How to Plan a Living Funeral

How to Plan a Living Funeral

Typically, funerals are held to pay tribute to the deceased after they pass. They are somber occasions that allow the loved ones of the deceased to reflect on the life of the decedent and say their final goodbyes. However, there is also an option of holding a living funeral while the honoree is still alive. A living funeral therefore, also referred to as a pre-funeral, is an event held for someone who is still living, before they have passed. A living funeral allows an individual to have more say in the type of celebration they desire.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, traditional funerals seem to be more for the living than for the deceased as the honored person is of course, not there to hear their loved ones’ last words to them. Having a living funeral, however, enables the honoree to be present for and fully appreciate all of the tender things their loved ones have to say about them, things that may be left unsaid for years and may finally be expressed only during an emotionally charged event of this nature.

Unless a person leaves precise details of how they’d like their funeral to be planned, the focus of traditional funeral services tends to be on the preferences of the surviving family members, and loved ones of the deceased. When someone who knows their time is coming to an end and chooses to hold a living funeral, they can regain full control of what they’d like their last tribute to be as well as spend precious time with all of their loved ones present, to say their goodbyes in person.

Funerals tend to be sad affairs with the loved ones of the deceased outwardly expressing their love, condolences and grief for the individual who passed. However, they do not have to be solely somber. A pre-funeral can serve as a celebration of the honoree’s life, a final occasion that the honoree can enjoy as well that also creates a special memory for their loved ones to cherish long after their departure. Read on to learn more about planning a living funeral and how you can make the best of your last earthly celebration.

Why Have a Living Funeral?

Living funerals are typically arranged by those who are aware their time is coming to an end due to a terminal illness or due to old age. As a person becomes aware that their time in this world is coming to an end, a pre-funeral provides them the opportunity to bring those they love together, forgive old grudges, see family members or friends they may have not seen for a long time, and express their ultimate love for them. 

Living funerals can offer hope and peace of mind for an individual as they get ready to say their final goodbyes. Unlike traditional funerals, a person who prepares a living funeral can physically be there to appreciate the presence of all their loved ones. This is not only fulfilling for the honoree, but also for close family and friends who can rest assured they will be able to express all they need to say to the honoree before their passing. 

As funeral traditions with religious affiliations lose popularity and secular ceremonies are on the rise, people are enjoying the opportunity to plan and celebrate their own or a loved one’s funeral in accordance with their preferences and on their own terms.

How Does a Living Funeral Work?

Unlike traditional funerals, living funerals tend to be more uplifting in spirit, and serve as more of a celebration of the honoree’s life than a morose time whose sole purpose is to express  condolences. You can think of a living funeral as a similar occasion along the lines of a goodbye party. The focus, again, is to celebrate the time loved ones have left with the honoree as they near an inevitable chapter of the end of their life.  

During a living funeral, all in attendance share special memories they have of the honoree. The honoree will often set a space and time for themselves to talk about their time with their loved ones, their most joyous life moments, and how much he or she loves each and everyone in attendance. On the other hand, attendees will  often express their affectionate feelings toward the honoree, what they cherish the most, how they’ll be remembering him or her, and how much they have enjoyed their time together, until they are able to at some point meet again.

It is not unusual for a living funeral to involve music, decorations, food, and even dancing, as once again the focus is on a celebration of life rather than a grievous goodbye. Therefore, there is typically no need to wear traditional, somber funeral garments. It is rather, one last party to lovingly and even joyously express final goodbyes. 

Planning a Living Funeral 

Thankfully, unlike traditional funerals, there is usually no particular etiquette or traditions to follow at a pre-funeral. Due to pre-funerals being a relatively new tradition, with the main goal to break old patterns, the honoree is free to organize their final goodbye without restrictions or in accordance to any specific societal or religious standards.

When planning for a living funeral there is also not really a need for a funeral director if it isn’t desired. As a death has not yet occurred, there is no need for a permit, an embalming of the body or a casket. Therefore, with so many expenses out of the picture that are typically in play for a traditional funeral, a pre-funeral is often more affordable than a traditional one.

While a living funeral may be more affordable than a traditional funeral, there are still certain aspects of the affair you will want to pay close attention to ensure you and your loved ones get the most out of the experience. 

These include: 


The place in which you will choose to celebrate your final goodbye and spend this special experience with your loved ones is of the utmost importance. Remember, while traditional funerals usually need to be held in a funeral home, this is not the case for a living funeral. You can choose to hold a living funeral in any place that holds special meaning for you such as the beach, Church, a camp house, or even a family member’s house. Just make sure that the location you choose has enough space to comfortably accommodate each and every one of your guests and makes you, the guest of honor, feel happy and fulfilled.


Depending on the size of your pre-funeral, you may consider hiring an officiant or volunteering one of your loved ones to take on the role. An officiant will offer meaningful advice to help ensure that the pre-funeral goes according to plan and aligns with your preferences. 

Time and Date

 Another important factor of this particular celebration is the time in which it is held. You’ll want to make sure you set a date that works for most of your guests and a time that is best for you and those attending.


Given the level of significance this celebration has for you, you can opt to send out invitations to formalize the occasion as well as make your guests feel special. Also, invitations are a good way to include specific instructions like recommended attire, what guests can expect at the occasion, as well as suggestions for whether you’d like guests to bring a special gift or a special item like photos, for example, to the event. 

In your invitations, you may also want to consider discussing the kind of food and beverages that will be provided at the occasion, express whether alcohol will be allowed, etc. Remember, however, that as the honoree of the event, the focus of the event is on you, so don’t get too tied up on logistics or details of the proceedings.

Final Thoughts

Living funerals are all about embracing life changes and remembering the good times with those we love. They are meaningful celebrations that ultimately require nothing else but the presence of the honoree and all his or her loved ones. 

As you get ready to plan for your own or a family member’s final goodbye, or if you are currently going through the process of grieving a loved one, we at Life Memory are here to remind you that you are not alone and we hope our resources help ease you through every step of the way on your journey. 

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