affordable and flexible payment options available to you. Some require you to pay the sum in a single payment, whereas others can be paid for in regular monthly installments. Choose a pre-paid funeral plan that is suitable for you and your financial circumstances to make the overall cost of the funeral more affordable.

Save your loved ones the emotional burden of planning your funeral

Another benefit of pre-planning your funeral and paying for it now is that you will save your loved ones the emotional and financial burden of arranging your funeral at the time of your death. At such a difficult time, it will be difficult for your family to make decisions and it may put them under even more stress trying to decide what you would have wanted.

By buying a pre-paid funeral plan, you can have the peace of mind that all of the arrangements will be paid for, so you do not have to worry about your loved ones struggling financially in order to give you a good send off.

Plan the funeral to your own specifications

Many people prefer to buy pre-paid funeral plans as it allows them to plan the event to their own specifications. By pre-planning your funeral you can make sure it is exactly how you’d wish it to be, whilst also knowing that your loved ones will feel comforted that you would be happy with the service.

Pre-planning your funeral is also a good idea if you have something a little more contemporary or personal in mind, like a life celebration. Today non-traditional events like life celebrations are becoming increasingly popular and most good funeral directors will be able to accommodate your requirements.

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Buying a pre-paid funeral plan can give you the peace of mind that your family will not have the stress or financial burden of planning your funeral at the time of your death.

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Tips for choosing a pre-paid funeral plan

When it comes to choosing a pre-paid funeral plan, it is likely that you will be overwhelmed by all of the different options available to you. It is also likely that you will feel strange pre-planning your funeral so we highly recommend seeking support from your family. Although they may be upset at first, it is an important conversation to have, as it will ensure that you are all on the same page and that they understand your reason for doing it.

It is highly recommended that you explore the full range of pre-paid funeral plan options from different providers. Get as much information as you possibly can and be sure to shop around for quotes. This will help you decide on the type of funeral you would like to plan as well as the services and products available to you within your budget.

You will also need to consider payment options. If you are choosing to pay your funeral costs in instalments, it is important to find out how long you need to pay them for and whether you have to pay interest on the unpaid balance. We highly recommend keeping a record of the installments you have paid and making note of the date you need to stop paying. Something you will also need to enquire about is what arrangements will be made if you unfortunately die before the balance has been cleared.

Before committing to a pre-paid plan, make sure you know exactly what is included in the price, ensuring you are covered for the funeral service, the location, the flowers and things like the newspaper announcement.

Always check that the company is a member of a professional body, for example the Funeral Planning Authority and that they are bound to a code of practice that regulates the services they offer. This will give you the peace of mind that the money you are paying out is being saved or invested safely.


There are many benefits to buying a pre-paid funeral plan. Not only will it help to lessen the emotional and financial burden on your family, but it will also allow you to benefit from lower funeral costs. Before choosing a plan, spend time researching the options so you know that the funeral plan you choose is the right one for you.

Image credits: rastariza & The Co-operative

The Differences Explained Between Traditional Funerals and Life Celebrations

When a person dies it is traditional for their family or close friends to plan a funeral for them. A funeral is an event that loved ones of the deceased use as their way to say goodbye to the person and mourn their loss. Over the last few years there has been a growing trend for individuals to plan celebrations of life instead of traditional funerals, usually at the request of the deceased in their will.

A picture of family/friends mourning at a traditional funeral

Funerals are usually seen as an event for mourning and final goodbyes, whereas life celebrations are seen as uplifting events that celebrate the life of the deceased and their achievements.

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It is believed that many people are motivated to choose life celebrations over traditional funerals due to the fact that funerals are often seen as a depressing event that keeps people in the realm of sadness. Celebrations of life, on the other hand, reflect on positive things and are believed to help people hand the death of their loved one more effectively.

In this article we will explain the key differences between traditional funerals and life celebrations.


Intended emotions

Whereas funerals have long been associated with mourning and sorrow, life celebrations are designed to focus on joy and gratitude for the life of the deceased. This difference in the intended emotions is often what sways individuals’ decision to ask their families to plan life celebrations after their death, rather than a traditional funeral.

Having said this, over the years funerals have moved away from being the dark and sombre occasions they once were. Today many people blend traditional funerals with contemporary elements of life celebrations to create a personalised and colourful event that captures the personality of their deceased love one.


Structure of the event

Another key difference between traditional funerals and contemporary life celebrations is the structure of the events. Life celebrations are a contemporary version of memorial services. They are usually free of format and tradition, with celebration being the main intent. Families and friends usually gather together to share stories and look at photos and memorabilia of their loved one. It is also common for families to request charitable donations as opposed to funeral flowers from guests.

Traditional funeral services are far more structured. They usually combine religious and spiritual elements, depending on the beliefs of the deceased. There are various traditions and customs associated with funerals, many of which are still alive and thriving in the UK today.


Presence of the body

A defining difference between funerals and life celebrations is the presence of the body. At funerals the body is usually present and displayed in an open or closed casket (depending on the preference of the family and their religious beliefs). At a life celebration the body of the deceased is absent. This means that the event can take place at any time after the person’s death and there are not any restrictions on the location.

 Something that has also become more popular over the years is end of life celebrations. This event takes place when the person is still alive. These events are usually intended for people that are terminally ill and know they will be dying soon. End of life celebrations usually involve the gathering of friends and family. The celebration can be a wonderful thing for the person that is dying, as well as their family and friends. It allows them to celebrate the life and achievements of the individual, as well as get everyone in the same room, possibly for the last time.


Location of event

Generally speaking, traditional funeral services are usually held either in places of worship or funeral homes. This usually depends on the religious beliefs of the deceased. A key difference between funerals and life celebrations is that the latter can be held anywhere. Many people choose to host life celebrations at the family home, although another lovely idea is to host them at a place the deceased loved to visit. This could be anywhere from a beach to a park, lake or even a mountain!

A family coming together with a dying loved one at a life celebration

Life celebrations can be hosted almost anywhere, however many people choose to host them at their loved one’s favourite place.

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Arranging a funeral or celebration of life

Making funeral arrangements for a loved one’s passing or pre-planning your own funeral can be an overwhelming task. In order to make planning a little easier, it is a good idea to ask yourself what type of event the deceased or if pre-planning, you, would like. If the deceased held traditional values or was religious, it is likely that they would want a traditional funeral, however many individuals include specific details in their will.

Although people tend to either opt for a funeral or a life celebration, there is no reason why you cannot combine elements of the two to plan a truly personal and special event. Funeral directors keep up to date with trends and are therefore aware of the fact that many individuals are looking to plan contemporary celebrations as opposed to traditional funerals. Any good funeral director will accommodate your request and help you plan a special event that will reflect the life of the deceased and everything they stood for.



Although there are key differences between funerals and life celebrations, they should not be seen as an ‘either /or’ option. As long as you plan an event that pays respect to the deceased and is something they would have been pleased with, it does not matter whether you call the event a funeral, memorial service or a life celebration.