Top Non-Religious Rituals for Celebrations of Life


Posted on November 07, 2017 by

One of the best parts of being a Funeral Celebrant is helping families think of Rituals for the Ceremony. Some of these create interaction with the guests attending. Words and music are important; however, the Rituals are something visual that almost everyone remembers. People will often comment, I have never seen anything like this at a Funeral!

Below are some of the rituals I have been a part of and would like to share as inspiration for others:

Balloon Releases

Biodegradable memorial and funeral ballonBalloon Releases at the close of a Ceremony are incredibly moving. Bright red biodegradable balloons filled with helium were delivered to the lakeside Ceremony. A few words were said, then we did a countdown and shouted in unison “We Love You Tracy!” as we released the balloons into the air. Everyone gazed up and watched how high they soared up into the clouds. The song, “I’ll Fly Away” played in the background.

Find Biodegradable Ballons here.


memorial bookmarksBookmarks may include the name of the departed, Sunrise (date of birth), Sunset (date of death), their favorite quote, something they always said, a poem or a list of their must-read books.

Find Bookmarks here.

Buddhist or Tibetan Prayer Scarf

Tibetan Prayer ScarftA Buddhist or Tibetan Prayer Scarf is often called a Khata and signifies a prayer woven in silk. Pass it around for everyone to whisper a prayer, blessing or a single word into the scarf. At the closing of the Ceremony it is given to the closest relative so they will always have the good wishes and prayers for their loved one. Sometimes they hang it in their home, place it on their bed or wear it.

Find Tibetan Prayer Scarves here.


flameless candlesCandles symbolize love and light. There are many ways to incorporate a meaningful candle lighting remembrance before, during or after the Ceremony. If open flames are prohibited, using battery operated candles is an option.

Find Flameless Candles here.

Causes & Awareness Ribbons

breast cancer awareness ribbon pinsOften families make or purchase Awareness Ribbons and pin them on everyone as they enter, white for lung cancer, purple for pancreatic cancer, pink for breast cancer, etc. Wildflower seeds embedded in paper hearts that match the ribbon awareness color are unique takeaways.

At one Celebration of Life the widow spoke of the symptoms of colorectal cancer and included a pamphlet about it in the program.

Find Cause Ribbons here and Wildflower Seeds in Paper here.

Flying Wish Paper

flying wish paperFlying Wish Paper is my personal favorite. Invite guests to write messages, light them and “poof!” they disappear into the air. It’s magic, no soot or ash left behind. Completely safe indoors or outdoors.

Find Flying Wish Paper here.

Pewter Pocket Tokens

Pewter pocket tokensPewter pocket tokens with spirit animals, angels, words, hearts or other symbols are small, inexpensive and memorable keepsakes.

Find Pocket Tokens here.

Photo Tributes

photo collagePhoto Tributes are often played on a computer or big screen to music. Why not switch it up and try something different? Ask guests to bring their favorite photo of Dan and have a couple big bulletin boards for them to put them on. This can also be done at a Viewing.

Is there a big tree nearby the outdoor venue? Grab some clothesline, wrap it around the tree and ask guests to take a clothespin to clip up their favorite photos.

Find Bulletin Boards here and Collage Materials here.

Sage Smudging for a Graveside Service

sage smudging sticksA sage smudging for a graveside service is a Native American tradition to clear negative energies, promote healing and peace. I remember one service where a relative waited until everyone left and the grounds crew came to lower the casket into the ground. This man softly recited Native American prayers and blessings while blowing the smoke from the sage with an eagle feather.

Find Sage Smudging Sticks here.


frog stickersStickers are fun for kids and adults love ‘em too. Place them near the Guest Book for everyone to grab and stick on their clothing. “We all know Mary loved frogs! It makes me giggle to see everyone wearing frog stickers. She would love this!

Find Stickers here.

Closing Thoughts

Discussing Rituals while loved ones are still living is a wonderful way to find out more about them. Begin by talking about what YOU like. “Well, I want everyone to have a glass of Merlot in hand!” or “There better be plenty of M&M’s there.” Maybe ask it in the form of a question, “Do you think we could have everyone make paper airplanes to fly?” or “I’ve heard of butterfly releases and know how much you love butterflies, what do you think about that?” It’s a gentle and engaging way to talk about something light hearted.

You can also use Funeral360's My Funeral Wishes, a simple-to-use planning tool that can help guide you through these thoughts and decisions.

Create My Funeral Wishes

About The Author

Anita Larson is a Certified Funeral Celebrant® who resides in Parker, Colorado and collaborates with families to create uplifting Celebrations of Life via Think Outside The Coffin. She travels to the mountains and many other locations to officiate Life Celebrations.

Learn more: Anita Larson, Life Cycle Celebrant at Funerals360

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