What IS a living funeral?

Look at this clip of Kris Hellenga, who had a living funeral and Jane Duncan Rogers who speaks about them afterwards

A living funeral is just like you might imagine your own funeral to be.  But instead of you being dead in a coffin you are still fully alive and enjoying the event.

You’ll be hearing all the lovely things that people would normally have been saying about you at your funeral before you go.  You’ll  have a chance to appreciate them, and leave nothing unsaid yourself.

Who is it for?

For someone who knows for sure they are dying (maybe they have a terminal diagnosis, for instance).  And it simply means having an event to celebrate your life, while you are still alive to enjoy it.

It allows friends and family to come and see you for a final time.  They will be able to say their goodbyes, and to enjoy your company once more before you depart this earth.

Some might think this idea of a living funeral is macabre, and others are enthused about it.

Sure, it’s not for everyone.

But if you’re intrigued by the idea of a living funeral, here’s a few pointers for planning it successfully.

What kind of living funeral do you want?

Think about what kind of overall mood you want to create.  Should it be themed?  Is it important for it to have a religious or spiritual element? Do you want it to be joyful, sombre or have a bit of both?

This decision will set the tone for your living funeral and influence your answers to the rest of these questions. The date and time may also be a factor in this.

12 pointers to think about ahead of your living funeral

Location – where do you want your living funeral?  It can be anywhere you would normally have a party or celebration of some kind.  Maybe at home, in a community centre, at a restaurant, a village hall, place of worship. It could even be outside if the weather allows. Any place of significance to you will be appropriate.

Dress code – People often associate funerals with black, so for a living funeral, you will need to specify a dress code. How you want your guests to dress? Colourfully, themed, fancy dress or what?

Organiser or MC – you may well want to have someone else in charge on the night, especially if your health is compromised.  Ask a friend or relative if they will be willing, or appoint someone professionally to do this.  They can be in charge overall, so you can fully relax and enjoy the occasion.

Speakers – just as at an ordinary funeral, you might want to have particular people speaking at your living funeral and highlighting aspects of your life so far.  If so, these need to be managed at the actual event, hence the need for an organiser or MC.

Memories and mementoes – ask your guests to bring a written memory that they can read out. Or which can be left in a special container for you to read afterwards. Or invite them to record these in a special book (just like what happens at an ordinary funeral).  Perhaps they will have photos, jewellery or trinkets symbolic of a good memory or particular connection with you.

Sharing of stories: think about whether you want an official time for the sharing of stories.  Or  would you rather have it be more flowing and spontaneous? Do you want to hear them all at the time, or would that be a bit much? Would you like someone else to read the story of your life?   Or would you like to do that – or not have it at all?

Food and drink – what kind of food do you want supplied at your living funeral, and who will supply it? Maybe a pot luck, with guests bringing a contribution of food and/or drink. Maybe you’d rather hire a caterer.

Music – have you already a favourite playlist you would want playing? Prefer live music? A bit of both?  What about different types of music to reflect the different stages of your life?  You will be inviting people to listen to your favourite songs while they celebrate your life.

Dancing – not normally associated with a traditional funeral, although this depends on your culture. And you yourself might not be able to dance. But would you like to see others enjoying themselves in this way?  This will influence the organisation of  your living funeral and the choice of music too.

Children – if children will be attending your living funeral, are there activities you would like to provide for them?

Order of service – this would often be part of a traditional funeral too. As a living funeral is a relatively new thing, you might want to have one of these that could be sent out before the event. That way guests will know what they are coming to and what will be happening.

Recording the event – is this something you’d want to do, so you can replay it later, and share with others who can’t attend?  Or watch by yourself again later on?  If so, consider hiring a professional, or designate a guest to do this.

It can feel a bit daunting, all this pre-planning, so you might want to consider hiring an organiser. It will be just like a party organiser, the only difference being that the theme will be ‘my last celebration’.

Finally – if this is not your cup of tea, that’s fine!  Traditional funerals where you are dead absolutely still have their place, and always will do.

Share this:

We recommend:

The BIG Method

Use the Before I Go Method to create an End of Life Plan in 10 straightforward steps – without losing focus and giving up!

More like this:


  1. Susan Westfall on July 12, 2023 at 8:12 am

    What about having a table of items belonging to you that you can give to the people as a keepsake in remembrance of you .

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on July 12, 2023 at 9:58 am

      That’s a lovely idea Susan.

  2. Patricia Cherry on August 2, 2023 at 12:12 pm

    I love this idea. But I know my children wouldn’t. So don’t how I can get around that. I can barely get them to talk about my real funeral. As things stand my son has a big file with my Advanced Directive, funeral requirements etc. I asked him to read through it and then put it away until the time comes. But I don’t think he has even read it through. Even though he’s my POA I’m not sure that he actually knows what I want. My other two children do. One of them is also POA.

    • Jane Duncan Rogers on August 2, 2023 at 5:26 pm

      Sorry to hear this Patricia – at least your son has got the info and knows you have done everything. A living funeral is really only going to work when all involved are fully on board with it.

  3. Ann Cueva on August 2, 2023 at 2:45 pm

    Great interview, you did a wonderful job! Thanks for this post describing a Living funeral.

Leave a Comment