Tips to Plan a Living Funeral

A Funeral for the Living

Living funerals are gatherings that are centered around those who have been diagnosed with an incurable illness or simply those individuals who feel they would like to celebrate their many years of life while they can plan the event and enjoy it.

A living funeral can range from a formal tribute to a “roast” type of atmosphere. A living funeral can be a meaningful experience that benefits the psychological state of the person passing and his or her loved ones. Sometimes, the living funeral can serve the business purpose of reading the will and the reasoning behind it. A living funeral can also serve the purpose of the reading of the ethical will, or will that states what the person dying wishes for his family members. Under these circumstances, the family can arrange a “Funeral Reunion” or ‘Funeral Party” for their loved ones to attend prior to death becoming imminent. Similar to the wedding reception tradition, it is best planned by the family themselves.

Family Funeral Reunion

When planning traditional funerals, families are often pressured to keep their funeral events brief, but with living funerals, there is no need to be concise - after all when one has gathered the entire family together one should allow plenty of time for quality time - stories, discussions, meals, and sharing. Some living funeral gatherings can be joyous, extensive 4-day weekends to exotic destinations or resorts, lighthearted family reunions, or quaint picnics with those closest to one who is departing. National parks and eco destinations are gaining ground as locations for end-of-life ceremonies, satisfying the needs of the contemporary family.

Plan a Living Funeral - Timeline

  • One year ahead - Start a mailing list, Send postcards surveying family members about possible dates. Determine the interests of family through email correspondence. Get confirmation about who can help with event tasks. Begin developing a rough budget, Lastly begin scouting locations for the event.

  • 9 months ahead - Set date, Choose location, Hire entertainment, caterer, photographer, videographer, printer, Locate missing family members, Scout out possible reunion sites.

  • 6 months ahead - Reminder announcements, Schedule events and activities program, contract musicians, decide on speakers, ceremony officiants, tours, reserve hotel/travel accommodations for attendees. Begin collecting souvenirs, confirm reservations entertainment, photographers, catering, Reserve any rental equipment needed. (i.e. audio video equipment) Set budgets and collect fees. Scout out potential lodging for out of towners. Plan activities and prepare entertainment schedule.

  • 3 months ahead - Announce event with local news and media to notify friends and acquaintances who may have been overlooked in your invitations list. Interview prospective entertainers and book favorites. Mail final invitations and log RSVPs.

  • 6 weeks before - Create checklist of party tasks, designate assignments for volunteers. Make lodging arrangements for out-of-town relatives. Plan menu if there is going to be catering or plan out pot luck items. Begin gathering family memorabilia. Assemble family-history information to bring to reunion including bios and lineage charts.

  • 2 weeks before - Solve last minute problems, Review final details, Decide what is needed to be borrowed or rented. Purchase decorations and arrangements.

  • Last few days - Begin set up of tables, collect rental items, equipment, and displays, decorate. Delegate responsibilities to volunteers. Purchase grocery items and prepare last-minute foods.

  • Reunion day - Enjoy!

  • Day after - Make sure everyone gets back home or one their planes. Reflect and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Return rental items, cleanup.

  • Over the following month - Write your thank you cards and begin sorting and copying of digital media recorded of the event for sharing. Start planning the next event soon while warm memories of the event are still fresh in everyone’s mind. Recover and return all keepsakes, mementos, souvenirs, memory books, photos.
Have you ever attended or organized a living funeral? If so, please share anything helpful. What advice would you give others to help them plan a living tribute?