Have you been tasked with writing the obituary for a celebration of life service? We would like to offer assistance with the process. We will give you ideas on what information to include, the steps for writing an obituary, some examples, and where to publish the article.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Should You Include or Not Include in an Obituary for a Celebration of Life?
- Steps for Writing an Obituary for a Celebration of Life Service
- Example Obituaries for a Celebration of Life
- Places to Post or Submit an Obituary for a Celebration of Life
Writing an obituary for a celebration of life doesn’t feel much different from writing one for a traditional funeral. Both give you the opportunity to tell the story of the deceased – their biographical information, accomplishments, and a positive discussion of their character.
However, you might need to include details on your perceived difference between a celebration and a traditional funeral. For example, you might give attendees instructions to wear a particular color or information about a meal or toast held in honor of the deceased.
What Should You Include or Not Include in an Obituary for a Celebration of Life?
You may be struggling to write an obituary. We understand why this is a daunting task.
You may be wondering what the deceased would have wanted in their obituary, and you may have others offering their input as well. Perhaps you wonder how best to celebrate a quiet life full of close relationships or what accomplishments to include. Maybe you wish to have a section that describes their personality, and you are struggling with that as well.
Here are some ideas of what to include and what not to include. If you are struggling, you might start by using an online obituary template. Even though these examples may leave you with a cut and dried obituary, they will at least ensure that you won’t leave something critical out of the article.
What to include
Here’s what to include in a celebration of life obituary. Please understand that there aren’t any legal requirements on what information to include.
Name, age, and residence of the deceased
Include the full name of the deceased and common nicknames and maiden names. Also include the age and where the deceased resided at the time of their passing to identify the person further.
Cause of death
As we mentioned, there are no legal requirements for what you include in an obituary. Therefore, it is up to the family whether or not they wish to include the cause of death.
The early life of the deceased
Some include the names of parents and siblings in this section. You might also include the high school or college the deceased attended and any stand-out accomplishments in their early life. Also include the military service information of the deceased.
Include the name of the spouse. You might also tell how the couple met or their wedding date. Some people include marriage information regardless of whether the marriage ended in divorce. This is up to personal preference.
List the names of the children. Some identify children as step-children, while others list all the children’s names without adding other identifiers.
An obituary isn’t a resume. So please don’t feel that it is necessary to list every job the person ever had. Instead, you might want to include their general occupation or long-time employer.
Accomplishments and honors
Did your loved one receive recognition for something they achieved at work or through an outside organization? Add this to the obituary. You might also include bucket-list items your loved one accomplishments.
Include memberships in service groups, community organizations, or religious groups. You might want to include any leadership roles in these organizations.
Talents and hobbies
Maybe your loved one was an avid gardener, entertainer, or pianist. Perhaps they were known for their woodworking skills, cinnamon rolls, or poetry. Some of their talents may be well-known, but others may have been hidden.
Personality and characteristics
If you are celebrating the life of the deceased, they must have had a personality worthy of being marked. Try to describe what they were like to be around in the obituary. Include as many stories as you are able.
Survivors and those who “preceded in death”
List the family members who survived the deceased and those family members who preceded the person in death.
Share where and when the service will be held. You may also include special instructions, such as the organizations the family selected for contributions. If you are having a celebration of life, you might also ask funeral attendees to wear a specific color other than traditional funeral attire.
What not to include
Most would agree that the obituary is not the appropriate place to write about the ugly side of life. If you would struggle to write the obituary of someone without including their misdeeds or other negative characteristics, perhaps you should remove yourself from the task. Remember, an obituary is not legally required. So, if you have little good to say, you might consider not writing one.
You also don’t have to include failed marriages, estranged relationships, or the cause of death.
Steps for Writing an Obituary for a Celebration of Life Service
Are you staring at your computer screen, unsure how to start? There are a lot of templates and online resources on how to write an obituary. Here’s a brief guide that may be enough to get you started.
Step 1: Gather the facts
What was the name of the high school your dad attended? What year did he and your mom get married? You might need to look through personal documents to gather some of the facts you would like to include in the obituary.
Step 2: Interview others
No matter how close you were to the deceased, you may have only known one aspect of their life. Therefore, you might consider talking with others who knew the deceased well in different periods of their lives to paint the complete picture of the person who died.
For example, your 98-year-old grandfather may have always seemed old to you, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have achievements and adventures earlier in his life.
Step 3: Add the details
The difference between an ok obituary and a great obituary is in the details. Can you share a brief but entertaining story about how your grandparents met? Was your mother known for using an often-repeated phrase? If you wish to celebrate a person’s life, include necessary details that would make people nod their heads and smile in agreement as they read the article.
Step 4: Proof and edit
If you recently lost a loved one, you might be suffering from brain fog. Please have others edit and proof the obituary before publication in the funeral bulletin, newspaper, or website. Feelings may be hurt if you misspell a name, exclude a name, or give incorrect information.
Example Obituaries for a Celebration of Life
Here are some snippets of obituary examples to help you get started writing.
Example obituary for a parent or grandparent
Samuel James Smith, 88, died in his Smithville home surrounded by his loving family on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.
Samuel (or “Sammy” to his friends) was born on March 7, 1934, to Fred and Jane Smith. He graduated from Smithville High School before joining the Army.
Example obituary for a child or adult child
Sally Princeton died on March 23, 2018, at 13 months old after a year of battling a heart defect. Sally was born in Dallas, Texas, on February 23, 2017, to parents Melissa and Robert Princeton.
Sally was a happy baby who loved snuggles and her teddy bear. She loved being around her older cousin, Samantha. Though her life was brief, her memory lives on in her family.
Example obituary for a sibling
Those of you who knew our sister would describe her personality as “vibrant” and “energetic.” She was known for making last-minute travel plans and including her family and friends in her adventures. On one particular dreary February day, she packed a bag and went to the airport. Without a reservation or plan, she bought a ticket and headed to Hawaii – sending a photo from the beach to her shocked family members later that day.
Example obituary for a friend
Bill’s Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, April 18, at the Dryver Funeral Home in Cleveland. Feel free to dress in Ohio team sportswear to celebrate Bill’s love of professional sports. The service will follow with a tailgate in the parking lot – just as Bill wanted.
Places to Post or Submit an Obituary for a Celebration of Life
Before you submit the obituary for publication, have several sets of eyes look for errors and omissions. Some funeral homes will publish an obituary “as is” and will not edit for grammatical mistakes.
Once you are sure that the obituary is ready to publish, here are some places to submit it.
Most newspapers require that a funeral home employee submits an obituary for publication. This cuts down the likelihood of fraudulent activity. Additionally, most newspapers charge a per-word fee for printing an obituary. The obituary fee may be added to the funeral home bill.
Online memorial website
There are quite a few online memorial websites. Some are affiliated with specific newspapers and publications, and some may be affiliated with the funeral home or cremation provider. Some offer virtual guest books or invitations for free, but some memorial websites require a one-time or recurring payment.
Many people decide to share their loved one’s obituaries on social media. However, there are pros and cons to this type of delivery. On the one hand, it is a free way to reach out to a large group of people. However, some prefer to limit the news to close friends and family. Additionally, not everyone participates in social media.
Cake Offers a Lot of Helpful Resources
We know there’s a lot to consider when planning the celebration of life for a loved one. Besides writing the obituary, you may need to choose between burial or cremation, find a permanent resting place for your loved one’s remains, and select funeral songs and poems for the service.
Cake offers a lot of content to help you make your decisions. For example, we offer instructions on how to write a eulogy for your sister or what to do with cremation ashes.