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 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.
Buddhist or Tibetan Prayer Scarf
A 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.
Candles 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.
Causes & Awareness Ribbons
Often 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.
Flying Wish Paper
Flying 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.
Pewter Pocket Tokens
Photo 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.
Sage Smudging for a Graveside Service
A 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.
Stickers 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!”
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.
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.