In Memoriam

How to Throw a Celebration of Life

A party for the dearly departed.

By Rosin Saez August 20, 2019 Published in the September 2019 issue of Seattle Met


osing a loved one, well, it is exactly zero amounts of fun. But a gently joyful affair can commemorate a friend or family member without the somber trappings inherent to most memorials. A celebration of life is the funeral’s less formal cousin, the one who’s oddly comforting and always has great snacks.

No one-size-fits-all guide exists for remembering someone who’s passed. Nora Menkin, executive director at People’s Memorial Association (, says these ceremonies are really about “honoring the person for who they were, and giving their friends and community a chance to come together to share stories and share their emotions…it’s really a part of the grieving process as well.” There’s no wrong way to do it, really, so long as it reflects how the person lived.

Maybe they loved the outdoors. Take a group hike to a favorite place in nature, recounting sweet memories along the way. An ice cream fanatic, on the other cone-wielding hand, might have appreciated an event laden with dessert—Nutty Squirrel Gelato ( and Street Treats ( both have roving scoop trucks for all occasions, even the melancholy ones. Once Menkin even witnessed the friends of a landscape designer don costumes and dance in a park as a sort of spiritual farewell.

Other special programming touches can vary too, including everything from cultural traditions to slideshows and video to speeches and music—curate a playlist of someone’s life from prom dance songs to wedding tunes. It’s a party, of sorts, after all.

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